by Simon Lord
last updated 25/03/2021
by Simon Lord
last updated 25/03/2021
How buying a franchise can put you in control of achieving your personal and financial ambitions
When you watch Avalon Biddle race, she becomes part of the motorbike. The diminutive figure is tucked into the machine, her arms and legs like control levers, shifting her weight to get every bit of speed and every bit of grip from the tyres, using everything to her advantage.
Her many race wins in a hugely competitive (male-dominated) sport are the result not just of talent but of preparation. She’s spent hours in the gym to give her the strength to control the heavy 600cc Supersport bikes; she spent 6 years living mostly in Europe to improve her game; she has engineers to help her fine-tune the machine to racing readiness; and from the very start she’s had the support of her family and friends to help her reach the top. She’s also given back, helping people learn to ride safely, encouraging others to race, and rewarding her sponsors with more than just a name on the side of her bike.
It’s that same combination of preparedness, training, skills, commitment and support that you need if you want to be your own boss. Actually starting your own business is easy, but running a business that will deliver the personal and financial results you want is rather more difficult. That’s where buying a franchise can give you a competitive advantage from day one. You’ll not just be provided with a business model that gives you the machine you need to succeed – you’ll be taught to control it, and guided as you learn to get the maximum performance out of it.
Of course, no franchise is a guaranteed success and a potential franchisee must always be cautious, but there is no doubt that – provided you choose well – buying a franchise significantly increases the chances of getting what you want out of owning your own business.
Ready to go
When you buy a franchise, you’re buying a ready-made business format that someone else has researched and developed for you. Your own business may not yet exist in the location you want, but all the product design, service parameters, business systems and profitability studies have been carried out already. You buy the franchise and it’s up to your own efforts to make it successful in your area. It’s like buying a race-winning bike – someone else has already proved that it works; now you need to learn to ride it as well as them and keep it operating at peak performance.
If you’ve never worked for yourself before, you won’t believe how hard running your own business will seem at first. But if you buy a franchise, because of the guidance you receive from an experienced franchisor, your own hard work will always be directed to the right areas. That saves your time, effort and money from being wasted on trying things the franchisor has already discovered don’t work.
When you buy a franchise, a good franchisor will ensure that you are fully trained in every aspect of running your specific business – not only using the equipment but managing people and cashflow, creating your customer database, purchasing, promoting the business, and lots of other things.
In many cases, this will extend to setting up your accounts on a computerised system using a standard template (something that can save you a lot of time) and setting measurable and achievable goals for your business using Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). No-one expects to be a winner straight away, but by sharing and comparing statistics from other franchisees in the same group, you can see how to improve your performance and stay on track as you grow. In addition to this, you should get a detailed operations manual to help you apply the systems and processes you’ll need to run your business efficiently and profitably.
Franchising, properly done, is a ‘partnership’ between franchisee and franchisor: the franchisor makes his or her income from the success of your business, so it’s in their interests to help you make the most of your territory. Consequently, you should get a level of support which the independent business person can only dream of.
This starts with the selection process. It’s not in a good franchisor’s interests to appoint anyone who they don’t think will succeed, so just by being offered the franchise you should be confident you possess the necessary qualities. The more rigorous the selection process, the better for you – no matter how it feels at the time.
Equally important is the continuing support. A franchisor should have people experienced in every aspect of the business you run who can answer any questions you have on a day-to-day basis. In addition to this they have a monitoring role, helping you to maximise your performance in such areas as production costs, sales, promotion, staff recruitment and so on, and providing additional training or advice as required.
Many franchisors also carry out some management functions on behalf of their franchisees such as making customer bookings, quoting and even invoicing or credit control. These can be invaluable in saving your time to spend on actually doing the work that you get paid for.
