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Franchising is a much more common business model than many people realise, with a surprising number of the most recognisable high-street brands run as franchises. When it comes to launching a business career, it’s clear to see why many people are drawn to the idea of franchising, but it’s definitely worth stepping back to assess the pros and cons of this operating model before making the leap …

What’s involved?

According to the British Franchise Association (bfa), franchising (or business format franchising, to be precise) is the ‘granting of a licence by one person (the franchisor) to another (the franchisee), which entitles the franchisee to trade under the trade mark/trade name of the franchisor and to make use of an entire package, comprising all the elements necessary to establish a previously untrained person in the business and to run it with continual assistance on a predetermined basis’. 

To put all that more simply, some companies choose to grow not by developing in the conventional way, but by granting a licence to others to sell their product or service. So one person copies another’s proven business model and receives support in exchange for an upfront payment (the franchise fee) and ongoing fees (a percentage of turnover or mark-up on supplies). Each business outlet is owned and operated by the franchisee, while the franchisor retains control over the way in which products and services are marketed and sold, and controls the quality and standards of the business.

Why choose franchising?

According to the NatWest/bfa Franchise Survey, franchising continues to perform well as a sector, with a significant increase in the estimated overall number of people working in franchising. More than two-thirds of franchised units that have been running for five years or more report being either ‘quite or highly profitable’.

Says bfa CEO Pip Wilkins: ‘Thanks to franchising, more people are starting their own business and more jobs are being created. These figures show that whatever your background, with the right attitude and ambition you can thrive.’

Is it for you?

Franchising can provide the perfect route for those who are keen to set up their own business, who have some money to invest, and who want the independence of self-employment coupled with the support of the franchisor. Choosing a reputable franchise will enable budding entrepreneurs to follow a tried-and-tested formula with the backing and support of a well-established brand, which can, potentially, lead to dramatically higher levels of success. A franchise is more likely to succeed than other business start-ups, with the most recent edition of the NatWest/bfa Franchise Survey revealing that 93% of franchises reported high profitability. However, no business can offer a guarantee, and if you are thinking of investing in a franchise, you should take professional, legal and financial advice before parting with any money. It may also be a good idea to work for a franchise first, to gain some experience of what is involved.



  • Tried and tested market
  • Established trade name
  • Access to an experienced network
  • Allocated trade area
  • Training
  • Market intelligence from the franchisor
  • Marketing activities undertaken by the franchisor
  • Bulk buying powers of the franchisor
  • Finance may be more readily available
  • Lead time to success may be shorter


It is critical to answer some questions absolutely honestly in order to make the right choice about whether or not to take on a franchise …

About yourself

  • Do you want to be self-employed?
  • Do you want to invest your own money?
  • What proportion of your assets would you be willing to risk in a franchise? (Calculate the value of your assets, including savings, car, etc.)
  • Will your family/partner be supportive?
  • Is your physical health good (e.g. have you had any problem that would prevent you obtaining a life assurance policy)?

About the business

  • What sort of business do you want?
  • Do you want to get involved in something new?
  • Do you want to use your skills and experience?
  • Do you want a business to share with someone in your family?
  • Do you want a premises-based business or one you run from home?
  • Do you want to manage other people or be ‘hands on’?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • How much time can you give to the business?


This is likely to include the following (as applicable to the business):

  • franchise fee (e.g. the fee to use the brand and system)
  • any necessary equipment (e.g. stationery, machinery, office equipment)
  • any necessary initial stock
  • initial training
  • initial marketing or sales launch
  • any necessary property costs, including fittings
  • any necessary vehicles (specified whether this is the total cost of the vehicle or the first repayment if on finance)
  • any necessary subscriptions/memberships/licences, etc.
  • any necessary staffing costs
  • any other element necessary for the initial launch of the business.

It does not include:

  • VAT
  • working capital.

