"Franchising is big business!"

With the aim of helping prospective franchisors and franchisees better understand franchising, the British Franchise Association profiles its range of events and products

If you have ever wanted the chance to branch out on your own then franchising could be the right choice for you. Franchising can offer a safer way of moving into business on your own by running a franchised outlet based on a tried and trusted business model while having the support of a large business. This does not mean though that running your own business is not hard work - the success of your franchise outlet will still depend upon a lot of hard work, determination and a desire to succeed.

The UK franchise industry is now worth more than £10.8 billion per year. There is a wider choice than ever before of potential franchisors offering a varied array of business opportunities. However, this large number makes it all the more important that you properly research the ideal franchise opportunity that could work for you.

The British Franchise Association (bfa) can help you with this process. The bfa is the only voluntary self-regulating body for the UK franchise sector and aims to point out key details to those who are investigating franchising for the first time. We can help you structure your research so that you can make an informed choice.

If you want to try a more interactive approach towards learning about franchising, the bfa's regular regional workshops and seminars provide an ideal way to do this. These provide educational training, giving an essential introduction to the entire franchising process. The seminars and workshops use speakers who have a wide ranging knowledge of the UK franchise sector.

Another very useful tool for people wanting to know more about franchising is the bfa website, www.thebfa.org. This gives detailed information of all current bfa members, upcoming events and helpful publications. The Lloyds TSB-sponsored bfa franchisee guide is also available for purchase on the website.

One should note at the outset that successful franchising is based upon franchisors and franchisees working in harmony. There are many advantages in having the weight and know-how of an organisation behind you when you become a franchise owner for the first time. The bfa has in fact recently piloted a very successful 'Proud to Franchise' scheme, instructing franchisees on how to highlight the advantages of their position. As a local franchise owner they are actually able to offer the customer much more, combining big company best practice with local customer focus.

'Consumers are actively opting to purchase the goods and services delivered by the franchise community over other alternatives,' says Dan Archer, Head of Marketing for the bfa. 'It is clear that the public associates franchising with numerous benefits to customers, such as consistency in service level, competitive prices and customer value through personal dealings with the local owner.'

The bfa is working all year round to promote ethical franchising. There are also several key events during the year organised by the bfa. A recent success was the Scottish Franchise Week which took place from the 4th-10th of June in Glasgow. An integral part of the Scottish Franchise Week was the Business Breakfast, organised by the bfa Franchise Group for Scotland which took place on the 8th of June in the Glasgow Science Centre. Over 270 people attended the event, having the chance to listen to some very experienced key note speakers.

The bfa was also involved with running seminars during the Scottish Franchise Exhibition on the 8th and 9th of June. These offered an introduction to franchising for both potential franchisees and franchisors. One of the aims of Scottish Franchise Week is to raise awareness of ethical franchising and the role which it plays in business start-up, business expansion and job creation in Scotland.

The bfa annual conference is also a very important event. This year it took place on the 14th of July in the Radisson Edwardian Mayfair Hotel in London with the theme being 'Proud to Franchise.' The conference was sponsored by Yell, TaxAssist Accountants, Baker Tilly, Lloyds TSB Business, Barnett & Barnett and Franchise Development Services.

Brian Smart, Director General of the bfa, noted in his opening address to the conference: 'Franchising is big business all over the world, despite our previous reluctance to tell anyone about it, the Great British Public have found out. They like the idea of good business format franchising and they'd prefer to shop in a locally owned and nationally supported franchise.'

This information-packed one day event offered bfa members an excellent networking opportunity where they could stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the franchise industry by attending varied workshops and listening to speeches from industry experts.