Forces to franchising: a guide

For those of you who are already veterans, you must still take your time to carefully evaluate the entire franchise market, says Neil Dean, Director of British Forces Resettlement Services.

Currently, there are over 1,500 franchise opportunities available throughout the UK, and your role is to identify what you consider to be those opportunities that may be of interest. Whether the number is 10, 25 or 50 this does not matter at this stage.

Your research can be online with websites such as www.theukfranchisedirectory.net, www.franchisedirect.com and others that you will identify by doing your Google search. Then turn to publications such as The Franchise Magazine, that can be purchased at any outlet of WHSmith. Should you not wish to obtain a printed copy, simply go online and find their touch-and-turn editions. There are also apps for many of the franchise titles.

Next comes the important opportunity of visiting some of the franchise exhibitions that are convenient for you. You should plan to spend one or two days at such an event since you can talk at length to the franchisors that are exhibiting and there may be some opportunities that you have not previously considered but can then be brought onto your short list.

The next step is for you to formally introduce yourself to these companies and then ask for copies of their printed or online franchise prospectus. This then needs to be thoroughly studied so that you can go back to the franchisor and ask them for answers to the most important questions that you would like to have answered in detail; questions such as asking for the exact number of franchise locations currently trading, and then seeking permission to talk to any of those franchise owners, always creates a different response.

When you believe that you have carried out enough due diligence, it is then time for you to go and meet with the franchisor. Do not agree to meet with a franchisor at what they are suggesting is a convenient place other than their Head Office. These are your future partners in business, so you must visit the headquarters and make your decisions as to whether or not this company really has the substance to support you as you become part of their National Franchise Development Plans.

You should not consider making any decisions at such meetings, but simply go through your list of brands where you are expressing a serious interest. Ideally, you need to meet with a minimum of at least four companies so that you can make some real comparisons. Should you find a company that meets your expectations and you consider the investment that they are asking is reasonable, then you can take the next step, which is to talk with your accountants and obtain their opinion in relation to the opportunity.

Should you not have an accountant, then find one that is willing to assist you in this respect. Should you get the green light from them, the next stage is to locate a British Franchise Association Affiliated Franchise Lawyer that can provide you with a professional opinion in relation to the franchise agreement.

This will incur a cost of between £500 to £1,000, so ask more than one law firm for a quotation.

Although this may be seen as a small amount of money, it is very important that you do not get the opinion of a lawyer who is not a bfa member.

The process from deciding to investigate franchising to making a financial commitment should take a minimum period of three months.

For those of you who are about to leave the services: follow the same steps but do not rush into fast tracking your due diligence.

The ideal scenario is that you are going to be leaving the services in a period of six to 12 months or longer. You can then take your time and learn a great deal about both the realities and the benefits of setting up a business, with the benefit of continual support from a credible franchisor.

Your first consideration having reviewed all of the franchise opportunities available in the UK, and in particular in the geographical area where you plan to live, will fall into two categories. The first is the new-start franchise opportunities, and the second will be to acquire an established franchise that is for sale as a going concern.

This will require a much higher investment, but it is often a more assured way of achieving the projected turnover and profits. A good person to talk to in this respect is Jess Bains, who for many years has specialised in facilitating franchise resales. His contact details are Tel: 01462 685633 or email: jess@fdsfranchise.com.

In the UK, you will currently find more references on Google under Ex-Forces in franchising than you will veterans in franchising. When you believe that you have found a genuine business format franchise that meets all of your criteria, you are strongly recommended to call one of the companies that provides free advice and guidance in relation to the opportunity being one that they can recommend. In that respect you can call Franchise Development Services on 01603 620301 or email enquiries@fdsltd.com.

There is in fact a well-trodden pathway that can lead you from where you are, to owning and operating a successful franchise. It just takes time and careful thought to plan your own pathway to finding what may be a very enjoyable, as well as profitable, future for you.