In conversation with Helen Thompson QFP, Head of Franchise Support at the British Franchise Association (thebfa.org)

What does the British Franchise Association do?

The British Franchise Association (bfa) was established in 1977 and we’re the longest standing franchise association in the UK.

As the trusted partner in franchising, our core aim is to support and influence high quality ethical business format franchising in accordance with the European Code of Ethics. The bfa proactively collaborates with government, academia, the media, other trade associations, and the UK public on what constitutes franchising best practice. We seek to educate, influence and provide advice and guidance about what franchising is and the fantastic opportunities available via this business model.

By joining the British Franchise Association, franchisors and franchisees make a commitment to working in partnership with us to drive forward a sector that’s committed to operating fair business models. We want to promote the fantastic opportunities that franchising has to offer.

We offer an extensive education portfolio as it is important to us that people involved in the sector have all the information they need to make informed decisions, particularly as there is currently no legislation for franchising in the UK.

We own the European Code of Ethics for Franchising and work closely with the European Franchise Federation (EFF). We also have strong links with the International Franchise Association (IFA) and World Franchise Council (WFC). As an association, we’re actively involved in the global franchising industry.

For someone interested in franchising what would be your advice on where to start?

Research is key – whether you’re looking to invest in a franchise or you are looking to grow your business through franchising.

From a franchisee perspective, it’s important to research the franchise that you are considering investing in thoroughly, in particular being able to speak to existing franchisees about the business. Many franchisors offer discovery days to assist with this research.

There is lots of information and support available on the British Franchise Association website as well.

From a franchisor perspective, it is important to have a realistic expectation of the costs involved to launching a franchise. A company would need to be able to prove that the business model works and to be able to evidence this via projections that they would share with potential incoming franchisees.  The most important legal document is the franchise agreement which ties up the relationship between franchisor and franchisee.

What support does the British Franchise Association provide?

We have an extensive educational portfolio available for people looking to either grow a business through franchising or invest in an existing franchise. The British Franchise Association can also offer free video-based learning and we run monthly virtual educational seminars too. We are happy for anyone to pick up the phone and ask us a question too.

The British Franchise Association has a wealth of accredited professional advisers, offering a range of services from legal to financial advice, and we would say it is important to get any advice from a professional that knows and understands franchising.

Many of the well-known high street banks have dedicated franchising teams within them, and we are happy to provide contact details of who it is best to speak to within those banks. We also have professional advisers who can assist with business planning and ‘shop’ around for the best deal on funding.

There is a wealth of experience and help available through the British Franchise Association and our accredited Professional Advisers.

Where can I find out more about franchising my business?

The British Franchise Association offers a Prospective Franchisor Certificate, which can be accessed via our website and is a free video learning based course. We also host a monthly virtual seminar where we invite a bank, a lawyer and a franchise development consultant to provide advice and guidance on how best to approach franchising a business.

It is imperative that franchising a business is done properly at the beginning, this can save time and costly mistakes from happening in the future. We also provide a list of bfa accredited franchise development consultants who assist businesses to develop or grow their business through franchising.

In your experience, who would be best suited to be a franchisee?

Franchising is a brilliant opportunity for anyone who is considering running their own business. It is an extremely varied industry and one where a person can make the most of their transferable skills. When buying a franchise ongoing training and support will be available via the franchisor so, if you don’t have the particular skill set for a franchise you’re interested in, in many cases, training will be offered.

We hear many stories of franchisees who come from very different backgrounds into businesses that are very different!  Including a franchisee I have spoken to recently who was made redundant from his job in local government, and became a chimney sweep franchisee!  This is miles away from the job he did previously. What makes it even more interesting is that he was scared of heights! He wanted to do something different and all the training was available to help him do that.

Franchising is an industry that’s open to everyone, if you have money to invest in a business and you are considering what kind of work/lifestyle balance you want it can be a fantastic opportunity.

We regularly survey the franchise industry and know from the last survey carried out 37% of franchisees are women, and this is a statistic that is on the increase. Also, currently 18% of franchisees are under 30 so franchising is now appealing to a much younger audience too.

How safe is investing in a franchise?

As I mentioned, we do carry out a survey of the industry every two years. Our last survey, which was done in conjunction with NatWest, was actually done in 2018 – we didn’t do one in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic but are planning one at the end of this year and we are hoping it will show what an resilient model franchising is.

In the survey of 2018, it illustrated that the failure rate in franchising is less than one percent. It is worth remembering that franchisors also have a vested interest in ensuring their franchisees are successful as this encourages new franchisees to join their network and promotes growth in the business. They will do everything within their power to work with franchisees to make sure the business doesn’t fail.  

The thing I love most about the people in the franchise industry is that they are very open and will happily share their experiences and best practice.

What is a franchise agreement?

The franchise agreement is a legal document that ties everything together for the franchisor/franchisee relationship. They can be quite intimidating documents as they can often be around 40 pages long. Incoming franchisees will probably notice the agreements are often heavily weighted to favour the franchisor.

This is quite normal practice and is a good thing, if I was investing in a franchise, I would want want the franchisor to have all that protection so if they were able to action any issues that might arise that could impact to the brand.

We would always recommend using an experienced franchise solicitor to review the franchise agreement as they will have the knowledge and understanding of what should and should not be contained in it.  Before signing any agreement we would strongly advise that it was reviewed.

Helen Thompson QFP is Head of Franchise Support at the British Franchise Association.

To learn more about the British Franchise Association and its work, visit thebfa.org. Find more support and information about franchising here.