What makes your business franchiseable?

OK, first an apology – no civilised human being should ever use a word as clunky as ‘franchiseable’, let alone put it in a headline. Anyone with any ideas for a …

13th June 2007 at 10:12 am

OK, first an apology – no civilised human being should ever use a word as clunky as ‘franchiseable’, let alone put it in a headline. Anyone with any ideas for a substitute is welcome to get in touch.

Nevertheless, I was reading an interesting article the other day on how you know your organisation is ready for franchising. It made interesting reading, but was effectively an ad for a paid-for advice service, so I won’t link to it – but it did get me thinking. Suppose I were to try offering ‘Guy Clapperton, Freelance Journalist’ as a franchise?

Of course it would flop and the act of writing is individual so it’s not a practical suggestion. But let’s consider the reasons I might do it and the practicalities behind it.

Reasons would include money. The idea that someone would come in and voluntarily hand over a lot of shekels for the sake of using my name is appealing. A more serious franchising prospect might want to look into extra funding, but may not wish to borrow or dilute the ownership of the core business. Franchising might be a way of attracting a suitable entrepreneur or five.

Another reason might be the need for rapid growth with little risk. Of course if someone who is incompetent takes over your brand then they can do some serious damage, but as long as you have your quality control in place there’s every reason to assume your brand will grow. Quickly. And people will pay you for the privilege.

The obligations will put a lot of people off, however. Anyone thinking their business is ripe for the franchise approach needs to be careful about what they’re offering. A few years ago I was buying a new car and visited a Rover garage (yeah, I know…) which advised me that another local establishment had just lost the Rover franchise. He seemed to think this was quite funny. The other garage switched to Nissan while the original stuck to its Rover guns – I’ll give you three guesses as to which one is still running. The collapse of the parent company did untold damage to the businesses using its name.

Franchises will want supplies. If you’re in gardening they’ll want standard tools, they might want uniforms, even branded transport. They’ll pay for them of course but it’ll be up to you to make the figures stack up. They might want to innovate a bit, locally, and you’ll have to decide at which stage they cease to be compatible with your brand.

And quality control is everything. Why can’t I make a fortune out of ‘Guy Clapperton, Freelance Journalist’? First because of the individuality of a writer but second because I’d have to read every word written in my name and ensure it was up to scratch. I’d have to make sure all the markets the mini-me’s were approaching were the right ones and ensure that none of them did any of the others any damage. I’d have to issue reading glasses and train people to sail into a meeting ten minutes late and act as if they were the soul of punctuality.

In short I’d need to manage too much. People who can do this with their own brand are few and they’re highly skilled. If you’re thinking of doing the same it can be worth asking not just why your brand is suitable, but whether you have the right skills to go into this sort of brand management at all.

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton is a freelance journalist who specialises in small business issues and has written for the likes of The Guardian, the FT and the Daily Mirror. Guy has written about finance and franchising for SmallBizPod. http://www.guyclapperton.co.uk

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