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Franchise Models

Want freedom to run your own business, with the support and guidance of an established brand? Carys Evans looks at the benefits of a franchise as a route into self-employment

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There are many benefits to franchising such as joining an established brand, training and a support system in place

Going solo

For many entrepreneurs, the idea of starting a business from scratch is a lifelong dream but the process can be daunting. Whilst many do take the leap, in reality, lack of experience and funding as well as logistical difficulties can make the whole process a tricky one.

According to Entrepreneur, the top three reasons for start-up failures in the UK are not having the right team (23%), running out of money (29%) and no market need (42%). This is where the option of purchasing a franchise can be beneficial.

There are different options when deciding to purchase a franchise. For example, a franchisee can opt to start the business from scratch with just a plot of land – but with the added support of advice and financial help. Another option is to take on an already established business with a strong team and a loyal customer base and continue to grow and develop the company further.

However, despite the attractive foundations that comes with purchasing a franchise, Entrepreneur makes it clear that this doesn’t mean it is an easy task. The publication says: “Don’t think you’re leaving a nine-to-five job for the easy and flexible life of being your own boss. A start-up is a seven-day-a-week occupation and now it’s your money and reputation that are solely on the line.

“Do plan to work harder than you ever have with little return on your efforts for an extended period. Do be honest with everyone you interact with, as your reputation will ultimately be a key to your success.”

So what franchise options are available in the sign industry, and what are the benefits of choosing this route into self-employment?

Do your research

Established in the UK over 25 years ago, Minuteman Press is an established printing, marketing and design franchise. Having begun franchising in 1975, the firm now has nearly 1,000 locations worldwide.

Paula and Keith Boyce, owners of a Minuteman Press franchise in King’s Lynn, Norfolk

“There are many benefits of opting to go with a franchise when looking for self-employment and they can vary based on each individual franchise,” explains Nick Titus, vice president of marketing at Minuteman Press International.

“For Minuteman Press in particular, we have been in business for over 45 years. The knowledge and experience that our support staff has is a tremendous benefit to a new owner who typically does not have any experience in the industry.”

As well as receiving support from the get-go, Titus credits the size and longevity of the company for its “proven brand awareness” and “mass purchasing power”. Maintaining strong relationships with clients is crucial to the successful running of a business and at Minuteman Press this is a given due to the number of centres passed down through generations – 125 to be exact.

Before deciding whether purchasing a franchise is the right move for you, Titus advises meeting with current franchisees and visiting various locations to get a real behind the scenes look at the business in order to fully understand what is involved.

Titus continues: “Purchasing a franchise helps you by providing you with a solid foundation and invaluable resources to help you build your business.

The real trick is following the programme, don’t try to reinvent the wheel

“A solid franchise will give you the freedom to own and operate your own business but also provide you with local support, brand recognition and a system that has been tried and proven by other people who were once in your shoes. The real trick is following the programme, don’t try to reinvent the wheel.”

Reflecting on the benefits of choosing to franchise in the signage industry on a whole, Titus says: “Our wide variety of products and services remain in high demand by other businesses who turn to printing and marketing to grow.

“There is tremendous potential for repeat business with the products we sell which gives you something to build off of. We have a versatile business that serves clients from virtually any industry.”

It’s a two-way process

“Most credible franchisors have been established for several years and have a successful proven business model,” says Craig Loxston, franchise recruitment manager at Signs Express. “They will be a trusted brand and will provide ongoing advice and support which is invaluable when it comes to starting up and running a new business.”

Signs Express’ branding at its Salisbury site

Loxston explains that a good franchisor will provide franchisees with a clear plan which, if followed, will give them the best possible platform to build a successful business: “A franchisor with a proven history instils confidence and solidifies its credibility for any future franchisees.”

Just as Titus of Minuteman Press mentions, it is important to make sure that the industry in which you are purchasing a franchise is the right one for you, and this process works both ways.

Loxston explains: “It’s important to find the right franchise for you, does it fit in with your budget and personality? The franchisor will go through a thorough selection process to ensure that when acquiring a franchise, the potential franchisee has enough information to understand the opportunities, challenges and what it will take to run a successful franchise.

Concluding, Loxston says: “As a franchisee you work for yourself, not by yourself. You set your own goals, manage your own centre and reap your own rewards, all at the same time as receiving ongoing support from our dedicated team.”

Overcome it together

Global franchisor FASTSIGNS ensures a potential franchisee has the tools to decide if a franchise is right for them by hosting a ‘discover day’. This is an opportunity to ask questions about the business and conduct due diligence by visiting some established businesses within the franchise network.

 FASTSIGNS’ UK managing director, John Davies

For John Davies, UK managing director of FASTSIGNS, the networking opportunities are one of the best parts of franchising: “When you start out by yourself, you find a lot out by trial and error, but when you launch your business as part of a franchise network, you have a group of other business owners who have all been there at the start of their own franchise journey.

