If buying an existing business doesn’t sound right for you, but starting from scratch sounds a bit intimidating, you could be suited for franchise ownership. What is a franchise — and how do you know if you’re right for one? Essentially, a franchisee pays an initial fee and ongoing royalties to a franchisor.
In return, the franchisee gains the use of a trademark, ongoing support from the franchisor, and the right to use the franchisor’s system of doing business and sell its products or services.
In addition to a well-known brand name, buying a franchise offers many other advantages that aren’t available to the entrepreneur starting a business from scratch. Perhaps the most significant is that you get a proven system of operation and training on how to use it.
New franchisees can avoid a lot of the mistakes start-up entrepreneurs typically make because the franchisor has already perfected daily operations through trial and error.
Reputable franchisors conduct market research before selling a new outlet, so you’ll feel greater confidence that there is a demand for the product or service.
Failing to do adequate market research is one of the biggest mistakes independent entrepreneurs typically make; as a franchisee, it’s done for you. The franchisor also provides you with a clear picture of the competition, and the ability to differentiate yourself from them.
Finally, franchisees enjoy the benefit of strength in numbers. You’ll gain from economics of scale in buying materials, supplies and services, such as advertising, as well as in negotiating for locations and lease terms.
By comparison, independent operators have to negotiate on their own, usually getting less favourable terms. Some suppliers won’t deal with new businesses or will reject your business because your account isn’t big enough.
Franchise or Business Opportunity?
Business opportunities are less structured than franchises, so the definition of what constitutes a business opportunity isn’t easy to pin down.
In essence, a business opportunity is any package of goods or services that enables the purchaser to begin a business and in which the seller indicates that they will provide a marketing or sales plan, that a market exists for the product or service, and that the venture will be profitable.
Here are other key factors:
- A business opportunity doesn’t generally feature the seller’s trademark; a buyer will operate under his or her own name.
- Business opportunities tend to be less expensive than franchises and generally don’t charge ongoing royalty fees.
- Business opportunities allow buyers to proceed with no restrictions on geographic market and operations.
- Most business opportunity ventures have no continuing supportive relationship between the seller and the buyer; after the initial package is sold, buyers are on their own.
The greatest strength of franchising is its ability to bring independent retailers together using a single trademark and business concept. The benefits of this affiliation are many: Brand awareness, uniformity in meeting customer expectations, the power of pooled advertising and the efficiencies of group purchasing.
For the individual owner, there are several advantages to franchising. The ever-present risk of business failure is reduced when the business programme has already proved to be successful in the marketplace; the use of an established trademark saves the business owner the cost of creating and advertising a name that customers will recognise; and the advantages of group advertising and purchasing make operations more profitable.
Related: Alternatives To Franchising
In addition, ongoing training creates an instant operational expertise that would otherwise need to be acquired through trial and error. Also, with franchising, expansion seems to come more naturally.
Operating a successful franchise may quickly lead to building a second and then a third business, and so on. Fortunes have been built this way.
- Reduction of risk
- Turnkey operation
- Standardised products and systems
- Standardised financial and accounting systems
- Collective buying power
- Supervision and consulting readily available
- National and local advertising programmes
- Point-of-sale advertising
- Uniform packaging
- Ongoing research and development
- Financial assistance
- Site selection guidance
- Operations manual provided
- Sales and marketing assistance.
Franchising, however, is not for everyone. Fiercely independent entrepreneurial types (you know who you are) may chafe under the strict operational requirements and specifications of a franchised business. If things have to be done their way, you may want to head in another direction.
Also know that some franchise systems are better than others. A weak franchise programme will not train you well to handle the challenges of the business, will not do a good job of assisting you when problems arise, and will not make the best use of your advertising dollars.
- Loss of control
- A binding contract
- The franchisor’s problems are also your problems.
If you’re considering buying a franchise, don’t let wild expectations influence your decision. While franchising is designed to put people into business who have never owned a business before, the excitement of ownership can create an impulse to move forward without proper planning.
If you rush headlong into buying a franchise expecting to boost your current working salary, but the earnings don’t allow you to pull out more than half your former salary, you will be one unhappy camper.
Work with a good accountant to prepare a cash-flow projection for the business before you take the plunge. Know how long it will take to break even and turn a profit, as well as the amount you’ll realistically be able to pay yourself.
In terms of capital investment, your franchise fee will be determined by the profitability of the business. Most companies have a scale when it comes to franchise fees. They can have varying ranges, anywhere from R10 000 to R500 000+, depending on the size of the system.
In addition to this front-end franchise fee there is, the one-time fee that a franchisor charges you for the privilege of using the business concept, attending their training programme, and learning the entire business. There will also be an ongoing royalty fee, typically ranging from 2% to 10%, or a monthly figure.
Some of the other costs associated with a franchise include:
In some cases, you may also have to buy land or a building, or you may have to rent a building. If you rent a building, you’ll be responsible for not only the monthly lease but for the one-time deposit as well. In addition, you’ll have to pay for leasehold improvements. In some cases, the owner of the building will put these in and factor them into your rental, probably charging you a small additional fee.
Different types of businesses will need various pieces of equipment. There are generally long-term payments available for most equipment purchases. Fortunately, most banks will provide loans for equipment because it also serves as collateral.
