Picture this – you’ve just been made redundant, you have a healthy pay-off, and you’re thinking of investing it – and your future – in becoming a franchisee. Is now the right time? Really?
We’re in the grip of a pandemic, household-name businesses have gone to the wall, and lockdown after lockdown has meant businesses are opening and closing their doors to clients like a wheezing concertina through no fault of their own.
At first glance, it doesn’t look all that promising. And yet, there are franchised businesses out there that are not just surviving but thriving, some doing unprecedented levels of business, and others that are arguably have a lower barrier to entry due to tumbling property prices and rents. It’s all about homework: yours, as a prospective franchisee, and theirs, as franchisors who expect a significant investment of time and money from you in these most testing of times.
Happily, it’s not too difficult to research. Some brands, sadly, will have been in the news and their distress is all too evident – but others have found themselves in a much healthier position than anyone could have imagined.
Blogs are a good place to start. Even if the premises are closed at the moment under Government restrictions, you’ll find clues as to how visionary the franchisor team are and how resilient the business is to the worst the pandemic can throw at it.
Some, like the maths tutoring service Mathnasium, adapted almost instantly to the unexpected shutdown by implementing a remote-learning system it had been perfecting for years.
So, although its centres were initially closed under the restrictions, Mathnasium was able to pivot its pupils to learning from home via its user-friendly @Home portal.
That meant its services – and its franchisees’ revenue – could continue uninterrupted because the powers behind the brand were flexible and visionary enough to accelerate their plans to introduce the remote-learning option. If you’d just invested your pay-off and your future in becoming a franchisee, you’d be pretty pleased and relived right now that you’d chosen such a resilient and innovative brand as Mathnasium.
Resilience isn’t confined to pandemics, either. A franchisee of The Wheel Specialist saw much of his business vanish when the oil price collapsed, hitting the industry in Aberdeen – but instead of cursing his luck, he donned his face mask, stocked up on the anti – bac and took a refurbished wheel and toured automotive businesses, showing them what he could do, and generated a huge increase in sales as a result. Read his story here.
The best franchises, and those most likely to prosper in adverse conditions, didn’t bury their head in the sand or put their hands over their ears and chant “La, la la” in a loud voice to blot out the news of all that unpleasantness. Instead, they offered their franchisees even more support – pausing or reducing MSF, negotiating enhanced terms with suppliers and organising extra training, delivered in a covid – secure manner. And when lockdown restrictions meant they simply couldn’t trade at all, they spent their time working on marketing campaigns for the future and rewriting their websites and marketing materials to ensure the brand is ready to exploit the available opportunities when restrictions allow.
That made a significant difference to their networks of franchisees, it showed them they weren’t alone, and gave some the necessary confidence to expand their operations, with some franchisees exploring multi – territory opportunities.
So, if you’re looking for a franchise despite the pandemic – and you’ve just passed your first entrepreneur’s test if you are – ask the franchisors what they did during the pandemic, how they handled the challenges, and what they did to support their existing franchisees over and above ‘business as usual’. And if you like what you hear, ask some of the franchisees themselves, or read case studies about how they got on.
When the chips are down, you find out who your friends are – and who you can trust enough to invest your hard-earned redundancy or savings in.