Lee Eaton, owner of Signs Express (Manchester) and the 2015 winner of the BFA (British Franchise Association) Franchisee of the Year award, shares the secret to running a successful franchise
A recent survey, conducted on behalf of the BFA in conjunction with Natwest, revealed that the franchising industry in the UK is stronger than ever. It now contributes £15.1 billion to the UK economy every year – an increase of 46% over the past 10 years and an increase of 10% since 2013.
However, this is by no means an industry where you can sit on your laurels. With more people joining the franchising industry every year, you need to ensure that you choose the right business for you and you have the right mentality to succeed.
With over ten years’ experience running a successful franchise, here are a few of the tricks I have learned that have helped me to develop a business worthy of recognition.
Join an exciting industry
Choosing the right industry to join when researching possible franchises can be extremely difficult, even overwhelming – especially if you have spent your entire career in a specific environment. Do not fear, all of the best franchisors will offer you the training that you need to properly understand the industry you have chosen to enter, but most importantly, the industry needs to excite you!
After your discovery day, ask to visit some existing franchisees to see what a day in their life looks like; what support they receive, their projections for the future and what the industry feels like. This should give you a feel for whether it is the business for you.
Your happiness as owner of the business will have a ripple effect on the rest of the team who work for you. So choosing an industry that not only interests you, but makes you happy and this will encourage your employees to share your passion.
A happy team = happy clients
Richard Branson famously said:
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Giving employees the tools to improve their jobs and skills, as well as showing them that they are valued members of the team through encouragement and praise, will give them a reason to stay with you. Plus, happy employees will automatically spread this to your clients through excellent customer service.
Great employees will support you in your business decisions and will tell you when you are making a questionable decision. Keeping the entire team in the loop and trusting others with responsibilities will allow you to focus on the crucial things and your employees will take care of the rest.
As your business grows and your team expands, you need to be increasingly aware of employment law and best practices with regards to HR. Well-established franchisors will have plenty of experience to draw upon and some will even have an HR expert on board to help you in any way that they can.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
This is important for all aspects of work and life really. If you take the time to get it right from the start, the end result will follow. We have adopted a saying at Signs Express which is, “measure twice, cut once,” a perfect motto to follow in every aspect of your business life, no matter the industry.
Preparing a business and preparing yourself are two completely different things; you need to be ready to work hard, put in the long hours and hit a few speed bumps along the way, especially at the start. With the right preparation and the support from HQ, the strain of starting up a business can be reduced.
Go the extra mile
It might seem a bit cliché but every client is of equal importance, regardless of how big or small the job is.
Every client deserves to have the knowledge that they’ve come to the right place. This experience should be portrayed by the team from start to finish and keeping the client up-to-date throughout the whole buying process is a must. This level of feedback and information to the client goes a long way to help gain repeat business and confidence in the brand.
Indeed, some of our largest orders have come around as a result of one small job!
You are not alone
The benefit of being a part of a franchise is that you have a whole pool of knowledge and experience from other franchisees and the franchisor in order to handle national, larger and more complex projects. We found this especially useful in the early years when we lacked experience.
Being a part of a well-established franchise will also allow you to seem bigger than just one branch, which helps to quote for work and to complete multiple national works for big blue-chip companies.
Work on facts, not assumptions
Don’t assume business is going to come to you because you have taken on a franchise. Being part of a franchise can help, but ultimately it is your business and you will always be responsible for its development and growth. Ask yourself if you are willing to work long hours and make tough decisions to establish your business and to ensure that it thrives.