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The Top Franchise Awards ceremony was followed by a Q & A with our judges and experts: Yasmina Siadatan, former winner of The Apprentice, Clive Rich, CEO of Lawbite, Chris Roberts director of Franchise Finance, Sean McKeown, franchise development manager of Kumon Educational UK, Louise Young, Brand and Communications Manager at Kumon Educational UK, Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk and Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk. The questions covered everything from marketing to staying motivated. The following is a selection of some of the questions and answers.
Q: What would you say is best practice for ensuring the same quality of delivery from franchisees spread around the whole UK?
Sean McKeon: A clearly defined operations manual that is readily available is an essential starting point. Initial training and on-going CPD of your franchisees coupled with regular dialogue are also fundamental to ensuring best practice. Compliance checks and regular customer surveys (where data protection laws permit) are other good tools to deploy.
Q: I need to start recruiting staff what are the 3 things you look for in a new employee?
Gillian Nissim: I look for how well candidates meet the brief for the role we’re looking to fill in terms of skills and experience; career history (depending on the vacancy I might look at career progression and / or longevity in roles vs changing roles frequently and the reasons for that); and key for a small business is getting a feel for how well they would fit into our team and company ethos.
Q: We have over 100 working mum franchisees who access an online resource providing materials to use for delivering their business, marketing etc. We use Facebook groups for teachers to talk to one another, and emailed updates from Head Office, and twice yearly face to face meetings. It’s hard to get all franchisees together at one time due to family commitments. How would you suggest we could use new technologies to best effect to keep franchisees up to date with company information?
Louise Young: Every business is different, and we communicate with our franchisees collectively on several levels, and according to the type of information we are trying to convey. We send a monthly newsletter, weekly emails, invite all Instructors to quarterly meetings in each region, we even kick off the year with a group meeting in each region to share our own vision and plans as well as running a national Conference each year. We have a website just for our Instructors and this provides a central hub for a range of operational and promotional resources. This approach needs to be flexible and scalable to meet the information needs of your franchisees. You are unlikely to reach all franchisees on every occasion, but we find that content is key – keep it as relevant and useful to them as possible, and they will come along.
Q: How do you rate social media as a form of advertising? What is the best to use?
Louise Young: Social media works very well for us both in terms of recruiting new students and recruiting new franchisees, but it’s essential if you use platforms like Facebook and Twitter that you monitor them constantly, reply swiftly and produce plenty of relevant content for your audience. If you use social media, then set aside some time on a Sunday to schedule all your Facebook posts and Twitter messages for the week. A platform like Hootsuite works well for this and can save you a considerable amount of time. Test a variety of content on your Facebook page and use Facebook analytics to assess the best time of day to post when you receive the highest levels of engagement. Try adding video content, links to your website, success stories – variety and relevance is key. Promote your posts and run paid for ads as well – you’ll start to reach a wider audience and can track the results. If you’re new to social media, attend a course locally to you or watch some the of Facebook tutorials online – they are clear and easy to follow. If you have a younger audience try Snapchat or Periscope – it really is entirely dependent on the audience you’re trying to reach. Essentially, though, you must reply swiftly to any engagement, comments or questions you receive. Respond calmly to any complaints and social media can have significant and positive impact on your results.
Q: Question for those who have started small businesses – how can you ensure you don’t let it take over home life? It is really difficult, I feel, to switch off!
Sean McKeon: I would recommend having a separate mobile phone for work. The vey presence of smartphones when you are trying to switch off can be massively counterintuitive. May cost you a bit more in phone subscriptions but when you are not at work, but the work phone in a drawer….and leave it there until ready to return.
Gillian Nissim: This is definitely a common issue and everyone has different ways of trying to tackle it! There are a few things I find helpful: for example it helps me to have a separate space I can work in that is separate to the rooms we spend most family time. That way it creates more of a physical divide between work and family time. When possible I try not to have in depth conversations about work after 8pm at night otherwise I find I’m dreaming about it and mulling things over all night. Sometimes it can be good to have your phone in a separate room if it’s “family time” so you’re not tempted to check emails every five minutes – that in itself can help you switch off. I’m also a firm believer in physical activity to help clear your mind – swimming, the gym, walking the dog …. something that gets you out and about. I joined a mums netball team a year ago and that was a brilliant way to switch off. Inevitably there are going to be times where work does take over for a while, just as there are times when family life takes precedence but with a bit of discipline and a few “strategies” in place you can get things back on an even keel quite quickly . To be honest, switching off is definitely something I’ve got better at with practice!
