In conversation with Joel Bissitt VFP, Chief Executive Officer of the Quality Franchise Association, and Managing Director of Franchise UK

Tell me more about the work of the QFA

The Quality Franchise Association (QFA) was founded in November 2018 as a not-for-profit trade association. All our members work on a voluntary basis.

The association’s mission is to support, grow, and raise professional standards in franchising. In terms of our work, we provide support to franchisors and franchisees through our dedicated app, our series of seminars events and webinars, and our papers and guides. We also recently launched a new online training platform.

We’re a community of professionals from different industry backgrounds that come together to collaborate and support each other to increase professional standards in the industry, but also raise awareness of and grow franchising.

What support does the QFA provide?

We leveraged technology from day one, so we support franchisors and franchisees through our regular online events and webinars. Our dedicated app means members can message the team and access support on a day-to-day basis too.

We facilitate a lot of networking in our organisation. Part of our role is to help our franchisors access support from professionals in areas like finance, banking, marketing etc. We carefully vet all our members to ensure we’re providing the tools and resources they need.

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

For people seeking new career opportunities as a franchisee, we have lots of resources available via the QFA website/app – including a free downloadable franchise guide.

A definite must for a potential franchisee is to take our free franchisee course, details of which are available on the resources page of our website. The most important thing for prospective franchisees to understand is what a franchise is, is the opportunity right for them, and most importantly, to take professional advice and carry out thorough due diligence on the opportunity so they know what their obligations are before they sign on the dotted line.

For a franchisor, the beginning process is quite similar. Firstly they need to carry out a feasibility study on both themselves and their business. Can they be a franchisor? When you become a franchisor, you set up a separate company that’s essentially a training and recruitment business. Not everyone is cut out to run that type of business.

Secondly, it’s about the feasibility of the business itself. Can it operate somewhere else? Can skills be transferred to a different person or geographic area? The QFA offers a free ‘franchising your business’ training course that takes people through the whole process. If business can’t be transferred by skill set and geographic location, then it’s not right for franchising. Our training course covers that in a lot more detail.

In your experience what is the most common mistake a prospective franchisee makes?

Probably the two biggest issues with prospective franchisees is that that they don’t carry our proper due diligence on the business, and probably the biggest single issue is that they don’t get a legal review of the franchise framework.

When you invest in a franchise, regardless of the area of industry it is in, you have to understand your obligations. There should always be a thorough review of the legal agreement. Some people enter into an agreement that commits them to sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds.

My biggest tip for any potential franchisee is to carry out thorough due diligence and have a specialist franchise lawyer review the legal agreement. A franchise agreement is very different to other commercial legal agreements. It’s heavily weighted in favour of the franchisor and that’s because the brand needs to be protected. It’s very important they get an experienced franchise lawyer to check that agreement, which will normally cost around £400-£600. In the grand schemes of the investment, that’s a relativity small amount.

What advice can you give someone who is interested in franchising their business?

In order to franchise a business, prospective franchisors have to carry out a feasibility study. Franchising can be a great way to grow a business both nationally and internationally. But it comes down to the business’ track record and if it’s transferrable in terms of skill set and location.

The training resources also need to be in place. For a lot of franchisees, it’s the first time they’ve ever run a business, so they need support and mentoring over a long period of time.

Is franchising difficult to get into?

I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. I think the problem with franchising at the moment is that it’s often misunderstood. The QFA works with lots of educational establishments and we’ve launched our own training programmes to get information out to people about franchising.

It’s important people can access professional advice and speak to experts in the field. That’s what we established the QFA and that’s how we support businesses and our members.

Who can help if a franchisee and franchisor are in disagreement?

Generally we advise both parties to get together and try to resolve their differences informally.

The QFA does offer a mediation service, which members can access free of charge six times a year. The service is provided by a team of lawyers and a specialist lawyer in franchise mediation. Mediation can be expensive and that can often deter parties from coming together, but disputes shouldn’t be left to stagnate and get worse.

That’s exactly why we created our free mediation service for members. Everyone has the opportunity to speak and try and resolve the situation.

Joel Bissitt VFP is Chief Executive Officer of the Quality Franchise Association and Managing Director of Franchise UK. To find out more about the Quality Franchise Association and its work, visit www.franchise-association.org.uk.

Find more support and information about franchising here.