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Researching a Franchise

Protecting Interests

Are you considering investing in a franchise? If so, we have good news for you.

Mark Rose

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Since the introduction of the CPA, every franchisor is legally obliged to issue serious prospects with a disclosure document and grant a cooling-off period. This should go a long way towards protecting those who are over-eager to get started from making a life-changing decision they may come to regret.

It is no exaggeration to say that the disclosure document is the prospective franchisee’s new best friend. It provides all the information needed to assess the franchise opportunity, warts and all. It follows that the decision to join a franchise brand will be based on facts rather than marketing hype.

FASA recognised the need for a disclosure document early on. Unfortunately, this organisation’s appeal to members to provide a disclosure document met with mixed success. Those who had nothing to hide complied willingly, others were less diligent. To tighten up on this vital requirement, FASA made it a condition of membership in 1994. The only problem was that FASA could not enforce the requirement. In any event, not every franchisor was a member of FASA, leaving a large portion of prospective franchisees open to misrepresentation and even fraud.

The introduction of the CPA put a stop to this. Whilst originally, having a disclosure document was a requirement imposed on franchisors who wanted FASA membership, non-members were unaffected and FASA’s ability to impose sanctions for non-compliance by members was limited to termination of membership. Now, making a disclosure document available to qualified franchise prospects and their professional advisors has become a legal obligation.

Prescribed Content

The Regulations to the CPA are fairly specific regarding the minimum information the disclosure document must contain. For example, the franchisor is obliged to:

  • Disclose the total number of franchised outlets in operation, the number of outlets franchised during the preceding year, turnover growth and net profit.
  • Provide a statement to the effect that the franchisor company’s financial status has not changed significantly since the date the most recent financial reports were drawn up by the franchisor’s accounting officer.
  • State that there are reasonable grounds to believe that it will be able to meet its financial obligations arising over the foreseeable future as they fall due.
  • Provide written projections stating the level of potential sales, income, gross or net profits for the franchised business. Alternatively, figures achieved by similar existing franchises of the network may be given but this must be disclosed, with full particulars of assumptions made.
  • Attach a certificate written on the official letterhead of the franchisor company’s accounting officer whereby the accounting officer certifies that:
  • The business is a going concern.
  • To the best of his/her knowledge the franchisor is able to meet its current and contingent liabilities.
  • The franchisor’s audited financial statements have been drawn up in accordance with accounting standards that are generally accepted in South Africa and reflect fairly the financial position of the franchisor for the period covered.

Prescribed Appendices

  • A complete list of current franchisees with full contact details and a statement to the effect that the prospect is entitled to contact any existing franchisee to assess the accuracy of the information contained in the disclosure document.
  • An organogram showing the franchisee support system that is in place within the franchisor’s operation.

Other Important Considerations

Cooling-off period
The CPA states that a qualified prospect must receive a disclosure document at least 14 days prior to the signing of a franchise agreement. This requirement should effectively put paid to the ‘sign now, regret later’ approach to entering into a franchise agreement.

Confidentiality requirements
Given the confidential nature of the information the disclosure document contains, franchisors are concerned that this information could fall into the wrong hands. This is understandable but not addressed by the CPA or the Regulations. However, legal practitioners believe that franchisors are entitled to demand the signing of a Secrecy Undertaking or similar document prior to handing over the disclosure document. Signing such a document must not obligate the prospect to anything beyond treating the information they are about to receive in the strictest confidence, and not using it for any purpose beyond assessing the viability of the specific opportunity. L

The Act and you
The CPA imposes an obligation on franchisors to make full disclosure of salient facts and grant prospects sufficient time to assess the viability of their offer. These are two very important steps towards ensuring ethical dealings in franchising. In this context, it is noteworthy that FASA’s disclosure requirements are stronger than the CPA’s minimum requirements. This means that prospects about to join a brand that is a FASA member enjoy double protection. The CPA ensures that the disclosure document provides specified minimum information and FASA’s Code of Ethics adds additional protection.

