It's a franchising family affair

They say working with your family, pets or children can be a major challenge and is best avoided where possible. But when it comes to the Dancy family, franchising has led them to working with all three! Jamie Brown caught up with Robert Dancy to discuss the UK’s number one franchising family.

It all started with Oscar Pet Foods, which began trading in 1993 in Preston through Martin Dancy (father of Robert and Richard), making Sainsbury’s own brand pet food.

It was during this time that Martin wanted the business to become more than a pet food supplier to the supermarkets. Robert explained: “Oscar wanted to develop and control their own brand and distribution channels, so my father trialled a different model of selling Oscar Pet Foods door-to-door, direct to the customer, offering a more tailored service.” It worked! So, the next step for the Oscar brand was to find the most effective way of expanding this concept nationally.

After seeking professional advice to expand through franchising, Oscar Pet Foods has never looked back and now has a network of just fewer than 100 franchise owners, with a very strong position in franchising and the pet food market. Martin has since retired and now lives in New Zealand.

Franchising is a popular, cost effective and efficient way of nationally and internationally expanding an already successful business model. The franchisor packages up their business format in a way that can be licensed and replicated by others. In return for an initial upfront fee from the franchise owner, the franchisor gives access to the proven business model, branding, operating system and suppliers along with initial training and on-going support.

The franchisor makes their money by taking a percentage of the franchise owner’s turnover. Therefore, the franchisor has an inherent interest in its franchise owners because if they are successful, then so is the franchisor. Thus a partnership is created for joint success which has worked for many businesses worldwide.

“At 18, the year before I went to university, my father allowed me to take on a franchise with Oscar and have my own business. It was a great insight into self-employment and I really enjoyed it. I worked hard and followed the system that was in place and was successful, so much so that I won an award for sales at our annual convention,” commented Robert.

The benefits of franchising for the Dancy’s have been more than just the expansion of Oscar. It has allowed all the family to get first-hand experience and an insight into running a business and franchising. Robert told us how the year he had running an Oscar franchise allowed him to understand what his own personal strong points were and what he liked doing: “I realised that I was a good people person, enjoyed working for myself and managing my own time within a proven frame-work. I always knew that after University I would get back into franchising in some form or another because I just loved the concept.”

Robert did just that and has worked in a number of roles within franchising from 2001. He worked as a recruitment and marketing manager for a multi brand franchisor and then latterly through his own franchise consultancy business and a Government initiative called FranchisingWorks. In February 2013, he was appointed UK Franchise Director at Kids Academy Children’s Day Nurseries.

“We have only just started franchising at Kids Academy, but for me this role is about bringing together all my franchise experience and Kids Academy’s 15 years of sector experience to make them a leading nursery franchise.” The extra knowledge that Robert has had the benefit of acquiring will aided him immensely. Where new or inexperienced franchisors may overlook key development areas, Robert, through his experience, can foresee the pitfalls that Kids Academy may endure over its journey ahead, similar to many established franchisors. “I’ve seen before the mistakes and misjudgements franchisors have made, so hopefully, (no one is perfect), I can take all these into consideration and do my best to make sure they don’t occur within Kids Academy and offer a great franchise to my franchise owners,” explains Robert.

Richard Dancy, older brother, of Robert, has also taken full advantage of growing up in franchising. Having worked in the fast moving consumer goods market with Walkers Crisps and then with Vodafone, he joined Oscar Pet Foods as Sales and Marketing Director in 2002. This facilitated Martin’s retirement and the sale of Oscars to another family member, Richard Martin, Richard and Robert’s brother in law who has continued to take Oscar from strength to strength.

Richard Dancy’s love for franchising and one particular franchisor added another successful franchise brand to the Dancy family tree, when he married Lee Southern, the founder of Barking Mad, a successful alternative to kennels franchise created in 2000. Richard and Lee now work together on Barking Mad, but they haven’t stopped there. This September has seen the launch of an additional franchise brand in dog grooming. There really is no stopping these Dancys.

“Having your father, brother, sister-in-law and brother-in-law all working in franchising across different businesses is not only unique but a great help to us all. We often share our thoughts and experiences, making a family get-together seem more like bfa (British Franchise Association) regional forums,” Robert comments on his family of franchisors.

So, what does the future look like for the Dancy family? With four franchise brands in the family (Oscar Pet Foods, Barking Mad Alternative to Kennels, Barking Mad Professional Mobile Grooming and Kids Academy) now firmly established in the franchise industry, the future is looking bright. “All of us are bfa members and we aim to offer the best franchise in each sector and help others replicate our successes. Between myself, my brother and our extended family there are 15 children, so there is a strong possibility one of those might just follow in our footsteps to continue the Dancy family’s influence on the world of franchising,” says Robert.

To finish, Robert has given some advice to people who are looking at franchising as a way of making a business: “Understand the model at every level and make sure you are completely aware of what it requires of you physically, mentally and financially. Ask lots of questions of your franchisor and be happy with them as people and as a business. Be committed, work hard, follow the system and enjoy it. The financial and lifestyle benefits to those who build a solid business can be considerable. Doing it through the right franchise opportunity can offer those with a passion to succeed, the opportunity to reap the rewards of self-employment.