You may be surprised to hear, but 2020 was a record breaking year for start-ups. Over 400,000 businesses were formed during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic from entrepreneurs deciding it was finally time for them to become their own boss. It is predicted this trend will continue as we gradually emerge on the other side of the pandemic.
Whilst this may come as a shock initially, the more we reflect on this the more it actually begins to make sense.
For the last 18 months or so, the majority of the country has been forced to work from home. That’s meant we have been experiencing the joys of not commuting and more flexibility within our working days. This is an attractive proposition that has had a profound and positive impact on the quality of our personal lives. With this in mind, it makes sense that many people have decided to try and make these benefits a permanent fixture of their working lives and, arguably the best way to do that is to take control of your destiny and become your own boss with your own business idea.
On the flip side of this coin, there has also been a record number of redundancies in recent months and over 11 million jobs have been supported by the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme (or furlough as it is commonly referred to) – many of which are not guaranteed to remain viable careers when it comes to an end in September. For these people, they have sadly been forced to reconsider their livelihoods and working lives. And, either through no other choice or simply because it is the opportunity they have been looking for for many years, self-employment is the way forward for them.
Of course, becoming your own boss can take many different shapes and take you down multiple different types of business ownership: consulting or freelancing; setting up a limited company or remaining self-employed; sole proprietorship or a limited partnership; working independently or developing a team of employees; self-finance or apply for a business loan; premises or work from home. And ever-increasingly, to franchise or go it alone.
Perhaps franchising has not crossed your mind before; maybe you’re not really aware of it or perhaps you don’t think it is a viable route to business ownership or entrepreneurship.
Franchising in the UK is big business and, according to the British Franchise Association (bfa) and Natwest bank, franchising is a rapidly growing route to becoming your own boss. The franchise industry as a whole contributed over £17bn to the UK’s GDP in 2018, an increase of almost 15% compared to three years earlier. In the same year, it also employed 710,000 people (another 14% increase in three years), there were nearly 50,000 franchised businesses (a 10% increase in three years) and 93% of franchise partners reported profitability. With figures like that, it may make you consider investing in a franchise opportunity before you go it alone.
Matt Barnes, Radfield Home Care’s franchise partner in Wycombe, Beaconsfield & South Bucks spoke to us recently about his journey into self-employment and why he decided franchising was the right route for him.
“I had been looking to start my own business for a little while. I was heavily involved in financial services SMEs and start-ups; getting the processes and systems in place, and doing a lot of the new business and advisory stuff as well. So for just over a decade, I was helping to grow and launch small businesses, and I loved it. It reached a time though when I thought I’d like to do that for myself rather than working my socks off for someone else’.
“Franchising was always on my radar, but I made the conscious decision that I didn’t want to stay in financial services, so I knew I would be going into an industry that I didn’t really have experience with. With that in mind, I was always pretty likely to go down the franchising route. We needed the expertise of a company like Radfield that had the knowledge. Having the network, support, policies and procedures to help really smooths the process of moving forward. So I think, unless you’ve been in it before…franchising is most definitely the right way to go!
“It definitely gives you the flexibility to be your own boss too. It has certainly allowed more flexibility compared to when I was in my two previous roles in financial services.”
Matt has been trading for almost two years and has become Radfield’s fastest growing franchise partner. He has managed to double his forecasted growth, even in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic:
“Covid didn’t specifically affect my mindset. We planned ahead, learnt lessons from each lockdown and strategically recruited ahead of time. We therefore ended up with lots of work simply because other companies were turning business away as they didn’t have enough care professionals.”
Matt is not the only franchise partner to flourish during Covid-19. Whilst the care industry has been particularly resilient and the whole Radfield network doubled its performance in 2020 vs 2019 thanks to growing demand, even other sectors managed to harness the power of the franchise network to keep afloat during the last few months.
Unlike setting up independently a franchise is all about supporting one another. Whether that is the support provided by the franchisor to franchise partners or the support, advice and guidance franchise partners share amongst themselves. During Covid-19, this teamwork enabled franchised businesses to pool resources, strategies and marketing to help them work collectively through lockdowns, loss of revenue and changing business models. As a result, the franchise industry is full of stories of success, growth and adaptation that many, smaller, independent organisations were unable to achieve.
Alex Green, Radfield Home Care’s co-founder explained how the power of the network and shared knowledge worked for them:
“Even before Covid was classed as an epidemic in China, we [as a franchisor] had highlighted the virus as a potential risk and took it upon ourselves to set-up a task force and order large stocks of PPE for the network. This was well before independent business owners were thinking about how it may impact their local businesses in Yorkshire or Surrey, for example.
“As lockdowns took hold, we then took full responsibility for keeping abreast of the ever-changing government legislation, developing that into our policies and procedures and communicating what this meant to franchise partners and their teams on the ground. Some of these updates were being released at 21:00 on a Friday evening and had to be in place by midnight. If you were an independent business just trying to look after your clients, you probably would even have seen the update until the next morning, let alone digest it, update policies and roll it out.
“For me, it is this collaborative approach and strategic planning of franchising that really makes the difference both during times of crisis and day to day running of your business. Without this, it must have been extremely difficult to remain compliant and safe during the pandemic.”
The list of reasons why a franchise could be a more suitable option than going it alone is endless. From the initial training to the ongoing support to help you continually grow and overcome obstacles; from the business planning support to 70% funding* from leading high street banks; and national brand recognition to the proven, tried and tested business model. However, with a 97% success rate, the proof is in the pudding.
If you do want to find out more, your first port of call should be the UK’s regulator for the industry, the British Franchise Association. They have a range of information, tools and courses to help you start your journey into franchising and, maybe even becoming your own boss.
*varies depending on franchise, Radfield Home Care franchise partners can access upto 70% depending on personal circumstance.
Get in touch with your local Radfield Home Care office today and find out more about the support we offer and the difference we can make.