Mark Rose is the Head of New Business Development at Nedbank Business Banking. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the Oxford Brooks University, as well as various business qualifications from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), the University of Stellenbosch Graduate School of Business, and the University of South Africa Graduate School of Business.

Mark Rose is the Head of New Business Development at Nedbank Business Banking. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the Oxford Brooks University, as well as various business qualifications from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), the University of Stellenbosch Graduate School of Business, and the University of South Africa Graduate School of Business. Nedbank’s New Business Development unit develops customised industry specialised offerings to the medium sized business market, including Franchising, Agriculture, Professional – including Financial and Legal Practices, and the Medical Fraternity. This unit has also developed a unique Enterprise Development proposition. For specialist advice and more information on the Nedbank Franchising proposition visit the website or send an email to franchising@nedbank.co.za

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Researching a Franchise

Maximise Your Social Media Reach This Holiday Season

Quick and cost-effective, social media is your best tool to reach target markets when it matters most – during the holidays.

Diana Albertyn

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It’s not just the end of the year that can be lucrative for businesses. School holidays and other major breaks during the year present consumers with more time to spend shopping. Why not ensure money is spent at your franchise by capitalising on the minimal cost and maximum exposure of social media?

You don’t have to create entirely new deals or promotions from what you may already have running on your store, but find a way to make it special for your social media followers, suggests Kelly Mason, marketer at Customer Paradigm.

Holiday campaigns on Twitter, benefitting from popular hashtags, streaming live content, and receiving information instead of just distributing it via social media are just some of the ways to stay ahead of the competition.

Related: Why Your Business’ Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Probably Wrong

Know your customers well

The first step to attracting customers and getting them to complete a sale is understanding their customer journey.

“Being able to document where they spend their time online, which social channels they use most, and what they’re reading or watching on those channels is a huge plus. Finding that crucial information is fairly easy to do, thanks to modern-day marketing tools and resources,” advises Paul Herman, ‎VP: Product and Solutions Enablement Group, at Sprinklr, a unified customer experience management platform for enterprises.

The better you understand your customers, the easier it is to reach them through a campaign optimised for their interests.

Master social listening

You could be using social media all wrong in the run up to all your holiday campaigns. Perhaps it’s time you used this platform to listen to your customers?

“Through social listening, marketers can identify major trends and product keywords in their industries,” says Herman. “For instance, knowing those keywords can help marketers identify which social platforms are more popular for a target audience. With that information, they can make smarter decisions about where to spend their money and which products or services to promote on each platform.”

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Use the information gathered to determine what customers like about your product, what they dislike about it, and how you can improve upon it so they can buy more of it. The more of this data you collect, the better and more effective your interactions with customers will be.

Try something new

50% of consumers look for a video of the product they want to buy before going to an ecommerce store to buy it, according to a 2016 Google survey. “Video can be an extremely effective way to get your customers to take action – in this case, to make a purchase with your store,” adds Mason.

Video adverts are often used as an experimental tool in social marketing and switching it up on platforms such as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, or Snapchat – depending on your brand’s activity and your audiences’ interests – can help attract customers during seasonal periods.

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Researching a Franchise

Selling Your First Franchise? Consider These Key Pointers

You’re ready to franchise your business, but who do you sell to and how? Your first few franchisees may be the hardest to acquire, but the process will be smoother if you get some basics right.

Diana Albertyn

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Business experience gained running your independent brand will come in handy, but looking for franchisees is a different ballgame. “We have to attract the right people in enough numbers to make the difference; and, the key to more leads is to have a multi-prong strategy to marketing,” says franchise strategist and expansion expert Lizette Pirtle.

Using media (social, or otherwise), trained experts in franchise sales, and keeping in mind that whoever you sell to will become an extension of your brand, are important considerations before selling your to first franchisee:

1. Use (all) media wisely

Website marketing, print advertising and social media are just some of the many different ways to attract potential owners to your franchise. But the most cost-effect of the three may be a ‘tweet’ or ‘post’ away, says former Director of Marketing at the International Franchise Association and owner of Burris Branding and Marketing, Jack Burris.

Related: To Buy Into A Franchise Or Purchase A Licence? 3 Factors To Consider

“Three out of four people using the Internet are either on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or all of them. Take advantage of social media,” he says.

