Financial Advice

by Westpac

last updated 14/09/2023

Listing information is supplied by that particular entity. You are advised to confirm the accuracy of the listing and the FANZ membership status of any entity. Neither the sponsors of this Directory nor FANZ nor the publisher accept responsibility for any omissions or errors.

Funding A Service Franchise

by Westpac

last updated 14/09/2023

Daniel Cloete of Westpac discusses the financial pros and cons of service businesses

If you want to turn your hobby or passion into a business, franchising offers plenty of options. It’s not all about food – there are plenty of options available in the service industries, such as: education; childcare; hairdressing; fitness training; business coaching; bookkeeping; computer services; real estate; travel agents; property maintenance; kitchen design; landscaping; pool maintenance; lawnmowing and garden services; commercial and domestic cleaning; automotive services; transport and courier services; and many others. 

Daniel Cloete, Westpac New Zealand
Daniel Cloete

Service franchises cover a wide range of occupations and skills, as well as investment levels. They range from small owner-operated businesses to regional master licences for areas with 150 franchisees, and everything in between – with income levels to match. This means that most people would be able to find a service franchise that suits their skill level, interests, risk profile and investment ability.

And while qualified tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers used to be mainly independents, many are now joining franchise groups to get benefits such as joint purchasing, advertising, business management systems and many other benefits – not to mention the brand identity that helps generate a higher price when eventually selling their businesses.

So, what are some of the benefits and drawbacks of owning a service franchise, and how do you go about funding the purchase of such a franchise?

Potential benefits

  • Service franchises tend to offer a relatively high return on investment compared to industries such as retail or manufacturing. For example, establishing a mobile pool cleaning business may cost $60,000 versus $400,000 for a retail swimming pool shop, yet still offer a good income to the owner.
  • Many service franchises are relatively low risk. Some offer a guaranteed income or a work guarantee for a limited time (with conditions attached).
  • There is high demand for many services in a modern economy.
  • Service franchises offer a good way of using your skills rather than your capital to get into business. They usually require less capital, making them more affordable.
  • Service franchises often have low overheads, eg, mobile services do not need expensive premises, and many business advisors work from home. This means they tend to return a positive cashflow quite quickly.
  • They can offer an easier way for newly-arrived immigrants, without a lot of capital, to own a business and earn a living.
  • Franchisees are not restricted by having to work retail hours. This means you may be able to enjoy flexible hours to suit your lifestyle (however, bear in mind that working shorter hours may directly impact your income).
  • Service franchises tend to require more direct input from the owner than a typical retail operation. This can be both a benefit and a drawback.

Potential drawbacks

  • While returns on investment are high, many service businesses may offer low absolute profits.
  • Earnings may be limited by the hours that can be physically worked by the franchisee or by the franchisee’s own abilities.
  • Risk can be higher, especially in businesses that require skills such as excellent selling ability or in marginal or new industries.
  • It could be difficult to grow the business beyond a certain size if franchisees are not allowed to employ others, the area is limited, or the owner can only do a finite amount of work.
  • The small size of some service businesses increases the perceived risk to others, making it potentially more difficult to fund or sell.
  • A high level of skills may be required in some franchises: for example, plumbers or business advisors may require qualifications or experience.
  • The business tends to be very dependent on the owner and/or key employees. This can present significant risk in the case of illness or staff departures: eg. a real estate or travel agency, where the star seller leaves and takes their clients with them.
  • A good business advisor (specialist franchise accountant, lawyer, and banker) will be able to point out both the advantages and disadvantages for any specific opportunity.

Funding to buy a service franchise

Some of the characteristics mentioned above can make it more difficult for banks to fund service franchises. Although return on investment may be good, making it possible to earn a good income per annum from a $100,000 investment as opposed to the $450,000 that might be required for a retail operation, there are few assets, stock or fit-out for a bank to fund against. In addition, the perceived risk to the bank is higher because it depends to a considerable extent on the skills of the franchisee.

However, in many cases the generally lower capital requirements of service franchises mean that prospective purchasers are able to provide security for loans in the form of equity in property or other assets.

What happens, though, if you want to buy one of the higher investment level service franchises or a highly-profitable existing business with a lot of goodwill but little in the form of assets?

This is where it pays to deal with specialist franchise bankers and an accountant with a real understanding of the cashflow and the value of the intellectual property and systems of the specific business. When seeking funding, having excellent information and a good understanding of the business model are vital, and a banker who has good knowledge of the franchise can not only help address the funding needs but can also add to your understanding of the business.

The other important aspect here is the intending franchisee’s own skills and abilities. Because these are crucial to the success of the business, when you approach the bank for funding it is important to have a CV or summary of your experience. This can help them to evaluate risk and improve the likelihood of your receiving the funds you seek.

In summary

Service franchises offer a wide range of opportunities with relatively low investment and relatively high returns.

Although not without risk, it is a sector where people can use their time and skills to have a secure and profitable future.

While the lack of actual assets can cause some funding issues, these are best resolved with the assistance of a specialist franchise banker.   

The information contained in this article is intended as a guide only and is not intended as an exhaustive list of matters to be considered. Persons entering into franchise agreements should seek their own professional legal, accounting and other advice.

See this advertorial on page 22 of Franchise New Zealand magazine Year 32 Issue 3

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