Culture shock? Why ethos should be high on your franchise research

With lots to consider when choosing a franchise, where should you start? Here's three key aspects from the bfa with the potential for big impact...

Finding the right franchise can be difficult. From SWOT to ROI, there are plenty of things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

At the bfa we’re regularly asked by people what makes a franchise the right one for them. While plenty of advice is available on researching a franchise, here are three aspects to consider that are less talked about, but can have a big impact on your likelihood of success.

1. Culture club

You greatly enhance your chances of a harmonious, successful and lucrative franchise relationship if you’re part of a brand that shares a similar ethos and way of working as you do. It will be more motivating, enrich your business development and increase your passion and shared experience within the network – which is a key advantage of becoming a franchisee in the first place.

The right culture means different things to different people. Do you prefer a very professional, more corporate approach to doing business, or something a little more informal? Are you looking for a network driven by financial returns or do you prefer one that has more of a ‘family feel’ to it?

A brand’s personality can usually be easily identified, from the copy on its website to what it’s talking about on social media and the causes it supports. But scratch beneath the surface too. Is a strong sense of leadership apparent from the top? Is it an innovative business? Do the people you’re meeting show a clear passion for the business? All are signposts as to the franchise culture.

Even within the same sector, ethos can vary greatly and can be a key differentiator between business opportunities. Anyone starting a franchise should be able to answer the questions above; look into the company culture and make sure it aligns in some way with your own.

2. All inclusive?

A problem shared is a problem halved, as the old saying goes. In a commercial context, there’s a reason why networking groups and business coaches have both ballooned in popularity in recent years. Franchisees effectively have both at their fingertips.

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A franchise network is a group of business owners all invested in the success of their shared brand. That’s a powerful resource for creative ideas, new developments, problem-solving and overcoming challenges. Remember, the support on offer in franchising comes not only from head office – as long as it’s an inclusive network.

So it’s important to understand how that power is harnessed by the franchisor. Are franchisees encouraged to communicate with each other? Is there an internal Facebook group or an intranet? How welcome are ideas and input from franchisees back to the head office? Are there regional and/or national forums and conferences?

If it’s an established, large franchise, is there a franchisee advisory council or similar group which facilitates suggestions from the network? If it’s a smaller, newer franchise, is the franchisor receptive to feedback directly?

While franchising revolves around established systems that must be followed, good franchisors listen to their franchisees and are constantly evolving their business. It’s commercial as well as common sense; alongside a stronger, more collaborative network, there are fresh ideas for future innovations and development. Some of them become defining products: the Big Mac was created by a franchisee.

So if you’re looking to supercharge your business development as a franchisee, find out what facilities are in place to help you learn from the best already in the network – and share your own thoughts with others.

3. No guts, no glory

Anyone who knows what they’re talking about will tell you that due diligence and research are absolutely critical for every prospective franchisee. It’s regularly at the top of the list of advice from the bfa, and rightly so.

But you must marry the tangible information you can gather from the internet, from franchisees, from Companies House and elsewhere with something much less easily defined: your gut instinct.

Ultimately the decision to take on a franchise should come down to a mix of the two. Your visceral reaction should be listened to. If everything looks great on paper but your spidey sense is tingling for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on, then don’t simply ignore it and hope for the best.

You’re not buying a job, you’re becoming self-employed. You’re signing a legally-binding agreement. You’re committing to the business with your time and emotion as well as your money. So if you’re not 100 percent sure, think again before you part with your money.



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