Q: If you franchise your business as a way of expanding, and a franchisee performs really badly (giving the brand a bad name) then what can you do to protect yourself?
Sean McKeon: You need to have a clearly defined franchise agreement that allows you to address concerns and protect your brand. I would recommend speaking to a specialist franchise lawyer to assist you with your franchise agreement so these concerns are addressed.
Chris Roberts: You need to have a clearly defined franchise agreement that allows you to address concerns and protect your brand. I would recommend speaking to a specialist franchise lawyer to assist you with your franchise agreement so these concerns are addressed. Maintaining brand reputation is one of the key jobs of both the franchisor and the franchisees. So you need to have a continuous stream of good stories/testimonials out there which would hopefully outweigh the problems of one particular bad case. You need to be alive to any situation that might develop and be able to help the franchisee to hopefully put matters right quickly and publicly. get further promotional material out there a.s.a.p. to show how good the brand actually is etc.
Clive Rich: The main thing to do is to give yourself rights to terminate in the franchise agreement itself.
Termination rights are often included if:
– the franchisee is in breach and doesn’t cure that breach within a specific period of time;
– the franchisee fails to hit performance targets;
– the franchisee fails to get approvals as required;
– the franchisee doesn’t comply with the operations manual;
– the franchisee doesn’t address repeated complaints by customers;
– the franchisee doesn’t make payments on time or at all;
– the franchisee acts dishonestly;
– the franchisee experiences financial difficulties (eg goes into administration or can’t pay its debts on time).
Q: Could you give me some advice on how to stay motivated when running your own business, and perhaps things aren’t going so well?
Mandy Garner: That’s definitely a challenge, especially in those difficult periods where kids are sick, things are not going to plan, etc. Try to build a good network of support from family and friends; get in touch with other businesswomen facing similar challenges so you can swap stories and tips – there are lots of web platforms offering support if it is difficult to find time to get out, though getting out regularly is a good idea; and look at getting a mentor who understands the challenges you are facing and the direction you want your business to go in can help keep you going and support you in building your business.
Clive Rich: I find having other things in your life apart from work is a great help! I get a lot of support from family and enjoying time with them helps give perspective on any problems coming up at work, as well as the perseverance and energy to deal with them.
Gillian Nissim: I agree with all of the above. From a business advice perspective, when I’ve had challenges, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to have someone I can trust to talk to and “offload to” and who has helped me look at things objectively or from a different perspective. Equally, as Clive says, ensuring you have other things in your life and spending time with family and friends for example, definitely help you to keep things in perspective when times are more challenging.
*Workingmums.co.uk has some great articles on Workingmums.co.uk to help women get into business – view our Work for Yourself section here.
Q: What are the cheapest ways for a beginner to advertise their business’ service?
• Get the basics right first and make full use of all the free resources available to you
• Invest in a good website – use responsive design so that it works well on all screen sizes
• Make the most of free business listings sites – there are of plenty of them, they are free and will give your business more exposure through Google
• Set up your Google My Business page – again it’s free and gives greater prominence to your business online
• Ensure you have an email auto response to manage expectations on when you will respond to enquirers
• Set up a personalised voicemail message
• Research your audience – use Google analytics, local Facebook groups who match your likely audience profile
• Set up a business Facebook page and promote your posts, testing different times of day to assess the best posting times and to test different types of content to measure levels of engagement
• If you have a website, then review your web stats on Google Analytics to better understand your target audience, how they interact with you and where they are
• Chase your audience – where do other similar local businesses promote to your local community or your primary audience
• Regular, consistent content marketing will give you a better return and help you to build a loyal following rather than one more costly ad twice a year.