Tony Urwin’s Consultant’s Casebook
Tony Urwin, of FDS North explains how the expert advice he provided A-Star Sports helped the company successfully launch its franchise opportunity this year.
Established in 2011, A-Star Sports provides fun-filled multi-sports weekly classes, holiday clubs, parties and events for children aged two to 10 years. The company’s developmental multi-sports coaching programming begins with an initial ABC-based programme (Agility, Balance and Co-ordination), develops into a core of 10 sports and is delivered in a uniquely engaging, positive and inclusive environment.
The company set itself a goal: to become the UK’s most popular and successful provider of multi-sports coaching for children. With national and local competitors already established across the UK, the company needed to offer customers a more compelling proposition than what was currently available. Existing service providers tend to be loosely organised, which limits their offering and opportunities for progression. It also produces inconsistent quality and can lead to a different market being targeted.
The challenge was to develop the business into a national provider capable of offering a professional, convenient, high-quality local service with the consistency of a national brand.
The business was owned and operated by three couples, each of which looked after a different location. The three sets of partners recognised that their business had an excellent foundation for growth: its programmes and approach proved extremely popular in each territory, and each location was highly profitable. All partners agreed to invest in national expansion. However, as they were investing their own personal savings, they wanted to find the most efficient, cost-effective method to reduce their risk as much as possible.
The partners researched their available options and determined that franchising was the most effective way of delivering a highly professional, consistent local service throughout the country. Franchising was not only more cost-effective than opening multiple corporately owned locations, it was also more rapid and involved less risk as this was shared with franchise owners. The partners spoke with professionals in the franchising industry, and were advised to contact FDS North.
We evaluated the readiness of their business for franchising and to develop a thorough Franchising Business Development Plan, which included the architecture of a competitive, sustainable and profitable A-Star Sports franchise. The partners came back to us to support the implementation of the plan.
Over the course of the following four months, FDS North managed the development of the Franchise Legal Agreement, prospectus, disclosure document for prospective buyers, getting started guide, territory evaluation tool for new franchise owners, and a comprehensive Franchise Operations Manual. The consultancy also provided detailed training on recruitment, knowledge transfer and franchise support.
The A-Star Sports went to market in later Spring 2012 amid a raft of awards, including the Startups 100 Business Award winner, the What’s On 4 Junior Awards 2012 (double award) and the Gladstone BizNetwork ‘Small Business Sunday’ winner. Less than six months into its franchise recruitment campaign, the business had 11 active territories, received a further three applications from interested parties and will be at least two franchises ahead of schedule by the end of its first year. The company projects that it will have 55 franchises within five years, by which time it will have achieved over 20 per cent of national coverage. In short, the business is on track to meet its goal.
Gary Bassett, Managing Director of A-Star Sports, explains: “The decision to franchise was strategic. It involved a much lower initial investment and less risk than opening branch locations throughout the country.
“Part of that initial cost comes from calling on outside expertise – a franchise consultant, a solicitor specialised in franchise legal agreements, a business copywriter to produce sales and training documentation – but having gone through the process, that outside expertise also mitigates risk and reduces the chance of costly mistakes.”