'For yourself but not by yourself' is a hackneyed phrase in business.
During his forty years of service in the business sector, FDS Anglia and London’s Nick Williams has seen countless franchises and businesses thrive and fail. Here, he talks to The Franchise Magazine about his views on the state of franchising in the UK today and how companies must mature to meet the evolving needs of the consumer.
In four decades of business, the world has changed significantly. The emergence of the Internet, ultra-communication and logistical efficiency practices have reshaped the business world to be unrecognisable. But throughout the turbulence, Nick Williams has piloted his way to the forefront of corporate activity – which today is notably pedestrian. He explains: “The lack of capital in the world today makes it harder for people to access cash to achieve their objectives.”
“Franchisors have been more cautious, I think, to take expansionist steps - until recently.”
However, according to Nick, businesses are about to see an increase in consumer activity as the economy moves towards recovery. He adds: “There seems to be growing anecdotal and concrete evidence that people are gaining in confidence and are taking steps that were previously in the back of their minds.
“We are seeing would-be franchisors coming to the market, where 12 months ago we weren’t seeing them.”
Nick believes this recent development in expansionist plans from franchisors has been triggered by franchisor foresight: “Firstly, they, as businesspeople, can now see confidence coming back to the economy and, as businesspeople tend to take a longer-term view, they are gearing-up ready for that expected freer approach from consumers.
“If you have a half-decent business and you want to grow it, what are you going to do? Your cash reserves have probably been eaten into and you have likely got the management team down as thin as it can go. But you have a good idea or a good product or brand. You know demand is going to build up; you need to act on that. The best way must be franchising.”
No matter how well-structured a business model is, a company can never be truly successful without the right people in place. Nick reiterates that this concept is never truer than in franchising: “Franchising is a relationship like no other. The phrase: ‘for yourself but not by yourself’ is a hackneyed phrase in business. But it sums up franchising beautifully.
“I have seen a lot of businesses succeed through what is the innate ability of someone within that company to do business.
“Those that have failed have been, by and large, the people who thought they had a good idea but didn’t have the capability to see it through. Having someone with the ability to look ahead, to do the counterintuitive thing, to take a longer view and make unpopular decisions, that does make a difference. You have to have people who stand out, which is the role of the franchisor.”
In line with mainstream opinion, Nick recognises innovative businesses with fresh energy are ones to watch out for as new franchisors, but is keen to point out that these young business concepts must evolve in order to stand any chance of achieving longevity. He concludes: “Businesses should mature as they become more established and logically larger. As they employ more people or have more franchise owners, their responsibilities change. You can’t behave like an ill-educated teenager when you are supposed to be a mature adult – it doesn’t wash.
“There comes a time when a business has to grow up. I bet Virgin is nowhere near as exciting a place to work as it was 20 years ago – but then you could not have had that frenetic style forever. A business has to become more solid and stable – not boring, but more grown-up in order to meet the needs of the consumer who places value in the brand and in order to protect the stakeholders.
“I don’t believe that businesses that have grown to a certain size can continue to act in such an off-the-wall way as they did when they were getting going. They will still have new ideas, but they are unlikely to have the light bulb moment. A brand has to continually evolve.”