“There’s typically no cost to play in the space except for the time that you need to invest to build your brand with a social media presence.”

2. Seek out franchise coaches or brokers

While this is a more traditional method of making reliable franchise sales, it’s a great way to form lasting associations that will take you beyond your first few sales. “Using broker networks is a great way to supplement your own efforts. However, you must spend time developing relationships with these people if you want to get results,” advises Pirtle. “Don’t think that just listing your opportunity with them is sufficient.”

Franchise coaches and brokers have multiple options for potential franchisees, so to put yourself high on their list of consideration when prospects enquire, you have to form memorable relationships.

Related: 3 Factors To Focus On When Opening Your First Franchise

3. Always consider the bigger picture

Out of all the people your marketing efforts attract, always keep in mind that few will check all the boxes and compromising could cost you in the long run.

“The franchise relationship is a long-term one. If you’re going to be successful as a franchisor, you should start with the attitude that every franchisee will be someone who you’ll have to live with for years to come. And nowhere is this philosophy more important than when awarding your first franchise,” says Mark Siebert, CEO of the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting organisation.

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Researching a Franchise

3 Factors To Focus On When Opening Your First Franchise

To become a successful franchisee, there’s lots more to learn. Take notes and this will be an adventure still with its challenges, but less stress.

Diana Albertyn

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Experts and those who’ve gone through the launching, managing and successful running of a franchise will tell you that owning a franchise can be just as risky as owning an independent small business – and it doesn’t get easier after signing on the dotted line. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth giving franchising a shot.

“The hardest part of being a franchisee is learning and adopting all the processes that exist in the brand you’re buying into. But it’s important that a customer can walk into any franchisee’s property across the country and have the exact same experience,” says Jeff Chew, Pizza Factory franchisee.

With that in mind, remember the financial, emotional and physical investment you’ve made in this new venture and let it fuel your success, from before you even serve your first customer

1. Financial and intellectual wealth

Don’t buy into a franchise where you might be undercapitalised, advises Paul Durant, a Junk King franchisee.

Related: Expansion Funding Options For Your Growing Business

Keep in mind that running a new business isn’t challenging only mentally strenuous, but financially too, because you’re not always immediately profitable. Ensure you have enough runway for a few years at a loss or minimal profit.

“I did not do a thorough job in my initial research and discovery calls. I used a lot of my own assumptions and luckily they were fairly close,” recalls Durant.

“I would, however, suggest that you ask very detailed questions during the discovery process and listen carefully to the responses. Often what is not said is equally as important as what is said.”

2. Remember the purpose of the manual

The point of buying into the concept you’ve chosen is to ensure success based on a roadmap that’s already been drawn out for you. Straying from this plan unnecessarily is a shortcut to failure. This doesn’t mean you cannot make changes, but always ensure your growth is where it needs to be by following the system completely.

Franchisee Mark Arduino thought he was taking the advice he’d been given countless times: Just follow the system. But he quickly realised he wasn’t when all the franchise-specific training he’d been through was forgotten in favour of easier shortcuts.

“Then I realised my mistake. I came to see that it’s very user friendly. I’m sorry I didn’t use it from the start!” he says.

Related: How To Choose The Right Finance For Your Business Or Property Portfolio Expansion

If you think you have a better way of doing something detailed in the franchisee manual, do your research. Your decision should follow a discussion with your franchisor, then align to the business plan.

3. Learn at every opportunity

It’s great that you have previous experience in business. It’s a huge bonus that could put you ahead of other franchisees in your network. But, always be willing to learn and put your hand up or open a book if you’re not sure. A vast business background doesn’t guarantee automatic success as a franchisee, so be open to learning from others.

“I have learned more from two of the franchisees in my area than I could ever have imagined and I owe my early success in large part to their willingness to help,” says Jeff Steele, a CMIT Solutions franchisee.

It may sometimes seem like you can do it all on your own, but even when you feel you can do anything, you cannot do everything. That’s why you joined a franchise that (hopefully) offers good support structure.

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