Source: bfa

The bfa

The British Franchise Association (bfa) is concerned with developing and controlling good and ethical franchising among its member franchisors. It describes its role as to help ‘potential franchisees recognise the good, the bad, and the ugly for what they are’ and those ‘businesses involved in franchising to secure their own position among the “good” operators’.

Its Qualified Franchise Professional (QFP) qualification is designed to provide formal recognition of an individual’s professional knowledge and experience in franchising, and offers a range of membership grades, full details of which can be found on the bfa website.

It also offers free online training with its Prospect Franchisee and Prospect Franchisor Certificates. Click here to read all about them.

Skill up while serving

Many of the personal qualities required to make a franchise work are also highly prized in the Forces. Self-discipline, self-motivation, initiative, willingness to work and the ability to get on with others are key to a successful franchise business, as is that little spark of entrepreneurship.

There are a number of technical franchises available, involving areas like cars, IT and workshop tools, and Service training and experience can often be relevant in such areas. However, ex-Forces people also run successful franchises in areas such as upholstery cleaning, sign-making, legal services and estate agency, so nothing should be dismissed until it has been checked out.

There are, however, some common key skills. Competence in ICT, accounting, law in the retail sector, financial awareness and the ability to drive would all be extremely useful. It is also likely that the potential franchisee will need to take out a bank loan to fund the purchase. While most franchisors will help with the necessary business plan and any other paperwork, it is essential that you, as the individual taking out the loan, fully understand the detail of these documents.

Decided on a franchise? What next?

Research the opportunities and make a shortlist of franchisors. Meet them and ask to talk to some of their franchisees (preferably other Service leavers). Reputable franchisors will help because they will want their franchisees to be sure they are getting into the right business. In some cases, ask if the franchisors run their own outlet – if it is a profitable business and they don’t, ask them why not.

Do not sign up for anything until you are ready. However, franchisors are in business and want to sell to people who are ready to invest within a few weeks – commercial concerns don’t operate according to the Service posting timescale of six months or so; they are looking for early commitment from the right people, who will find any necessary financial backing fairly easy to obtain.

What you should look for

As a prospective franchisee, you should seek information on the following:

  • initial training (e.g. technical, admin, sales and marketing)
  • help with initial funding
  • ongoing training
  • the product or service (e.g. availability, sales record in other franchises or businesses)
  • plans for new products/services
  • franchise territory (e.g. size)
  • marketing support.

What will it cost?

Costs vary depending on the sector. Start-up costs are usually covered by the franchisee’s initial investment and a loan, often from a high-street bank, which will generally advance money to fund franchisees of an established, ethical business. Under normal conditions, banks will often lend 70% of the start-up costs, as opposed to 50% for an independent operation. 

However, although risks will be lower than for any other kind of business – they may even be less than in a lot of employment options – they still exist. Franchising is not for people who are not realistic about what they can afford or how hard they will work. However, people from all walks of life become franchisees for a wide variety of reasons – including the many people looking for a fresh start after a lifetime’s career in the Armed Services.

Still not sure?

Franchising deserves serious consideration if you are thinking about starting your own business. Franchises exist in a huge range of business sectors – there is probably a franchise to suit everyone, no matter what their interests, previous experience, lifestyle or budget.

Under normal circumstances, a convenient research tool is one of the array of franchise exhibitions usually held in the UK each year. Unfortunately most of these are currently suspended due to the Covid pandemic. Keep an eye on the bfa website for updates and the latest information on upcoming events. The next National Franchise Exhibition is, however, due to take place live at the NEC in Birmingham on the 1 and 2 October 2021. Click on this link to find out all about it. To book your free tickets, call the Franchise Hotline on 020 8394 5294 or click here to register.

Alternative sources of advice include banks, solicitors, franchise consultants and, most importantly, anyone you know who is already operating a franchise.

A final few words of caution …

Beware of:

  • offers that sound too good to be true
  • a large fee upfront but low royalties
  • franchisors that will not let you meet other franchisees
  • low-quality training, marketing material or business plans
  • pressure to sign anything before you are ready.