It is a well-documented fact that historically, franchise operations do well during tough economic times; franchisees follow tried and tested business models with full head office support, so whilst many businesses sink without trace, franchises often manage to keep their heads above water during even the choppiest of economic seas.
But for some franchise operations, they aren’t just ‘surviving’, they are actually thriving, having their best of times. Recruitment is high and so is network turnover, but why? How are they doing so well while other businesses are struggling?
We spoke to two franchisors and a couple of their newest franchisees, to find out why their businesses are bucking the economic trend.
16% growth rate – TAB
Ed Reid is MD of TAB (The Alternative Board), which offers peer-to-peer support and business coaching through local advisory boards. TAB have 32 franchisees operating across 34 territories in the UK. Ed said: ‘Business is good. We’ve already taken on five new people in 2023, with two more due to arrive before the end of the year. This puts our franchisee growth rate at 16% which we are very happy with in a difficult recruitment market.’
Investment in marketing and communications
Ed says a decision to invest in innovative marketing and operational approaches have helped them stand out in the marketplace. ‘We recently invested heavily in the skills of a communications expert to refine our marketing messages and how to best deliver them; not only has this helped with our franchise recruitment but it has also given our franchisees more confidence in front of their prospects and improved their ability to articulate the benefits that we bring to them.’
‘I’ve built an amazing business in a very short space of time’
TAB franchisee James Ross who only bought his franchise in March 2022, says the head office support he has received has been first-class: ‘The franchisor provided me with fantastic training up front, in particular with a best-in-class sales process to help me attract new members. They also provide me with regular support meetings both with head office and with other franchisee colleagues, and an inspirational annual conference. They give me great advice on marketing strategy too and how to get the best out of social media which has meant I have built an amazing business in a very short space of time.’
A purrrfect business for cat lovers?
Sandra James is the franchisor of The Cat Butler. Launched in 2021 the franchise already has 11 franchisees with nine new arrivals in the past nine months alone and more in the pipeline. Sandra is also a finalist in the BFA HSBC British Franchise Awards 2023 in the ‘Emerging Franchisor’ category.
‘Yes, our business is definitely booming,’ said Sandra. “We are recruiting rapidly, and our existing franchisees are doing exceptionally well too, with more clients than they could ever handle; many of them finding they need to recruit staff within the first six months to help them cope with the demand for their services. Why are we growing so fast? I think firstly, because we are the only ‘cat only’ pet care franchise in the UK, which means our target market is already partially ‘self-selected’. We only recruit cat lovers, so when a potential franchisee ends up at our door, they are already clear on what their daily duties will involve; there’s no ambiguity and once they go through our recruitment process, learn about our training and the support they’ll be given and speak to some of our existing franchisees and hear how well they’re doing, they’re usually scratching at the post to launch their own business.’
Support from the very beginning
Sandra’s franchisee Jane Hotz had a 36 yr. career in international fashion retailing, before launching her Cat Butler franchise in Radlett, Hertfordshire, in March 2023. In just seven months, Jane already has over 100 clients on her books and is currently recruiting for two new members of staff to help her cope with the ever-growing demand for their services.
So why did she choose to buy a franchise over starting up her own cat care business?
‘Being part of a franchise system gives you the business support from the very beginning and allows you to hit the road running. The website and brand are already established, and you become part of that brand. The background support functions such as the client portal, marketing and training an support from head office were also a major positive factor as to why I chose to buy into a franchise over starting up on my own.’
The Alternative Board and The Cat Butler are both members of BFA (The British Franchise Association). Formed in 1977, The BFA is a voluntary self-regulating governing body and the largest franchise trade association in the UK. It has over 300 franchisor members whose franchise systems have undergone rigorous checks to ensure they are ethical, professional and sustainable.
While the UK navigates some turbulent economic waters it is reassuring to know that in the commercial sector of business format franchising, brands are still riding on the crest of the wave of economic success.