It will typically consist of 70 or more pages packed with legal clauses and you might be tempted to just sign it. Our advice: “Don’t!” Unless you read the franchise agreement properly, understand every clause it contains and are willing to abide by it, your venture into the world of franchising could turn into an unmitigated disaster. In this article, we’ll explain why complexity is unavoidable when it comes to franchise agreements, and how to deal with it.
The franchise agreement governs the relationship between franchisor and franchisee. Its complexity stems from the fact that unlike most other agreements, it deals with the consequences of a long-term business relationship entered into for mutual benefit. It is also worth noting that no matter what has been said “off the record”, unless it’s written into the franchise agreement, it is meaningless.
The good news is that while before the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), franchise agreements could contain almost any provisions the parties agreed to, this has now changed. The CPA sets out in detail what information a franchise agreement must contain and states it must be drafted in plain language. Best of all, franchisees are granted the right to cancel the agreement without cost or penalty within 10 business days after signing it; all it takes is a written notification to the franchisor, no reasons need to be given.
This “cooling-off period” is granted in addition to the provision that the franchisor must provide qualified prospects with a disclosure document at least 14 days before the franchise agreement can be signed. This means that prospective franchisees have in effect 4 weeks within which to make up their minds. This makes them the best protected prospects in the world.
The content of the franchise agreement is governed by the Regulations to the CPA. These Regulations list a host of issues that need to be covered, including details of:
- The franchisor’s full corporate registration and contact information as well as that of its office bearers.
- The business system and related intellectual property and how the franchisee is expected to apply both.
- Territorial rights and/or restrictions as well as the franchisor’s involvement in site selection.
- The range of products or services the franchisee is permitted to trade in.
- Financial obligations throughout the lifetime of the franchise agreement. In addition to amounts payable it includes payment terms and funding options. The agreement must also state how any deposits paid by the prospective franchisee will be administered.
- Duration of the initial agreement, option to renew and the consequences of termination of the franchise agreement. These will include post-agreement provisions, for example restrictions on the former franchisee’s right to trade in the same sector.
- The nature and extent of the initial and ongoing assistance the franchisor will provide.
- Restrictions to the franchisee’s right to delegate management of the business to a third party, transfer it to his/her heirs or sell it.
- The general rights and obligations of the franchisor.
- The general rights and obligations of the franchisee.
The above is merely an overview intended to provide a sense of the consequences of signing a franchise agreement. It is not comprehensive and does not purport to constitute legal advice. Investing in a franchise is a serious undertaking. Should you consider this step, we strongly advise you to consult with an attorney versed in franchise matters before you sign a franchise agreement or make any payments.
To ensure consistency throughout a network, franchisors will usually have a standard franchise agreement. And although it should be balanced and fair, it is inevitable that the balance of power will be shifted in favour of the franchisor. After all, the franchisor is responsible for protecting the brand and the interests of all other franchisees in the network.
If you can’t live with a clause the agreement contains, insist on it to be removed. The franchisor will probably refuse. At that point, it will be better for you to walk away while you still can, rather than to sign an agreement you consider too onerous to abide by.
One more thing: As soon as you have signed the franchise agreement, file it away in a safe place and get on with the business of real business.
In the next article in this series, we will examine the role of the operations manual in a franchise. Should you wish to find out more about franchising and especially franchise finance in the meantime, contact the Business Manager at the Nedbank Area Office nearest to you. For contact details visit www.nedbank.co.za or your nearest Nedbank branch.
Written by Mark Rose of Nedbank and Eric Parker of Franchising Plus.
Copyright rests with the authors.
What To Know About Franchising Your Business
For many businesses, franchising is an excellent route to growth, opening up new opportunities and markets. Laurette Pienaar, National Franchise Manager at Nedbank, unpacks why it’s worth considering this route.
- Player: Laurette Pienaar
- Position: National Franchise Manager
- Company: Nedbank Limited
- Visit: nedbank.co.za
What type of business is ideally suited to the franchise model?
Franchising has been proven successful across all industries, including the automotive, food, entertainment and retail industries. However, several key qualities ultimately determine a concept’s ability to successfully become a franchise.
Firstly, the business model must be scalable and able to be repeated in several locations. Secondly, there must be demand for the products sold and, thirdly, the franchise model must be proven as profitable.
Why is franchising a good growth option?
Franchising is often used as a cost-effective growth strategy for businesses. A key benefit of this strategy is that no capital layout is required for a new franchised store as opposed to corporate-owned stores.
Franchised stores are also proven to be more successful than corporate-owned stores. This is mainly due to the fact that the franchise owners have a vested interest in the store, whereas corporate stores are supervised by a manager. Franchising is therefore also a great way to build your brand.
What should business owners focus on?
Franchisors should set up good infrastructure to support their franchisees, including good upfront and ongoing training to both the franchisees and their staff, the correct legal advice and assistance, and a strong operational team to assist franchisees daily.
Many successful franchisors provide support by expanding through vertical integration, which provides franchisees with logistics, supply chain security and product consistency.
Several franchisors advocate a structure with both franchisee and corporate-owned stores. This enables a franchisor to keep in touch with the daily challenges franchisees experience and new products and solutions can be tested at a corporate store before being rolled out to the franchise network.
How can franchising consultants assist business owners?
Franchise consultants provide daily operational support to franchisees. They are responsible for daily store visits to assist with quality checks, process flows, supplier relationships and, often, financial assessments. They are a helpful soundboard on any improvements to be made in the business model and can convey suggestions to the franchisor.
