Pip Wilkins, CEO of the British Franchise Association (bfa), is seeing a rising trend of smaller multi-unit operations across the UK
When we think of multi-unit franchisees, we usually think of an entrepreneur who is running a global brand into the tens of units. While this is true for some franchisees, multi-unit is exactly what it says on the tin, an owner of more than one unit, and there has been a rise in people acquiring a second unit and managing both. Regarding multi-unit ownership in general, the 2018 bfa NatWest Franchise Survey, 36% of franchisees are multi-unit owners, up from 29% in 2015, showing that people are thriving through franchising. So while the number of franchise units has gone up 10% to 48,600, the number of franchisees has remained relatively consistent, at around 20,000.
There appears to be a growing confidence amongst franchisees who have ran their own business for many years, and have decided to gradually expand in order to keep on top of their operations.
A small multi-unit story
Sallyann and David Gray are amongst those franchisees who have developed their Petpals operations over 10 years, now running three Petpals franchises in Darlington East, Darlington West and Yarm territories. David explains: “The demand for our Petpals services was unprecedented and we found that repeat bookings and word of mouth were delivering growth across both areas of nearly 50% per year. Out of area enquiries were substantial, too, as many of our existing clients lived or worked across our areas. We felt that the time was right for expansion. With that amount of ‘out of area’ enquiries, it seemed silly to turn down what was almost guaranteed new clients.” For David and Sallyann, the transition from a single territory to multi-unit franchisee was all about investment in both customers and staff, with most of their staff growing with them over the last 10 years.
The natural step
So why invest in more franchises now? David explains: “Multi area franchises are a great way to rapidly grow your business; you know it’s viable, it’s just whether you feel confident in being able to manage each of the areas, which could be developing at different levels and in different ways.” It appears that for some franchisees, buying another territory is the natural next step, with no pressure to become the next multi-unit entrepreneur, just simply taking the time to build their business, staff, customer and gradually develop the business, making sure that they can handle the growing responsibilities that come with it. David agrees: “You have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and use your time wisely; you can’t always be at the coal face, you need to invest in all areas, including the back office, so you don’t find yourself swamped, unable to answer calls and emails or to react to unforeseen positive or negative changes that come along.”
A well oiled machine
It’s very important when growing your business that you recruit the staff according to the needs of the business, otherwise you will be left with the pressure of running every aspect of all the operations you own. Sallyann and David are taking these steps to ensure they continue to have smoothly run operations. “We are now completing the recruitment of a full-time management team who will be in place later on this year. They will include a dog walking manager, along with a cat visit and home boarding manager too. They will be responsible for recruiting more staff if needed, as the business continues to grow. This will allow the two of us to enjoy our time-off together, while still being able to direct the business which means, as we approach our retirement, we will still have a business we enjoy being involved in, just without the stress of running it every day.”
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