“This, along with the help and support of a corporate team, means there is a team of people who can help you overcome challenges. A good franchise will provide you with all of the relevant training to ensure you succeed as part of their brand.”

O Factoid: According to the British Franchise Association, the contribution of franchising to the UK economy is now thought to be £15.1bn. O

When considering purchasing a franchise, it was this support system that attracted Melanie Martinez, owner of FASTSIGNS Crawley to choose this route into self-employment as it meant she wouldn’t be completely “going it alone”. Martinez says: “Joining a network such as FASTSIGNS gives you a strong support system. With so many other franchisees sharing advice and ideas, as well as continued guidance from the team nationally, you know that you’re not by yourself in the venture.”

It is the network of franchisees that Martinez turned to when facing challenges in business: “Of course [we have faced challenges] but more often than not they are overcome through the knowledge of others in the network and the support of the FASTSIGNS team; this can be anything from sourcing a product needed to help create a customer’s signage solution, to assisting with a marketing or management challenge.”

When considering whether the franchise route is right for you, Davies says it is important to remember that when operating as part of a franchise, you are purchasing their brand and tried and tested methods, all of which are in place to help achieve the goal of owning a successful business.

Davies adds: “That doesn’t mean to say that everything is done for you, so you need to be prepared to work hard, learn and be dedicated to your franchised business.

“Be ready to use their marketing collateral and to operate your business by utilising their training and processes, if you want to work outside of your franchisor’s parameters, as laid out in your franchise agreement, franchising may not be for you.”

Use the support available

The British Franchise Association (BFA) describes itself as the voice of ethical franchising in the UK. As well as providing information and advice to people considering joining a franchise, it works closely with members to help develop their expertise in the industry.

Pip Wilkins, chief executive officer of the British Franchise Association

Pip Wilkins, chief executive officer of the association is confident that franchising is a booming industry and notes its continued growth year on year. “Franchising ultimately means that you will be your own boss, but with the support, advice and guidance from people who want to see you succeed,” Wilkins says, her positive view of franchising mirroring others in the industry.

One piece of advice offered by Wilkins is that those interested in purchasing a franchise remember that a considerable amount of due diligence is required – including checking whether it is a member of an association such as the BFA.

Wilkins says: “While this doesn’t guarantee success, it proves that the franchise has passed the Code of Ethics and meets required standards. If the franchise isn’t a member, that doesn’t mean they are not working ethically, per se.

“It just means that you should be extra wary, as they have chosen not to put their business model up against the BFA’s rigorous accreditation processes that specifically look at franchise agreements, support and training, transparency and proven financial sustainability, or they have done but not passed all the essentials to get accredited.”

Wilkins lists knowing your passion and skills, and analysing the reasons why you want to join a franchisee as essential: “After all, you are committing to owning and operating a business for a predetermined amount of time, so you want to enjoy what you do and know why you’re doing it.

“Whether that be for flexible working hours, ambitious targets or finding new challenges, understanding your motives will help you on your journey.”

Above all, Wilkins stresses the importance of taking your time, no matter how far along the process you are: “Never let anyone rush you into signing an agreement, and always make sure this is looked over by a solicitor. The BFA has a host of accredited professional advisers that specialise in franchising and are invaluable in making sure that you’re taking the right steps.”

Elsewhere, Kall Kwik is a further option for those looking into becoming part of a franchise. While Kall Kwik is much like Minuteman Press in the sense that the firms are usually more print-based, offering printed signage is a major opportunity.

Nigel Toplis, managing director of The Bardon Group, which incorporates Kall Kwik and Recognition Express
“It’s about putting images on paper or acrylic etcetera,” says Nigel Toplis, managing director of The Bardon Group, which the Kall Kwik franchise belongs to. “Whether that is a bit of card or an 8ft by 4ft sign, it doesn’t make any difference to us. Both Kall Kwik and Recognition Express, but mainly Kall Kwik, will do signage of various degrees depending on their own interest levels.”

Toplis continues: “The key is what benefits will you get from a franchise rather than starting on your own? I think the crucial thing is the level of support enables you to make decisions for your business with a whole different level of encouragement, because the franchisor will have experience in the market place.”

There are other benefits, such as existing relationships with suppliers and other business. “Suppliers are more than likely going to give companies like Kall Kwik or Recognition Express preferential treatment in terms of pricing or delivery,” comments Toplis.

Further points include how forward-thinking this franchise is, with a number of stores trialling new technology, as well as aiming to be as close to the forefront of the industry a all times. So, if you would like to be part of a network that has years of industry knowledge evolving into support, business plans, relationships with the suppliers but still with your own freedom to flourish, Kall Kwik could be the answer.

Having spoken to both franchisors and franchisees, it seems apparent that there are many attractive elements of choosing this route to self-employment. The common themes of advice for a smooth and seamless process being to take your time, do your research and use the support that is ready and waiting.

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