Franchising from home

Slashing overheads and balancing work and family commitments are just two of the factors that are taken into account when franchise owners decide to run their business from home

Starting the working day surrounded by home comforts is a dream for many, but to run a franchise successfully there are many elements to take into consideration.

Working from home has blossomed since the 1970s, when it was seen as a low key affair that conjured up images of addressing endless streams of envelopes, delivering a ton of catalogues and planning parties – a little business run on the side to supplement a family’s income.

Today running a business from home has become widely accepted by the business community as a legitimate location of operations.

Popularity

Property services, personal services and business services – all of which can be easily run from home – were revealed to be the most popular franchise categories in the latest NatWest/bfa Franchise Survey. The 2012 survey also indicated that 38 per cent of those quizzed operate their franchise from a home-based office.

This is undoubtedly down to the fact that keeping costs to a minimum is the most logical way of launching a business. In this way, new franchise owners, especially inexperienced and hesitant ones, have time to find their feet with minimal pressures and stand a better chance of building the foundations for self-confidence and a strong business.

If you take your services to the client instead of them coming to you – as in retail unit based operations – you are recommended to run your business from home, certainly when starting out.

Adaptability

Prime examples of franchises that have flourished from home bases are business-to-business operations. No property base is required to offer cost reduction, accounting, tax analysis, finance consultancy, stocktaking, agency staffing, training, and debt recovery as these can usually be delivered on client premises.

Following the recent waves of redundancies in the public and private sectors, there is now a reservoir of people with years of business experience at executive level, who are seeking franchises.

Increasingly, other franchises types keen to encourage business-minded people capable of expanding their networks around the country, are also highlighting the management and work-at-home nature of the franchise owner’s role.

Commercial cleaning, distribution services and property care franchisors are among those highlighting the home-based elements of their business models. This trend makes a lot of sense, because anyone making a substantial investment in a franchise will prefer not getting their hands dirty. Logically, they will want to manage and direct the business, employing others for the actual operations.

There are also an increasing number of franchises and business opportunities related to catering for children’s requirements – from childcare and early learning to activity and entertainment – which focus almost exclusively on being run from home.

Flexibility

Franchise owners who run their business from a van not only enjoy the great sense of freedom associated with being on the road, but can also be more pro-active, taking the business to the customers instead of waiting and hoping they will come to them.

Most vehicle-based sales and distribution franchises are naturally suited to a home-base start and can quite easily continue on this basis forever without any adverse effect on business growth. This, for example, applies to companies concerned with delivering cleaning and chemical supplies and services, office consumables, household goods, stationery, food and drink, tools, and leisure goods.

Many are based on mobile showrooms, which act as the business premises. Van-based maintenance services can also operate easily this way – such as those offering vehicle repairs and valeting, property renovation and various forms of cleaning.

Capability

Prospective franchise owners need to think very carefully about their own choices, measuring them against their own references and backgrounds and skills.

Someone from a retail background is unlikely to make a great success of a franchise involving pro-active sales and marketing efforts on the road, while people with a sales background are likely to feel frustrated and uncomfortable stuck behind a desk at home, where they are relatively unable to influence customer purchasing.

There are many good points to working from home – you will no longer have that stressful commute to the office, endure the distracting hum of office gossip or work hours that that don’t fit in with your other commitments.

Richard Hodson, whose home also doubles as the base for his TruGreen franchise in Arden, says: “I used to be anxious to get to work. Working from home has numerous benefits, one of which is not having to travel to your workplace.”

While Richard can now start his day in a relaxed frame of mind, Scott Harrison, Lawnscience, Birmingham, has discovered another advantage of being based at home – the school run.

“I am lucky enough to be able to drop my children off at school every day,” he states, “This was a key requirement for me when I was choosing a franchised business.”

Discipline

However, working from home can lead to you being so relaxed that you cannot get motivated to actually get the work done, while never leaving your ‘workplace’ may mean you spend less – not more time – with your family.

To run a franchise successfully from home, you need to discipline yourself so that you enjoy the work/life balance you want.

When she became the Leeds franchise owner for London House International, Julia Bradbury set herself boundaries and planned out each working day to prevent her domestic life infringing on her work.

“I have a separate office at the back of our house and I usually make sure that I arrive at work at 9am,” she explains. “As a result, running my London House franchise from home has been better than I envisaged and my husband is definitely jealous of my commute!”

Working from home may prove one of the main attractions for selecting a franchise opportunity but never forget that to make it a success requires lots of hard work – wherever you are based.

Written by Fraser McKay