Power behind you
Every racer needs a powerful engine if they’re going to be competitive, and buying power is a major strength of franchised chains. If you owned an independent sports shop, for example, you’d pay the going rate for a brand of golf clubs. If you sold a lot of them, you might get them a bit cheaper. But if you’re part of a chain of 20 franchised stores, you’ll get a substantial discount. In the same way, if you buy a piece of equipment recommended by the franchise, or services such as insurance or communications, you should get them cheaper than you would as an independent operator. Some items may even be unique to your franchise. These benefits could more than make up the ongoing franchise fee you pay, as well as gaining you an edge over your competitors on price or improving your bottom-line profit.
Another advantage is that a manufacturer is a lot less likely to let you down on quality or delivery, too – and might help fund special promotions because of your importance to them.
Off the line faster
You’ll only open your business once, but your franchisor will have plenty of experience. That means that everything should be smoother for you – service and quality should be better, wastage lower, and your business should be known and well-promoted right from the start. In turn, that means reaching profitability faster, which is good news for you and your bank manager.
Of course you’ll still have to work at it to stay ahead, put in the hours and the effort, be prepared to get on the phone and follow up online contacts or go out and meet new people, but even here the franchisor will have been able to help you prepare what to say and how to organise your time. And you are likely to have one of the franchisor’s trained team come along and help you for the first few days or weeks to ensure that you feel comfortable with the business and, crucially, build a good reputation with your new customers right from the start.
The partnership between Avalon and her franchise sponsors MTF Finance works so well because each of them brings a known name and qualities to the other. An independent business starting up has to create a name and a reputation for itself – often a long, slow and expensive process. In comparison, an established name is probably the most visible part of the franchise operation and, if the franchisor has done the preparatory work properly, it gives the new franchisee a head start. Not only will consumers know the name and what it stands for, but there will be a battery of back-up material – leaflets, clothing, signage, advertisements, websites, vehicle designs and so on – all reinforcing your business identity.
Of course, not every franchise brand has the pulling power of, say, Columbus Coffee or Pit Stop, and some newer franchises won’t be able to offer that at first. But newer franchises tend to require lower investment levels in their early days, and as each additional franchisee joins so the brand – and its buying power – become more valuable.
Staying in front
When a new business opens, it needs a competitive advantage to succeed. As time goes by, new competitors often erode that advantage, and you have to find new ways of staying in front – just as engines need new parts and re-tuning. Because a franchisor needs to succeed to keep their profits up and attract new franchisees, it is their job to carry out constant research and development on new products, and find better and cheaper ways of doing things.
An independent business is just that – on its own. However, in an established franchise you have not only the support of your franchisor, but also all the other franchisees who have been through the stage you are now at and understand the problems. This support can be invaluable when the going gets tough – as it certainly will on occasions.
Part of a team
One of the hardest things about running your own business is that sometimes you feel very much on your own. Where do you go to when you want to chew over problems, or to talk over a new opportunity, or to get information on a new piece of equipment?
With a franchise, you have a choice. There’s a franchisor on the other end of the phone or the email whenever you need specific advice. You have other franchisees who are running into exactly the same sort of issues as you on a regular basis, and some of them are certain to become good friends – the sort of friends you can ring up and let off steam to occasionally. And then there will be field visits from franchisor staff, franchise meetings, conferences, newsletters, What’s App groups … It all helps to reduce that feeling of isolation as well as ensuring that you have the knowledge and the tools you need to create your own business.
It still means hard work
In the following pages, you’ll find plenty of examples of people who have invested in their own businesses. Some have just started, some are racing ahead, some are already winners.
What their stories will show is that success in business, just like success in top level sport, requires hard work, commitment and a lot of learning. If you are looking at taking up a franchise, don’t forget that. Choose one that you believe you will enjoy working in, and be prepared to put your all into it.
Franchising cannot guarantee success, but through training, support, power and processes, it can stack the odds in your favour and empower you to achieve your goals. How far you go is up to you – you are the one riding the business machine.
This article appeared in Franchise New Zealand Year 29 Issue 4. Read the entire article in our free digital magazine.
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