Autosmart takes gold as bfa Franchisor of the Year

The British Franchise Association Franchisor of the Year Award winner has been announced at a gala luncheon held at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel

The British Franchise Association (bfa) Franchisor of the Year Award 2008 winners have been announced with Autosmart International collecting the Gold Award from bfa President Sir Bernard Ingham at a gala luncheon held at the Sheraton Park Lane hotel. TaxAssist Accountants won the Silver Award and Oscar Pet Foods picked up the Bronze Award.

'Then and now, five years' on was the theme for this year's award ceremony with candidates demonstrating continued growth and development over the last five years in order for their application to be considered. In total there were eight candidates, with Autosmart International, TaxAssist Accountants and Oscar Pet Foods joined by Driver Hire, Pirtek UK, Prontaprint, Rosemary Conley and Urban Planters.

Bfa Director General Brian Smart said: 'Autosmart stood out among the shortlisted companies and deserves recognition for its outstanding achievements. The company has continually developed its business model to support its network of franchisees, ensuring Autosmart maximises growth while building a sustainable and profitable business.'

TaxAssist Accountants was presented with the Silver Award because of the company's focus on improving and differentiating its business model from its competitors within the marketplace, while at the same time adapting to the changes within the accountancy industry. Other initiatives, including the introduction of shop-front premises and a longer franchisee training package, have helped TaxAssist Accountants grow in terms of brand name, fee bank and profitability.

Head of Franchising for HSBC, Cathryn Hayes commented: 'TaxAssist Accountants has consistently developed products and services to meet new customers' needs. We at HSBC are committed to delivering the same level of service to our customers in franchising - a growing sector we have been supporting for more than 20 years.'

Oscar Pet Foods was presented with the Bronze Award because of the company's transformation over the last five years. The management buy-out has led to a new focus on improving technology, turning the franchise into an almost paperless environment. While a new marketing initiative, re-branding, innovative van livery and new products and packaging have given the company a better position within the competitive pet food market.

In the other two bfa Franchisor of the Year Award categories O2 UK ltd scooped the 2008 HSBC Enterprise Award, while Dream Doors was presented with The Express Newspapers Brand Builder of the Year Award.

The HSBC Enterprise Award recognises business that have used creative business strategies or found success where others have failed. The judging panel chose O2 as the winner because since the company developed and launched its franchise opportunity three years ago, its franchise programme has helped the O2 franchise channel to outperform the retail channel both in productivity and service. This in turn has helped O2 with its extensive expansion plans and overcome most of the obstacles a growing business can face. In just 18 months, the company has opened 70 stores and is on target to have 110 stores open by the end of this year.

The O2 franchise programme allows the franchisee and franchisor to work together in partnership. Franchisees are able to question the way the business is run, their feedback is used to make improvements to the programme and O2 has a retail forum to encourage entrepreneurialism within its franchisees.

Head of Franchising Cathryn Hayes presented O2 with the award. She commented: 'O2 is an excellent example of the flexibility and their success shows how a business can grow and flourish by applying the rules of franchising. The achievements of O2, along with the high standards demonstrated by all the finalists in the 2008 Franchisor Awards, underline the strength of the franchise market and encourage us to continue our commitment to this exciting sector.'

The Express Newspapers Brand Builder of the Year Award acknowledges franchises that have added value to their brand over the last 12 months. The judges chose Dream Doors as the winner, because since 2007 the company has successfully managed to open seven new showrooms, increased brand exposure and improved franchisee support with business coaching courses available on a range of topics to ensure Dream Doors brand values are maintained.

Reported by Jess Sturman