The British Franchise Association (bfa) HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards are back at a black-tie dinner on 25 June to shine the spotlight on the finest franchisors in the country.
Eight franchises were declared finalists for the main award – Franchisor of the Year 2015. Here we shall focus on six of them – Agency Express, Auditel, Card Connection, Driver Hire, Expense Reduction Analysts and TaxAssist Accountants – which operate in a variety of sectors, and are a range of sizes. Many have enjoyed record-breaking years.
Below are just some of the reasons that the bfa gave when explaining why each franchisor deserves to win.
- This estate agency board company dominates its market, yet continues to grow each year (as it did throughout the recession). In 2014, total franchisee turnover increased by 31%; 15 new franchisees launched; and 26 new vehicles hit the road.
- This growth is because directors have focused almost obsessively on franchisee lifestyle and profitability. The growth has also been aided by national contracts negotiated by the head office, and by exceptional PR.
- A strong focus on technology has been evidenced in recent years, with the company developing its own board management system. 100% of orders are now received online, with customers able to order anytime, from anywhere.
- The system can provide activity and financial information to clients, while the route optimisation software calculates fuel- and time-efficient routes more effectively. The improvements have all come at no cost whatsoever to franchisees.
- This cost management consultancy has grown substantially in combined franchisee turnover (growth of 70%) during the last five years, with focus shifting from cost reduction to strategic cost management.
- Millions invested in bespoke business tools, created in conjunction with franchisees, have reduced completion time for many projects by 50%, and in some cases up to 90%.
- An intranet has simplified the process of franchisees working together on larger projects.
- A marketing hub offers national, local and individual support.
- The number of training days on offer to each franchisee has risen by a third in the last three years, while programmes are tailored to suit individual skill sets and professional experience. Training is offered to two people in any franchise, not just the franchisee.
- Developments in the business model mean there’s been a move from almost exclusively home-based consultants to more office-based businesses, with a corresponding twelve-fold increase in employees across the network.
- In a mature network such as this, with only resales available for some time now, the focus is squarely on maximising franchisee performance. It’s a challenge that Card Connection have taken on with determination, development, and support.
- More than £300,000 has been invested for franchisees to improve sales, while a new online system facilitates simple benchmarking and sharing of best practice across the network.
- Regular face-to-face support is provided on everything from growing accounts to training franchisees’ staff. The directors of Card Connection have been spending regular hands-on days in the field too, receiving direct feedback.
- The in-house card design team release new products weekly, capitalising on trends and keeping franchisees’ offerings fresh.
- A new app is on the way this summer, which will enable franchisees to run their entire operation from anywhere.
- The Driver Hire network's turnover is now almost 50% higher than it was three years ago, with the average franchisee turnover reaching the £1m mark.
- Exceptional training and support is at hand in a variety of areas from marketing to exit strategy, with area development managers available for franchisees to call upon.
- New franchisees access a six-month structured Franchise Support Programme and are encouraged to build relationships with their peers and the franchisor in an online forum, with quarterly meetings in person at each office.
- In an online, anonymous survey taken by staff and franchisees, 96% said they were 'proud' to work with Driver Hire.
- Three franchisees have been with the business for 20 years.
- ERA has focused extensively on working with its franchisees and using their feedback to propel business growth.
- There is strong flexibility in how franchisees work – some sell, some complete the projects, some do both.
- A high-tech business system enables smooth joint working and provides information throughout the network. But there’s a fun element too, with regular activities and events to assist networking and support between 20-30 franchisees.
- Franchisees are closely involved in the franchisor’s direction.
- Quarterly sales training days are offered free-of-charge and cover multiple topics. Personal training for new franchisees is tailored.
- Franchisees can simply give six months’ notice if they wish to walk away from the network. That’s a demonstration of the confidence that head office has in the ERA model, recruitment process – and franchisees.
- The bond between the head office of TaxAssist Accountants and its network is strong, and led to the UK's first franchisee-assisted management buyout for a business of this size. Franchisees now own 39% of the franchisor business.
- That means there is full visibility of the business strategy and financial performance, the right to shareholder reports, and the right to attend AGMs.
- There have been exceptional results from franchisee satisfaction surveys.
- There are 100 different courses for franchisees and staff, with over 1,300 staff trained last year.
- 2014 saw a move into bigger head office premises with enhanced staff and training facilities, along with a raft of new personnel to support the network.
- A 15th consecutive year of growth saw client numbers grow by 12%, sales by 9%, the fee bank by 12% and the number of shops rise 7%. New international markets are also in development.
Facts and figures courtesy of the British Franchise Association.