NIC Services Group launched their first franchise in 1995. Having been involved in the cleaning & support services industry since 1960 NIC looked to franchising as a way of expanding their business further.
Through the franchise model they were able to do this with people who had a real passion and commitment to the success of the business because they were investing into it. When choosing their first franchisee they were looking for someone with drive and a determination to succeed who wasn’t afraid to take a risk by becoming the pilot franchisee and who could evolve with the franchise model.
As most franchisees are looking for a proven track record of replicating the business through franchising, this was one of NIC’s biggest recruitment challenges. Dan Archer, Franchise Development Director explains “After 18 years of franchising with over 40 franchisees in the network NIC has this experience now but when we were first recruiting we did not. As a result, in 1995, even with 35 years’ experience as a cleaning service provider, we had to work hard to evidence the proven nature of our model.”
Roger Downs fitted this bill perfectly and after a comprehensive selection process became NIC’s pilot franchisee. John Pinnick, NIC’s Managing Director explains “As a Chartered Accountant we knew that Roger had the business acumen we were looking for and his determination to succeed highlighted to us he was the perfect fit to pilot our franchise model.”
Choosing that right first franchisee is extremely important as they are proof of the franchisabilty of the business, the first case study of success and are instrumental in forming and refining the support structure that all subsequent franchisees will benefit from.
Dan adds “The first franchisee allows the franchisor to learn why someone chooses to become a franchisee and start to benchmark what “franchisee performance” can be. Quite simply franchising an existing business is not easy but if the wrong pilot franchisee is selected it can be much harder still.”
Having now been with NIC for over 18 years and having re-signed his 5 year franchise agreement a further three times since his launch date, Roger has proved to be an excellent choice as NIC’s pilot franchisee. Roger states “I joined NIC in their early days of franchising as I believed there was an excellent opportunity to join the business and grow with them. I became NIC’s first £1million turnover franchisee after building up a very successful business with the support and guidance provided by NIC.”
The advice that NIC would give to other franchisors when looking at selecting their first franchisee would be to think carefully about the attitude and attributes that the prospective franchisee has. Dan Archer states “In 15 years of recruiting franchisees I have never met a prospect who tells you how bad they are. They will be selling themselves in the same way that you will be selling the concept. It is more difficult with the first franchisee for a new franchisor as they don’t yet know what “wrong” looks like but I would say push them to explain what they will bring to the business and make it clear that the success of their business is of paramount importance to the brand.”
Franchisors should be prepared for the first franchisee being entrepreneurial and as a result harder to keep to a system. You may find that when the business has an established network the first franchisee has already moved onto something else.