Women suited to franchising

Nearly half of the UK's franchisees are now solely or jointly female-operated, which does not surprise Cathryn Hayes, Head of Franchising for HSBC Bank, who believes franchising is a business model that particularly suits women.

Franchising is an increasingly popular option for both men and women planning to set up in business on their own – the sector now accounts for some £10.3 billion of the national economy – I believe it has a number of benefits that appeal particularly to women.

To me it seems a natural match. For one thing, women have many of the skills required in the franchise environment – they are flexible and responsive, detail-oriented and excellent at multi-tasking.

At the same time, the franchise model provides the support – both practically and emotionally – that many women need to help them take that decisive step towards independence in the workplace.

There are a number of reasons why women can find it difficult to maintain their place on the mainstream employment ladder. Family commitments are a major factor, with mothers often finding it impossible to juggle the demands of an employer with the needs of children and the home. The alternative of a low-paid part-time position is not always an attractive option.

The work culture is also an important factor. Whereas some women thrive in a fiercely competitive environment, others find themselves looking for fulfilment through more positive, supportive working relationships.

Some find it impossible to work effectively, on their own terms, in a male dominated workplace. And some simply tire of having to outperform all their male colleagues to achieve the same degree of success.

The answer may well be to start your own business and become your own boss, but it’s not as simple as it seems.

With one in five small businesses failing within their first year of operation, it’s obviously far from an easy option. But many of the risks associated with a start-up are offset if you buy into an established franchise with a proven business formula to follow.

A good franchisor will provide training in all aspects of business management. The franchisee will often benefit from centralised marketing campaigns, the purchasing power of a large organisation, the good will and reputation of a recognised brand.

Then there’s the ongoing support – more training, regular assessments and help with setting targets, as well as the emotional support provided by business mentors, network seminars and the ability to share experiences.

A strong franchise system can act as a safety net for first-time owners, stepping in where necessary to help solve problems, and providing the sort of security that encourages independence and individual flair.

This kind of business support package obviously benefits anyone facing the challenge of setting up a new business, but I believe that more women should be taking advantage of the opportunities for independence it offers. And there are franchises out there to suit everyone.

The choice is enormous, and ranges from two or three outlets filling a niche market to giant networks such as McDonalds and Clarks Shoes. Buying in can cost as little as £10,000.

Many franchised businesses that have become household names were started by women who made the move to self-employment. Rosemary Conley has built a fitness empire and empowered some 172 women throughout the UK who have bought into the network.

Other inspirational examples are the Molly Maid cleaning franchises and the Jo Jingles network of music classes – both of whom reached the prestigious National Finals of last year’s Franchisee of the Year Awards.

It’s achievements like this that can motivate others, showing that, in fact, you can have it all. Franchising can offer the best of both worlds – the independence and creative scope of running your own small business, backed by the resources and expertise of a larger, successful organisation.

For women who want to take control of their lives it can provide a solution that works. These top 10 tips will help you get started on the road to becoming a franchisee:

1. Find out what franchises are available – there are franchise exhibitions, directories, magazines, all devoted to franchising.

2. Take as much advice as possible – from the British Franchise Association, banks, lawyers, accountants, Business Links etc.

3. Examine your strengths and weaknesses – what skills do you have? Does the franchisor provide training and back–up to help you overcome any weaknesses?

4. Check the franchise is right for you – is the business one you can see yourself running?

5. Talk to existing franchisees – what problems did they have, how successful are they?

6. Investigate the franchisor – it is important that the franchisor has the financial resources to support a franchise network.

7. Examine the market place – is there a market for your chosen franchise’s goods/services? Is the franchise operating in a market subject to fashion?

8. Take care with new franchises – has the franchise been piloted, how long has the franchisor been in business?

9. Check the legal agreement – has the franchise agreement been vetted by a franchise specialist solicitor?

10. Take your time – however enthusiastic you are, don’t be rushed, and do your homework.

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