Outside signage can be very expensive for the small-business owner. Most franchisors have developed a sign package that the franchisee is obligated to purchase.
This will usually consist of at least a two-week supply, unless you’re in a business that requires a much more complicated inventory. Most franchisors will tell you what their opening inventory requirements are.
Related: How To Choose The Right Franchise
For rent, you may be required to deposit the first and last months’ payments as well as a security fee. You’ll need some working capital and money in the cash drawer to make change.
You’ll need money to pay your employees. You’ll need money just to operate until there’s a cash flow. If you’re buying a franchise that relies on charge accounts, you’re going to have to allow yourself some additional capital before the bills are paid by the customers and returned to you.
There is usually a fee for advertising on a regional or national basis. Larger franchisors often require their franchisees to pay a certain amount into a national fund used to advance the concept. The upside is the benefits are quite substantial in terms of the visibility you get with the type of advertising that most franchisors do.
The Future Of Franchising Looks Smaller (And Fancier)
Franchises are adding smaller locations and reduced menu options, as niche markets emerge, to attract the customer of the future.
As the owner of a thriving franchise, you’re well aware of the fact that fluctuations in the world economy has both negative and positive effects on business. When it comes to your successful franchise, tough times could mean adopting new trends or seizing gaps, potentially resulting in a new franchise concept you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
“The buzz word in global franchising is ‘flexibility and adaptability’,” according to the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA). “Whether a result of a need to inject some life into stagnant franchise brands or as a result of the new world order brought about by the recession, franchising is embracing alternative and options in a big way.”
You can do this by either devising innovative areas to franchise or allowing more flexible ways for franchisees to operate to help with their bottom line. FASA has earmarked these as some of the biggest franchising trends in 2018 and beyond:
Smaller, more cost-effective franchise models
When franchisees don’t have high franchise fees and start-up costs to worry about, they can focus more on what customers want, and deliver. The added benefit of smaller spaces include having fewer employees and reasonable rental.
Among the new frontiers in franchising are the food court losing its legacy as the preferred setting for food franchises, as service stations increase in popularity in the industry. A number of brands – like Steers, Debonairs and Mugg & Bean On-the-Go outlets – are co-locating with major fuel retailers to create fully-integrated accessible centres.
Niche markets are offering one-of-a-kind franchises
“The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new franchise trend is also on the rise,” notes FASA. This could be offering a unique gourmet food experience in your outlets or a ‘green’ space of energy saving technology in your operations.
“Consumers have gained control of what they want,” says Morné Cronjé, head of franchising at FNB Business. “It is no longer about what you have on the menu, but how your product or service can be tailor-made to what a customer really wants.”
Founded just five years ago (2013), RocoMamas boasts over 60 franchise outlets, clearly responding to the essence of this trend –allowing consumers to build their own burgers without having to pay for items they’d rather leave out.
Stay ahead of the game
For long-term success, franchisors who want to expand their business should start exploring beyond present circumstances and current predictions.
“2018 will no doubt bring its challenges, however for every challenge there is a window of opportunity to explore. We are advising franchisors to scrutinise these trends carefully, it can definitely give them a boost for 2018,” says Cronjé.
As Consumers’ Tastes Change Can Your Franchise Keep Up?
More of your customers are eating in, and if you’re not packaging, portioning and pricing your food accordingly, they’re heading to a retailer that does.
It’s generally believed that it’s cheaper to cook your own breakfast, lunch or supper than to go out and pay a much higher price for the same food in your fridge at home. But today’s consumer’s live fast-paced lifestyles – so food is becoming more about convenience.
31% of 6 022 middle-to-high income South African earners surveyed by BusinessTech, put eating out and entertainment at the top of their list of things they’re most willing to cut their spending on in 2018 to save money. Research by supermarket giant Pick n Pay correlates, reporting an increase in customers buying quality convenience food, not just to entertain at home, but for dining at home.
Consumers are empowered by variety
You’ve heard about the ‘fast casual generation’, aka Millennials? They are demanding healthy, affordable eating experiences. But do you know how this affects the future of the food industry, and your business in particular – because they’re not the only ones adapting their lifestyles.
An increasing number of food brands and chefs are compelled to create complete ranges of new, convenient meal options that are not only packaged, portioned and precooked attractively, but affordable too.
The fastest growing sector of retail foodservice for the past four years has been the convenience store sector. Non-traditional avenues of distribution are growing, gobbling market share while establishing new patterns of consumption, price points, and customer loyalty.
Shoppers are becoming value-focused
A savvy franchise would acknowledge that although pre-packaged and pre-cooked convenience food isn’t a new trend among consumers and supermarkets, it is gaining popularity. “Some of the most notable trends in 2017 were an increasing shift to convenience foods as customers looked for both value and convenience,” says Pick ‘n Pay’s Head of Marketing, John Bradshaw.
Value for money and healthier food choices will continue to be top of the convenience food list for consumer in 2018, as more shoppers cut down on luxuries.
“We’ve seen significant growth in the number of customers looking for an easy way to enjoy a good meal without the cost of eating out,” says Bradshaw.
But he cautions that South African shoppers have always been value-focused, and while the most significant shift Pick ‘n Pay has seen is how all its shoppers, no matter what their income levels, are watching their budgets.
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.
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.
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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