Nick Williams - Knowledge is power: Information is meaningless

Over the last decade, the face of franchising has changed enormously. Nick Williams, Franchise Consultant for FDS, analyses what has changed, the reasons why and how you must adapt to maintain your advantage

As the internet continues to change the way the whole world does business, franchising inevitably follows suit. Nick comments: “One change that I have seen is the multiplicity of information available through the internet. Now people are becoming more educated about franchising. What we have started to see is a shift away from people getting their information on franchises from newspapers; now people are able to compare franchises from their living room on their computer.” – A more unilaterally educated industry should, in theory, mean only the better brands survive.

“It has had both good and bad effects,” Nick counters. “It has opened up a vast range of knowledge but it has enabled some players to come into the market and gain the publicity that they really do not deserve. It has allowed badly constructed brands and unqualified consultants, who do not add any benefit to the client, to take money from brands. They do not meet the standards that the bfa sets down.”

Nick is speaking from a plethora of experience. Having developed a reputation as a successful businessman – and more recently as an extremely adept franchise consultant – Nick has seen first-hand how changes to the way information is obtained has had a direct effect on the franchise industry.

With the saturation of franchise information comes potential confusion – it naturally becomes increasingly difficult to pick out what information is of value for investors. Nick adds: “People have more and more choice and choice doesn’t always breed decision making, as people take longer and longer to make up their minds. Whereas people used to go to exhibitions to meet the brands, now the exhibition is on their desktop.” As every decision takes longer to process, and research is more in-depth and, in many cases, more misleading, the value of experienced and operational consultancy has never been higher.

As an experienced consultant, Nick knows the significance of the economic growth that is being forecast across the board. “I think it is a good time for anyone to invest in a change of direction, of course ideally franchising,” Nick continues. “It is an opportunity for anybody who wants to go into business to put their future in the hands of people who know how to survive through downtimes,as well as uptimes. It’s easy to make money in the uptimes, but its whether you can survive in the downtimes that really sets apart the men from the boys.”

Nick’s frank attitude to business and coldly analytical thinking has played no small part in propelling him to the forefront of franchise consultancy. But his parting words in this short interview are laced with sentiment: “I think picking a franchise, for most people, is not about money. I think it is about weighing up where you fit culturally and exploring that opportunity.”