What challenges should business owners be aware of?
Businesses looking to franchise need to ensure that their business is teachable to others. Overcomplicated products and systems may deter franchisees from investing in your brand.
Franchisors have to do ongoing introspection regarding their company culture. For example, does the culture promote innovation and inspire franchisees and consumers, which ultimately is a culture worth investing in?
New franchisors’ selection criteria for franchisees are often not sufficiently thorough and comprehensive. For a new franchisor, it is important to choose good quality franchisees and to have strict selection criteria to ensure that your brand remains reputable and stable during fast-expanding cycles.
What lessons can be learnt from SA’s successful franchises?
Businesses looking to expand through franchising should consider setting up several corporate-owned stores first. This assures potential investors that your business is based on a proven model with a track record and supportive infrastructure.
There is not always a one-size-fits-all model. Many franchisors have created custom models to accommodate and adjust to the need of a specific property or consumer market. A great example of this would be the food industry where many franchisors offer shopping centre concepts, drive thrus and kiosk or express concepts. Consider this when developing your model.
Develop Digital Marketing Competency In 3 Simple Steps
Conquering the digital revolution needn’t be daunting. Polish up your tech skills and watch your digital marketing prowess increase throughout your franchise.
As a franchisor, digital marketing may be proving to be a challenge due to the unique structuring of the business.
“The very nature of franchises is ‘structured’, however, when it comes to marketing, that structure often lacks,” says Marcela De Vivo, Founder and CEO of Gryffin Media.
Franchisors and franchisees often struggle to reach common ground when looking to achieve different marketing goals. While the franchisor needs to control the brand in its entirety, the franchisee wants to market their business using particular strategies suited to their location.
Research has found that smartphones are the biggest influencers of 82% of users when they make their in-store purchase decisions while. It’s for this reason that the importance of digital marketing for franchises has increased.
Here’s how to harness its power of influence, amplify foot traffic and solidify brand loyalty:
1. Recruit digital natives and early adopters
As much as you’re the leader of your franchise network, there are franchisees in your chain you could learn from. The global increase in millennial franchise owners means it is highly likely that you’ll be able to identify early digital adopters within your franchise network.
“The best people to learn from are those who have been in your shoes before,” says Matt Forman of the Franchise Centre at Griffith University.
“Encourage and support their efforts and use them as case studies to demonstrate to the rest of your franchisees the value of digital marketing, and how to do it right.”
2. Invest in training your team
“Each digital competency level requires more education and resources in order to integrate digital marketing with your physical stores,” says Forman. For this reason, regularly investing in continuous training for your team so as to ensure they keep abreast of any new and emerging trends.
Proactivity and adapting to the constantly evolving digital landscape led KFC to open a LinkedIn account for its founder and mascot Colonel Sanders. KFC’s out of the box tactic is a fresh approach to what has long been considered a B2B platform, under-utilised as a B2C platform.
3. Apply custom targeting techniques
The discovery of new and small businesses is being fuelled by Google searches, social media and online reviews, making these platforms a goldmine of invaluable tools.
Leveraging certain custom targeting techniques like easily searchable keywords and exposure on other reputable and high-traffic websites, gives your franchise’s digital marketing efforts a boost. This results in an effective campaign, favourable reviews and meaningful and lasting interactions with consumers “whether it’s a reply to a Facebook comment or a retweet,” says Entrepreneur’s Emily Conklin.
How To Hire Skilled Workers For Your Franchise
Your staff run your business – you just have to show them how. This is why employing the best people for the job is essential.
According to the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) 2017 Franchisor Survey, one of the main challenges facing franchisees is finding the right staff.
“Staffing your franchise can be one of the most challenging parts of running a successful business. Without a great team of employees, you cannot run your business effectively,” says Saxon Marsden-Huggins, founder of WebRover.
These three tips could help you find the best employees for your franchise outlet:
1. Don’t hire in haste
While you may be rearing to go and keen to fill gaps to speed up profitability, research your candidates thoroughly.
As the job applications keep flowing into your inbox, keep in mind that not all of them qualify for the positions available – it may even be a small percent who are actually viable candidates. This is why your hiring process should include:
- Taking the time to thoroughly screen CVs to develop a short list
- Creating a carefully crafted list of interview questions
- Setting aside adequate time for thorough interviews
- Getting to know the candidates through a second round of interviews to confirm your choice.
Giving the hiring process dedication and attention will ensure you get the cream of the crop, contributing to the long-term success of your franchise.
2. Demonstrate support in the workplace
While you can instil the necessary skills into new recruits, it’s difficult to train for culture. This is why choosing the right employees from the beginning will make the rest of your franchise management system will run more smoothly.
“The manner by which you run the franchise will influence employee perceptions of the brand as well,” says Hireology’s Erin Borgerson. “Your staff must become ambassadors of your franchise system to attract the target consumer market.”
The best way to do this is encouraging staff to give you their honest feedback. Your commitment to creating and upholding a positive culture will result in increased loyalty from your current staff and a superior pool of applicants.
3. Offer appealing incentives
When advancement opportunities are clearly communicated, staff is keen to hear how they can get there, as they have career goals of their own. Encouraging this ambition will draw good employees to your franchise.
“Helping employees understand the steps to advancement helps them to view their current job as an important part of a career with an upward path, not just a pay cheque for this week,” say financial reporting technology experts at Qvinci.
Performance bonuses and employee benefits incentivise staff’s efforts, therefore increasing their income alongside the profit of the business. “This serves to make employees a part of the business and not merely people ‘who work there’,” they explain.
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