Franchising professional Mark Lemmon explains the benefits becoming part of a franchise can bring your business
Individuals planning to start a business often ask me to explain the merits of franchising. My answer is the same every time: as a business model, a franchise providing the backing of a big brand can be a viable option for all aesthetic businesses. Here I will explain the benefits of franchising, and how it can offer huge opportunities for those operating in the industry.
So why join a franchise? Well, there are numerous advantages for business owners. The first of which is simply that joining a franchise network doesn’t carry the same risks (or fears) associated with going at it alone. This is because the franchisor has a proven business model in the industry that will help the franchisee to avoid the common pitfalls of running a business, thereby affording it a greater chance of success.
I readily accept that franchising is not a suitable route for everyone, but when you consider the high failure rate of all new business ventures started in good times and bad it is worthy of consideration. Figures show that 50% of new businesses fail within the first five years of trading, while 95% of franchise brands succeed.1
As a general rule, sourcing business finance for a start-up is easier for franchisees because banks, lending institutions and private investors are more disposed to invest in a business with a recognisable and reputable brand, proven track record, successful operating systems and an established customer base.2 Franchisors will also usually offer training schemes, sales and financial management support, access to suppliers and other business contacts and will provide advice and guidance on advertising, marketing and PR, all of which may well be included in the price of the franchise fee (although you should always check this). These factors are also very helpful for medical professionals, who might not be well-versed in the business side of running a business.
It’s important to note that franchising is not just for those new to owning a business. The challenges to businesses across the UK have never been more acutely exposed than now, in what might be termed a ‘post pandemic world’. Many business owners will be looking for new opportunities and re-evaluating their own position after the hardship brought about by this protracted period of lockdown. With more support such as that outlined above, locally based aesthetic businesses could benefit from rebranding their own clinic to that of a reputable high-profile brand. In this situation, the business would remain under the same ownership, but with the advantage of the franchisor’s brand profile and access to expanded business opportunities enabling the franchisee to build upon the hard work that has already taken place.
I recommend business owners considering the franchising business model seek the following structure from a franchisor having carefully evaluated its reputation, business ethics and core values. This is of paramount importance in the aesthetics specialty.
Guidance in site selection
Business planning and assessing the financial viability of a location is key when preparing to start a business and is often a big cause of problems once opened. Franchisors have proven experience of building a business viability model that can be applied to any town and location supported by information on the demand for the services that can be offered in that area. Before any new business operation is opened, each area’s risk can be minimised through this use of experience often learnt over many decades. The territory is part of any standard franchise agreement, and the size of that territory will be fairly determined by size, demographics and density of population.3
Given the considerable investment a franchise represents, it should be clear if a protected territory is part of any franchise agreement, which may vary in size due to the density of population. That ‘territory’ will reflect the geographical area that is available to the franchisee and with it the right demographics and population to support the goals of the business.
Tailored training plans
Training is a key feature of any franchise agreement, but of course some franchisers might offer better training than others, so it’s important to look into this before committing.
Franchisors often have rigid and detailed expectations of standards to ensure that not only all operational processes and routines become second nature, but that service levels for all patients match their standard. Training can be individually tailored, but the focus is always on the consistent delivery of the brand values and set standards.
Training in aesthetics would cover daily operational management, patient management and the specific training of each practitioner involved in providing treatments, to ensure that the same levels of industry knowledge and high standards of treatment delivery are replicated by the franchisees.
Working with a long-established clinic franchise means that a franchisee can take advantage of the company's long-standing relationships
Business equipment and suppliers
Working with a long-established clinic franchise means that a franchisee can take advantage of the company’s long-standing relationships with the leading suppliers in the industry, who deliver the latest equipment, treatments and advances in aesthetics to the franchisee.
Management and software
Many franchisors will have pre-established relationships with software companies, and others may have brought a team of software and content staff in-house to produce bespoke software that covers their specific needs. As part of the franchise opportunity, the franchisee will also get access to this software, which can be a huge benefit to a new business. This software could handle all the sales leads that come through, bookings, and diary management, patient photos and notes, stock management and elements of HR, all in one simple package.
Marketing and PR
Brand support with advertising, social media and PR is always a hot topic for any business. It’s useful to check that all franchisees have a dedicated page on the main website, an agreed email marketing campaign, PR support, and social media posts. It is also useful if the franchisee has access to a marketing team that knows the industry and also has a proven track record. My advice is to always look for a company that provides this high level of support.
You should check to see if your franchiser offers referral systems. Being part of a wider group can be beneficial when having to refer patients, for example if the franchisees are unable to offer more advanced aesthetics treatments or require assistance with complications management.
The search for potential franchise businesses usually starts online. In most situations, the search itself should be undertaken by preferred industry sector and should take into account the kind of business the interested party wants to establish.
Making a decision on what type of franchise should depend upon experience of the potential franchisee, and marrying that up with the right franchisor which means taking a close look at the company’s reputation and credentials. Particularly for aesthetics, individuals wishing to administer cosmetic treatments should ensure that the company endorses trained and qualified medical professionals. I advise extensive company searches to establish if the franchising company’s business is in line with your own aspirations and standards. The key factors in making your decision should be professional standards, reputation, innovation and ethical standards – all of these should fit with the potential franchisee’s own criteria. Any potential franchisee can of course add to their own research by looking at Companies House,4 where they can verify the ownership and directors of a company along with their length of trading and trading history.
I have the view that franchising is the most dynamic model for business growth in the world, yet it may not be a good fit for all. Some people prefer the autonomy of running their own business, and with it, the freedom to make every decision and mould the business how they see fit. Franchisees must work to brand guidelines and to a proven recipe for success, so careful thought should be given before opting for this business model.
However, joining a franchise comes with many benefits and allows the business owner to operate under the banner of an already established, recognisable and trusted business with a proven track record. In fact, many new business owners are not experienced in launching a brand and would be challenged by the task of working through the labyrinth of choices and decision making, whereas an established brand with a structure and individuals who are familiar with each step can ease the way while offering a guiding hand to avoid the pitfalls that await the unaware. It is vital to spend time researching whether this is the right path for you, and looking into what brand you want to be a part of, carefully assessing whether it aligns with your own values.
Disclosure: Mark Lemmon is currently working with Harley Street Skin as part of its national franchise rollout.
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