Franchising is independence: to an extent

So, you have decided franchising is right for you. The next step is taking the plunge and picking one from the range of quality brands out there. Nick Williams, Franchise Consultant for FDS, offers his advice on making this decision.

“I don’t believe that technical know-how is always a benefit. Sometimes it gets in the way of a franchise owner looking at the business,” explains Nick matter-of-factly. For most investors looking to buy into the next big business idea, it seems a smart and natural progression to own a business doing what they know – Nick thinks otherwise. “Sometimes it is a good idea to go into a business area that is not familiar to you. From the point of view of a franchisor, I would be slightly wary of someone who comes in with years of experience, because that person is less likely to listen to anything I am going to tell them as they may believe they know better already.”

Nick is well placed to give his opinion on every aspect of franchising, having seen countless franchises thrive and fail in the past 13 years he has been employed by leading franchise consultancy business, Franchise Development Services. He continues: “If you are going to be over-individual and over-entrepreneurial, then the chances are you will not fit into the franchise system.” I immediately question this statement because franchising is still, in essence, buying a business for oneself. “You have to be, as a potential franchise owner, someone who is willing to listen to what the franchisor is going to say and be compliant to it,” Nick counters. “A franchisor has a responsibility to every franchise owner in the system to monitor every franchise owner so they do not damage the brand. Franchising is about having a system and then following it.”

Independence and the quantity that is ideal in franchising is a much debated subject, but Nick, having studied relationships in franchises for many years, is unequivocal in delivering his verdict on the issue: “Yes you need independence, so that a franchise owner can operate but this does not mean that they should operate out of the system.”

The franchise owner/franchisor partnership too is something often difficult to get right, but when a truly symbiotic relationship is reached, the result is often extremely lucrative for both sides of the agreement. “I would say to a franchisor, a franchise owner does not have to be your friend,” argues Nick. “In actual fact it doesn’t make sense to have a friendship this way. You have to retain that degree of distance and maintain a business relationship.”

“Why do franchise owners want to invest? People go into franchising, in general, to take control of their life. That’s independence. To decide how hard you work and when you work.”

Nick is undoubtedly a strong advocate of investing in the right franchise for the right reasons, which is not necessarily, he adds, about the money. “Yes, franchise owners want to build some value, but do they all actually want to be millionaires? I bet if you surveyed one hundred franchise owners, you might find two.”