Why trust is so important in franchising

Operating within an already established business model is what draws most people to franchising, but trusting that this model will work for you is key in a franchise owner’s decision-making process. Sally Butters reports

With more than 900 franchisors in the UK, the franchise opportunities are plentiful and many a promise will appear very appealing to you. So how do you identify which promises and businesses will come good in reality? How do you navigate the plethora of marketing messages during your franchise search? And, most importantly, what should you be looking for to start building a trusting relationship between you and the franchisor you will eventually join forces with? Trust is a key decision-making factor when seeking to answer these questions. It may sound obvious, but the decision has to feel right. At the end of the day, it will always be somewhat of a leap of faith when joining any franchise, as the potential risk needs to be weighed up against the potential gain. It is probably one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life and therefore it is not to be taken lightly. To feel more secure about the decision you are making and to reduce the distance of that leap of faith, there are a few things worth considering.

Identify what opportunity would suit you

It is essential to identify what is important to you in a franchise first. It is always a good idea to write a list and then check whether each franchise you are considering meets your criteria. Some of your criteria might include; investment level, earning potential, work/life balance, and if it meets or builds upon your existing skills or passions.

If you are still unsure whether you are indeed on the right track, it might be worth attending one of the Lloyds TSB franchise seminars. These educational seminars give you the tools you need to choose the right business opportunity to invest in and will also help you to avoid some of the pitfalls along the way. This will probably narrow it down to just a handful of sectors and opportunities. Within this selection, there are likely to be a number of competing opportunities operating in the same sector that are worth investigating further, so you can decide not only which one is the clear leader at the moment, but also which has the biggest potential for future growth.

So, it is important to carry out some more research into every opportunity that you are considering. A good place to start is the British Franchise Association (bfa) website. Here you will be able to see whether or not the franchisors you have selected belong to this accrediting industry body and their membership status can also give you some more insight into the longevity of the opportunity. It’s not a red flag if the franchise you are investigating is not a member of the bfa, but it might be worth requesting information that would allow you to see whether or not they would meet the bfa’s assessing criteria.

It is also a good idea to have a look on other websites for more information and make sure that the information provided is consistent whenever you read anything about a specific opportunity. Consistency is a first key indicator for whether or not the franchisor is trustworthy. It showcases whether or not they are organised and have a clear, structured opportunity and approach to franchising.

It is also a good idea to have a look at their social media activity at this point. Many franchise brands, like The Original Poster Company and Mac Tools, have a very strong presence on Twitter, where you will be able to read the latest news about their industry, network, new products and business successes. Social media not only gives you a great initial insight into the personality of a business, but it also shows they are interested in communicating with their customers and prospective franchise owners. This is a sign of forward thinking and willingness to innovate, which is always something that you should look for in a franchisor.

How does the franchisor communicate with you?

By now you have probably narrowed it down to two or three franchises that are of particular interest and have passed your preliminary screening. Now it is time to make contact to find out more about each opportunity. The way they communicate with you from this moment forward is another key indicator for a trustworthy franchisor. Here is a short checklist of questions you should be able to answer with a loud and strong ‘YES’!

Do they reply to your initial enquiry promptly? Do they give you a call, so you can ask them more questions and establish a relationship? Are they prompt and forthcoming with information that you have requested? Do they send you a prospectus/leaflet that gives you a good overview of the opportunity? Does their prospectus/leaflet include testimonials, franchise owner/client case studies or a day-in-a-life of a franchise owner example? Are they able to provide you with financial projections or average earning figures across their network?
Are you able to speak to an existing franchise owner that is not their top performer? If you would be their pilot franchise owner, do they offer the chance for you to speak to their customers? Does their franchise owner or customer confirm that there is a strong market need for the product or service? Are they always willing to share more and are they open about things that work and things that don’t? Do they tell you how they assess suitable candidates during this process?

These questions provide you with a comprehensive checklist and only if you are able to answer all of them with a ‘yes’, can you be sure that you are dealing with a diligent franchisor that is approachable and will support you in the years to come. This entire communication process can take anywhere from between a few weeks to a few months. It is important that you do not feel rushed to make a decision. It depends on your own diligence and the time it takes you to reach a decision but, importantly, it also depends on the franchisor’s diligence. They may ask you to provide financial statements or other information and this is actually a great sign of a trustworthy franchisor. It showcases that the franchisor is just as sincere about making sure that you are the right fit for them, as you are about making sure that they are right for you.

The diligence they apply to your selection process highlights how they approach the expansion of their franchise network in general. It will dramatically reduce the risk of the recruitment of unsuitable franchise owners that will damage the reputation of the brand, network and your future business as part of that brand.

I’m a marketer, but I know that my franchisor clients will always be more successful in their franchise recruitment marketing (maybe recruiting you to their franchise networks) if they ensure that they can wholeheartedly answer ‘YES’ to all of the above!