By Ian Sharland, co-Founder of Toddler Sense – part of WOW World Group (www.wowworldgroup.com).
Franchising has continued to grow at a very consistent and frankly astonishing pace over recent years with more and more people looking to franchising as a viable and sustainable business opportunity. Greater numbers of franchisors (some good, some not so good) continue to emerge across the UK as entrepreneurs search for new ways to drive business revenue and create scalable growth.
In some cases, those franchises built with strong branding and reputation from the outset and with a sound growth strategy in place, can make for an attractive investment opportunity. In some less favourable cases, the term franchising has become something of a ‘trend-driven’ option for those running local businesses but who seek new ways of growing quickly without recruiting in the traditional way, but the grass is seldom greener for those that lack the business model necessary to fit the franchise framework.
Money for nothing
A common issue with a local plumber or carpenter for example, is they decide they want to grow their local business and believe that franchising it is the best idea since sliced bread (even though there is often no unique selling proposition). Ask yourself, why would someone buy into something that they could in reality, just do by themselves and save the upfront cash investment? To set up a franchise you need a strong business proposition, in essence it needs to be a proven business model that someone can replicate in another territory simple off the back of what that business has already achieved (i.e. reputation and branding). Of course, there is more to it than that, setting up a business of any kind takes commitment, drive and determination but you have to know you are getting something for your money.
If there is no longer-term business strategy in place or no ‘existing branding to buy into’, you don’t have a franchise proposition to begin with which is a disaster waiting to happen. The danger is thinking you can just ‘franchise’ any old business, but it’s simply not true and yet many will learn this the hard way.
Perhaps the biggest issue is an educational one? Do many people really understand what franchising means? It has become such a buzzword over recent years that the fear is, it is losing its true meaning and blinding people in the process. Ten years ago franchising was very different, in fact it was arguably much stronger then as a concept. That’s not to say that there weren’t those franchises out there that shouldn’t really be franchising at all (of course there were), but for the most part, those franchisors that entered the market had done their homework and they offered many valuable opportunities.
Franchising as an industry continues to grow and evolve which is great for business but there is a need to reinforce the importance of having a robust business strategy in place for the longer term. We all know how quickly business moves forward today along with its rapid pace of change and as such, few of us are lucky enough to be able to rest on our laurels safe in the knowledge that our business will simply keep moving forward. We have to keep innovating, we have to stay two steps ahead and we have to continually review and revisit our franchising model to ensure it is both fit for purpose and evolving at the right pace to secure its place in the future business world.
Character and substance
Just like any strong and successful leader, a franchise should possess character and substance with strength and stability at its heart. Money is tight, people are understandably cautious with their spend and are reluctant to invest hard earned cash in something that seems too ambiguous or risky. Franchising is all about people wanting proof; proof of the concept, proof it works and makes money, proof it is a viable business opportunity – they also want to see others making a success of it too, after all, part of what they are buying into is peace of mind.
Get it right and franchising can be extremely lucrative. For those that have the drive, courage and the passion to set up their own business but are looking for less up front risk and a wider support network it can be an entrepreneurs dream. However, just like any successful entrepreneur, a franchisee needs to be a problem solver too, have a positive attitude and possess a desire to challenge themselves, to learn and to become more than they are. Having that self-starter mentality that means you can develop your own career and also grow individually as a person is probably the most important attribute.
Franchising always offers a ‘bigger’ proposition as a business venture because it also forms part of a much larger network of like-minded entrepreneurs, which means a greater opportunity for reciprocal learning and development across the board. Setting up your own business can be an isolating experience for many people, franchising brings people in similar situations together so that they can each build a business for themselves but can surround themselves with greater outside support if they wish.
One size doesn’t fit all
The next five years in franchising will be an interesting one. It is very likely that we’ll see more smaller franchise offerings entering the market as well as more ‘career franchisors’ – those entrepreneurs who will build up a franchise for one particular brand and then sell it and move on to a larger franchise opportunity.
In such a saturated market where the lines of what constitutes a traditional franchise are now very blurred, consolidation is inevitable over the next decade as a smaller number of larger franchise offerings will emerge and those that thought they could franchise their business (without a robust offering and longer term business strategy) will struggle to survive in an increasingly demanding world where their proposition simply doesn’t fit.
Toddler Sense – WOW World Group (www.wowworldgroup.com)
Toddler Sense is part of the WOW World Group, which provides a diverse, exciting range of parent and child activity-based class experiences across the UK and overseas. Spanning seven different programmes, its adult classes are designed to equip parents with a variety of useful skills from first aid to preparing for life with a new baby. While the children’s fun-filled classes are designed to enhance early years learning and development while allowing parents to spend quality time with their child/children in a safe and established, nurturing environment led by qualified, knowledgeable class leaders.
WOW World Group is a founding member of the Children’s Activities Association having gained international recognition for its programmes, which include Baby Sensory, Toddler Sense, Mini Professors, Reading Fairy and Photo Sensory as well as adult classes, KeepaBeat and Baby Foundations.