The Patterson File: What makes a winning franchise?

With a host of awards to its name, Swisher has awarded 65 franchises in the UK. Gordon Patterson speaks to the company's Development Director Marilyn Keen

Gordon Patterson:

Swisher has been a finalist in the British Franchise Association's 'Franchisor of the Year' Award four times, and in 2004 won the HSBC Award for Enterprise and came runner-up in the Daily Express Brand Builder Award. What makes Swisher such a winner?

Marilyn Keen:
Swisher is a winner because of its unique service and products, the fact that we insist upon high standards and our commitment to putting customers at the forefront of our focus. Most importantly, our franchisees are highly incentivised and motivated. By following the system, they can build a large business and achieve net profits in excess of 30 per cent, as well as a growing capital value for their business.

Gordon Patterson:

How do you identify suitable Swisher franchisees?

Marilyn Keen:
We want franchisees who have the focus, energy and determination to build a significant, successful business leading their own team forward and managing their staff to achieve the very best.

Gordon Patterson:

What kind of support do you provide to help franchisees build successful businesses?

Marilyn Keen:
Our franchisees have the best support ratio in franchising - less than two franchisees to each corporate support staff member. We believe that if our franchisees have the confidence and the knowledge to build big businesses, we must support them all the way to ensure that they can achieve this. We have six-monthly reviews assessing how the franchisee's business is growing and if there are any areas where we can provide additional support. We are very focused not just on turnover but on profitability.

Gordon Patterson:

What exit strategy do you recommend to your franchisees?

Marilyn Keen:
Some franchisees join Swisher with an end goal knowing that they wish to be in Swisher for a finite period, perhaps five, 10 or 15 years. We are always positive if a franchisee wishes to sell their business. As a general rule of thumb, selling franchisees normally achieve a sale price of 85-90 per cent of their annualised sales. For example, a Swisher franchisee that had achieved a turnover of £350,000 and net profit of £100,000 subsequently sold his business for almost £300,000, making a capital gain of £275,000 in under five years.

Gordon Patterson:

Where is Swisher positioned within its specialised sector?

Marilyn Keen:
Within the £3 billion washroom sector, Swisher has no competition - no-one provides a comparable service. Our name is highly respected in both the washroom sector and franchising. Swisher provides a quality service that is acknowledged within our sector, and is a leading brand with an enviable reputation.

Gordon Patterson:

How many franchisees do you have currently and what are your network growth targets?

Marilyn Keen:
We have awarded 65 territories and can now service customers in most areas. However, we still have franchises available in many parts of the UK, including some prime territories such as Birmingham and London. We believe that we have about 114 UK territories in total, and we tend to award between eight and 11 franchises per annum.

Gordon Patterson:

I get the impression that the Swisher management team are people who really enjoy franchising. What brings you most satisfaction?

Marilyn Keen:
We love what we do at Swisher and find franchising fascinating. We enjoy working with people and seeing their businesses grow. We really like meeting with prospective franchisees and seeing them grow and develop into confident and successful people. As our Managing Director Jeffrey Keen says: 'We are here to make our franchisees wealthy and successful, and that is what we enjoy doing most at Swisher.'

Partners in excellence

Gordon Patterson acquired the rights to operate as FDS (Southern) over 20 years ago. During the last two decades he has consulted for many companies expanding their operations through franchising. Many of his client relationships extend over the past 10 to 20 years and businesses that began in local areas have become nationally recognised brands.

As FDS (Southern) Gordon Patterson has guided clients through all stages of their franchise development programmes - from the initial evaluation, to the structuring of the operation for franchising with its related documentation. An essential part of this has been the franchisee recruitment process and the promotion of the franchise through the various FDS media, such as The Franchise Magazine.

FDS (Southern) has been on a steady growth curve for 20 plus years. Gordon Patterson began to look for a suitable partner who would buy into FDS (Southern) on an equity basis and bring to the table mature experience in the franchise sector and, in January 2006, Gary Rigby became a partner in FDS (Southern). Gary will help Gordon to drive the business upward on a continued growth path in the provision of consultancy and media related services.

Gary was a member of the senior management team as Franchise Manager and Operations Manager with a major national franchise brand for some 15 years. In this capacity, he was involved with a major brand within franchising in all aspects of implementing the franchise development programme. This extended from implementing the original pilot operation, to launching the franchise proper, recruitment, franchisee support and helping the franchisees with sales and marketing initiatives for their own businesses.

Gary has developed a wealth of knowledge in franchising. Together, Gordon and Gary have over 35 years of experience in all aspects of franchise activity. They now wish to help existing franchisors achieve their objectives in franchising - together with helping new brands launch their franchise in a highly professional manner.