If you are an HR professional contemplating self-employment and thinking seriously about a franchise route to running your own HR consultancy, you will need at some point to identify which franchise will be best for you. There are a few different options available but they do all vary, and there is no doubt that choosing the right one for you will be a critical factor in how successful your business will be.
Here are some of the things we encourage potential franchisees we meet to consider when identifying the best franchise for them.
This is a big one. You’ll be selling and living this brand every day during the length of your franchise, so it’s vital you actually like it, and can identify with it, feel an affinity to it. If you’re selling a brand you don’t like or feel connected to, it will show and will affect your sales.
Have a look through the website – there will often be one for the franchise opportunity and one for the business you’d actually be operating. Get a feel for them. Do you like how they look, the images used, the tone of voice in the text?
Do the same with any literature you have from the franchisor – a prospectus or brochure or similar, and any mailings you receive from them. If you haven’t already, sign up for the mailing lists of any options you are considering, so you have an opportunity to get a ‘feel’ for the brand at arms’ length.
2. Values and approach to business
Find out as much as you can about how the potential franchise option you are considering conducts their business, and how their franchisees are expected to conduct their businesses. Ask questions about their ethos and their approach to HR. What are their priorities when working with clients, how do they work with them, what do they look to achieve? Then think about whether this approach would suit you – are their priorities, values and preferred approach to HR in line with your own?
Do the same in terms of the franchisor’s approach to selling the franchise itself. Do you feel ‘sold to’ or just nicely ‘engaged with’, in your contact with the franchisor?
3. The franchisor
You absolutely need to make sure you are comfortable with the person or people you are mainly going to be dealing with, who are going to be supporting you in your franchise journey. Depending on which option or options you are looking at, this might be the franchisor themselves, or other staff. But there’s no point having all your main conversations with one person, who you like, only to find that your day-to-day dealings will be with someone else.
You need to be comfortable with that person, feel you share values and ethos when it comes to business, feel confident in their advice, support and knowledge. Ask existing franchisees about their relationship with the franchisor and other key staff – how have they found their dealings with them?
4. Support and resources
This is the nitty gritty – a key element of the value of a franchise will be the support and resources made available to you, so check these carefully. What elements of your business will you receive support on, and what does this support look like? How is it accessed and is it easy to use?
What elements of running your business will you be entirely responsible for? Are you comfortable with doing those, and is there any advice available on how to do that? Ask the franchisor if you can actually see some of the resources franchisees can access, so you can get a feel for how it works.
Unless you’ve run your own HR consultancy before (and actually, even if you have!) there are bound to be elements of doing so that you are less familiar or comfortable with. We usually find most HR professionals we talk to are most concerned about marketing and sales, but of course there are several other areas you might potentially feel a bit uneasy about. Running your own business and having that responsibility is not the same as sitting in a department of people.
Ask what training is available to new franchisees. Is it a standard set training course, is it more tailored, how is the training delivered and what resources are given in support of the training?
6. Speak to other franchisees
Of course the franchisor or whoever you speak to as part of your exploratory conversations are bound to think their franchise option is brilliant (or you’d hope they would!). But it’s essential to speak to those who have actually been through it, who are running businesses under that brand, to find out realistically how they’ve found things.
Ask the franchisor at what point in the process you would be able to speak to one or two franchisees. Where in the process this actually happens might vary, but if a franchisor shows reluctance in letting you speak to existing franchisees at all, walk away! If they are perfectly happy to put you in touch with some people and confident in what will be said, that’s a good sign.
7. Franchise agreement
The franchise option you are looking at will of course be underpinned by a legal franchise agreement, which will contain details of all the obligations on both parties, arrangements for termination, for renewal, for sale of the franchise, length of term and a variety of other elements.
Whilst you should obviously read this carefully yourself, and ask as many questions as you have of the franchisor, it is also a good idea to get some advice on the agreement from a solicitor specialising in franchises. He or she will be able to advise you on to what extent the various terms in the agreement are typical, what the implications might be for you, and might give you some questions you can ask of the franchisor.
It’s important to remember that it’s highly unlikely the franchisor will change anything in the agreement – clearly it’s vital to have fairness and consistency across the whole business, and individually-negotiated agreements undermine that. But you should feel you can ask plenty of questions, both in terms of what the various terms actually mean, and also the day-to-day reality of the operation of the agreement. There are bound to be various ‘belt-and-braces’ terms in there – ask whether any which concern you at all have ever been exercised, and under what circumstances.
It’s vital when choosing a franchise option to make sure you pick the one which is the best fit for you, your skills, your values, your priorities and your needs, so do your research, look into all the above aspects of the franchise you’re interested in, and make sure you get it right before taking the plunge.