An invitation to fill in the gaps

The unstable economy has uprooted the weak businesses leaving gaps in the market where strong, thriving businesses can grow by franchising

Trees fall in the forest, with or without witnesses. Whether stricken individuals, vulnerable species, or scores felled by nature's wrath (or man's greed), forests regularly resound with the sound of their fall. Their demise is essential, as every fallen tree liberates a quantum of space, water, and nutrients to nourish new life.

Economies function much like forests. Populated by businesses of varying age, health and stature - all busily competing for a niche, cash and resources - economies frequently resonate with the sound of failing enterprises.

That sound has recently become deafening. Woolworths, MFI, Zavvi, Adams, Whittards, Waterford Wedgwood, The Pier, Viyella and others have collapsed into administration - most with little or no hope of resurrection. Just as winter storms fell vulnerable trees, the chilly wind of this recession is violently uprooting weak businesses. Our local high streets are starting to show the ravages, as are our office buildings and industrial parks. Gaps are opening up everywhere. While we mourn the terrible loss of jobs their failure entails, we must also recognise that space has been made for new growth.

The next generation of discount furniture, digital entertainment, children's clothing and other retailers face less competition - as do home, business and other service companies. Premises and labour are far more plentiful and (for better and for worse) cheaper than they have been in many years. All of these factors actively counteract reduced demand and fertilise new growth.

If your business is faring well, take heed: now is the time to fill in the gaps. The same failures that have swelled the ranks of the unemployed have unleashed a wave of enterprising individuals with the savings and inclination to invest in a business. For less than the cost of establishing a new corporate branch, you could franchise your business and allow others to pay you for the privilege.

Survey your marketplace. If competing players have been weakened or felled, now may be the time to seize an exceptional opportunity. You may have a new way of bringing products or services to market that is better adapted to today's tastes and circumstances. You may be thriving where others have wilted. Don't hide in the shade. This country needs you to repopulate its high streets, office parks and local marketplaces.

As a means of expansion, franchising not only costs less and succeeds more often, but confers the advantage of speed. The systematisation that is an inherent part of the process facilitates the rapid training and establishment of new locations.

If your business is located in the North of England or Scotland, why not call us for a free initial consultation? Our consultants will be able to answer many of your questions and provide you with an honest initial assessment of your readiness to franchise. It could be time well spent and will cost you nothing.

While we cringe at the thought of the recession lasting through 2009, we must also be wary of the fact that the gaps in the market will begin to close in just 12 months. Just as the early bird gets the worm, the fast-growing sapling may just come to dominate its corner of the forest.

Written by Tony Urwin