Franchisee Guidance
Stop clock watching, invest in a franchise

If your job is getting you down and you spend much of your time clock watching it's time to put the spring back in your step. Rachel Spaul explores franchising in Scotland

Franchising in Scotland is showing positive growth with an implied annual turnover of £0.8 billion, according to the British Franchise Association (bfa)/Natwest UK Franchise Survey. In Scotland, as with the rest of the world, the growth of franchising appears to be growing alongside the service economy, which currently accounts for over two thirds of the Scottish economy and continues to exhibit strong growth.

Information and advice on franchising is readily available from organisations including the Franchise Group for Scotland, which aims to secure 1,000 new franchised businesses in Scotland over the next five years, Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise. Forthcoming events in Scotland include the bfa Scottish Franchise Seminar in Edinburgh on the 2nd May, Scottish Franchise Week running from the 29th - 4th May and The British Franchise Exhibition in Glasgow on the 2nd and 3rd June.

From interviews with franchisees for The Franchise Magazine I can count the number of responses to the question 'Why did you want to become a franchisee?' on one hand: 'To be my own boss'; 'To spend more time with my family'; 'To be in control'; 'I was made redundant'.

A number of franchisees I've interviewed considered setting up their own business but lacked a viable business concept, the finances or resources. Business Format Franchising offered them a proven route into self-employment where the groundwork establishing the business had already been done and where ongoing training, support, research and development are readily available.

There are four main entry levels into franchising as a franchisee depending upon the capital you have available and your ambitions: National Master, Regional Master, Area Developer and single/multiple unit franchisee. Unless you have substantial funds, a track record in business and want to invest in the rights to the UK or Scotland as a region with a view to sub-franchising, a single/multiple unit franchise is most likely what you're looking for.

As a franchisee you are effectively your own boss but are expected to follow the franchisor's system for doing business and uphold the values and ethos of the brand. As part of your initial investment you will be allocated a territory often determined by the number of households, businesses or by postcode. It is always advisable to check if this territory is 'exclusive' i.e. no other franchisees or the franchisor can operate within its boundary.

When dividing the UK into franchised territories, franchisors tend to include Scotland in their overall recruitment plan rather than viewing the region as a separate market. However, most franchisors recognise the distinct culture and heritage of Scotland and its well-educated workforce of determined, straight talking people. Brian Lewis, Founder of Cash Generator, agrees: 'We view Scotland as part of our expansion into Great Britain but respect Scotland's independence. The people are plain talking and hard working and the towns have a good spread of demographics.'

However, like rural areas of Great Britain, the often wild and rugged landscape of Scotland can pose problems when allocating territories. You will occasionally find that territories are larger and some will not be viable. National Schoolwear Centres has overcome this by using the internet.

Ian Masson, Director of Retail Operations, explains: 'Our franchise has an excellent opportunity to serve an often highly dispersed community and provide a very personal service to schools, parents and children. Defining franchise territories in the traditional way is sometimes difficult in Scotland as the geography is complex. We have found new ways for our franchisees to serve their customers through our transactional website.'

One of the main reasons people choose to invest in a franchise is the training and support provided by the franchisor. With only a few home-grown Scottish franchises currently available you will most likely find that your franchisor's head office is based elsewhere in the country. Advances in telecommunications and air travel - you can now fly from Inverness to Leeds - means support is readily available. In addition, many established franchisors have regional managers who frequently visit franchisees and provide a vital link with head office. For example, Apollo Blinds has Ian Thornton as a Regional Manager for Scotland.

'In Scotland I support franchisees through visits or over the phone to provide advice on sales and marketing. I also look at their business plan with them to steer them in the right direction,' explains Ian Thornton. 'I visit franchisees depending on the needs of their business. We started franchising in Scotland 30 years ago so we have some well-established franchisees. It is one of our best areas in terms of sales and remains the case.'

Before rushing headlong into franchising there are several checks you will need to make. First, evaluate your suitability for franchising. The majority of franchises do not require specialist experience or knowledge, as you will learn everything you need from the training but there are certain skills that can't be taught. 'We look for motivation, enthusiasm and stickability, as you can't teach people these skills,' Snack-in-the-Box Sales Director Matthew O'Neil states.

Ian Masson furthers: 'Our franchisees are selected on the basis of their ability to replicate our business model in their chosen area. By definition that would include their ability to adequately fund their business and to develop its full potential.'

Brian Lewis agrees: 'While skills and personality are extremely important, franchisees must have the right level of funding.'

It is also vitally important that you research your chosen franchise thoroughly.