The changing face of franchising

Pip Wilkins, chief executive at the British Franchise Association, discusses how increasing media visibility is transforming franchising into a mainstream business opportunity.

“Through national campaigns, we’ve showcased the truly life-changing impact that franchising can have… The f-word is no longer simply one of the business world’s best-kept secrets”

The times they are a-changing. The perception of franchising is shifting – and not before time.

Those of us in the sector know it as one rife with opportunities, and one that has outperformed the wider economy in both good times and bad; with growth of 10 per cent over the last two years adding to robust performance throughout the preceding downturn, the statistics don’t lie.

Now, more people who are on the outside looking in are beginning to notice and understand its potential impact on individuals, companies, job creation, local communities, and regional and national economic prosperity.

A look at what’s been happening in recent months, and what’s on the way, confirms it: the f-word is no longer simply one of the business world’s best-kept secrets.

Media maelstrom

At the British Franchise Association (bfa) we’ve worked in unison with our membership to get stories out far and wide in an assorted range of media. It’s not a simple task: with franchising spanning so many business sectors, there’s an extremely broad mix of different audiences to reach and engage.

But in harnessing the power of the incredibly close-knit and supportive bfa community, we’ve achieved great success in national, regional, trade and broadcast media. We’ve developed strong relationships with business journalists that have greatly increased the visibility of franchising as an option for would-be entrepreneurs. We’ve welcomed increasing numbers of people to events to raise awareness of what franchising is, how it works and the opportunities it offers. Finally, through national campaigns, we’ve showcased the truly life-changing impact that franchising can have when it’s at its best.

Journalists and influencers are more aware of what’s happening in this dynamic and driven part of the economy, and we’re fielding more enquiries than ever before for contributions, features, comment and articles. That’s great news for everyone.

Outward looking

Of course, there’s still a lot more to achieve, which is why we’re so pleased to have an external relations committee as part of the bfa’s governance structure for the first time this year. This is chaired by an exceptional, award-winning franchisee, Catharine Chalton of Home Instead Wirral, and features a group of impassioned franchisors and affiliates.

Going hand in hand with this, I was absolutely delighted in July to welcome Emma Wilsdon to the bfa’s senior team. She will be filling the newly created position of external relations and training manager, with a remit of building strong, lasting and meaningful relationships with business organisations, academic institutions and media outlets. There will also be more focus on our events encouraging people from outside the sector to take a look at what’s going on in franchising.

Emma’s arrival and the new committee signify the importance we’ve placed on increasing the profile and scope of the sector with the right people at the right level. They’ll be reaching today’s decision makers and tomorrow’s franchisors and franchisees. It’s an incredibly exciting time for outward-facing activities and we look forward to working closely with the community to maximise benefits. 

Prospects look good

While it’s crucial to attract more people to the sector, it’s no less an imperative for the bfa to deliver the right advice in an informative and impartial manner to those looking into self-employment through franchising.

That’s why September saw the launch of our new online, video-based training programme in conjunction with Lloyds Bank: the Prospect Franchisee Certificate. Designed to give every potential franchisee the best possible start in business, it combines advice on everything from researching an opportunity, to profit and loss statements and cash flow forecasts.

Modules are followed by an assessment and, at the end of the programme, individuals are armed with a vast array of knowledge that will make them a better business owner, as well as an accreditation that you as a franchisor can take great comfort in.

I encourage every franchisor to make taking the course a key step in their recruitment process. It’s free, will highlight your highest-calibre prospects, will help you avoid time wasters, and will allow you to focus your efforts on serious candidates with a sound understanding of your business model. Who wouldn’t want that?

The ethical franchising community has never been stronger or more visible than it currently is. That’s to the advantage of all of us in it, from owner-operator franchisees to globally renowned business leaders and professionals. Together we’re raising the bar and changing perceptions: the f-word is making itself heard.

The bfa operates the country’s only impartial seminars on properly franchising a business. Hosted monthly in different locations across the country, details can be found via

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