Franchising your business? Don't take off without a detailed flight plan

Launching a franchise can be compared to launching an aircraft, in that much of the work is in the preparation.

Even before an aircraft reaches the runway prior to takeoff, tens of thousands of hours have been spent in designing, building and testing all the components to ensure it is 100 per cent airworthy. The pilot and crew have all been thoroughly trained in every area to ensure that the plane takes off successfully, has a smooth flight and arrives safely at its destination.

Likewise, in franchising it takes a considerable amount of time to build a franchising vehicle that you will eventually offer to the prospective franchise investor market. Should you have an idea that you believe could be franchised, then you will need to prove its viability and profitability long before you offer it to people asking them to invest their time effort and money to replicate your success. If you invite passengers onboard your aircraft when you are making your first ever flight into the unknown, don't be surprised if not many people are not brave enough to join you!

To be a success in franchising, you'll need to have successfully developed an existing business and have the ability to teach, train, motivate and assist others to replicate it. Then franchising is beginning to look like a more promising option to follow.

There are now over 1,000 business format franchises in the UK of which around 340 are full, associate or provisional members of the British Franchise Association (bfa). The vast majority of these members have taken professional advice and guidance from experienced bfa-affiliated franchise consultants and lawyers, the vast majority of non-bfa members have taken little or no professional advice and guidance in key areas such as how best to design their business for franchising; create 'Frameworks for Success' franchisees can and must follow in creating their businesses; build proven systems for structuring sales and marketing, administration and accounting. It is essential that every franchisor recognises the need to put all of their ideas, methods, and procedures into clear written methods to follow.

So, what is the first step? I would strongly recommend that you engage a professional Franchise Consultant to provide an evaluation of your company's ability and suitability to expand following a franchise system. An experienced Franchise Consultant will examine all aspects of your business in relation to the envisaged franchise. Franchise Development Services (FDS) Consultants gather data, examining and reporting on not less than 21 areas of your business. Having identified the best way to proceed (it may surprise you to discover that there are normally three ways in which your business can be franchised). They then outline the work programme and budget requirements. This thorough evaluation analysis process will allow you and other directors and shareholders to reach a highly informed decision and identify the most practical and profitable route for the benefit of your own company as well as your future franchisee partners.

Normally, within two to three weeks the Franchise Consultant will either return to your offices or invite you to theirs for a presentation which will help you to crystallise your thinking in all of the essential areas that will be developed to ensure that your franchise vehicle can take off and fly to pre-determined destinations, time after time. However, start with your best possible team of professional advisors. Please feel free to call me for a pointer in the right direction.

Written by FDS Founder and Managing Director Roy Seaman