How to start a franchise in the UK

Here you’ll learn how to start a franchise in the UK

Most newcomers are drawn to the franchise industry because they’re thinking about:

  • becoming a franchisee
  • becoming a franchisor
  • selling to franchisors or franchisees

There are other motivating factors. But, if you wander around a franchise exhibition in this country, you’ll see that the majority of visitors fall into one of those camps. But this is an article on how to start a franchise in the UK. Not how to sell to franchisors or franchisees. So, in which of the first two camps do you belong?

Are you the entrepreneur or the frustrated employee? Are you the mum with a little more time on her hands, or the recent retiree with far too much energy to pack up for good? Are you facing redundancy or already running a business that’s ripe for expansion?

Whoever you are, you’re reading this because you want to know how to start a franchise in the UK. But is that from a franchisor or a franchisee’s perspective?

We’ll assume it’s the latter. After all, there are more than 40,000 franchisees in the UK, but only 900 or so recognised business format franchises. That’s 44 franchisees to every franchisor. It’s likely, then, that most of you are reading this with the intention of joining an established brand as a new franchisee.

That doesn’t mean this won’t be of interest to business owners who want to grow through franchising. If you’re a budding franchisor you’ll soon begin to recruit. And understanding a franchisee’s decision-making process will help you recruit the best candidates.

This article covers that sequence of events; the key stages that transforms an industry outsider into a trading franchisee. It’s your guide on how to start a franchise in the UK.

Are you ready to change your life?

You want to know how to start a franchise in the UK? Well, like anything, you have to start at the beginning. And that means working out whether this is really what you want to do.

You need to know that you’re ready to become a franchisee.

If you’re leaving behind the security of regular pay, you’ll need to be both financially and mentally prepared for that. Or if your children have started school, and you’re looking for a franchise to fit in around them, you need the discipline and environment to make it work.

Almost anyone can buy a franchise. That’s the easy bit. But if you want to know how to start a franchise in the UK and be successful, then the key element in all of this is you. It’s not the franchisor and their case studies of existing franchisees. It’s not the product, the service or the available territory. And it’s not the promise of riches and freedoms. Franchising definitely works; but only you can make it work for you.

How to start a franchise in the UK and be happy

Now you need to tailor your search into finding a franchise that fits. There’s an array of opportunities to suit all manner of abilities and situations. So, ideally, this should be about how to start a franchise in the UK that complements you.

What are your key skills and attributes? When have you been most successful? In which situations have you really shone?

Because if you can identify the most positive character traits within yourself, you should be able to match them to a suitable business. And, what’s more, it doesn’t have to be in an industry that you already know.

One of the wonderful things about franchising is that it can help you start again in a brand new sector. It’s a blank canvas on which you can sketch out a new way of life. Because, while the skills you already have are transferable, new skills can always be acquired.

Within the franchise industry there are ex-soldiers who’ve become procurement specialists. There are ex-premier league footballers who’ve become kitchen salesmen. And there are ex-housewives who’ve become high street retailers.

So don’t limit yourself to what you know, or what you think you know. Choose something that you really want to do. Ultimately, choose something that you will enjoy.

How long does it take to start a franchise in the UK? Where do you find all of these franchise opportunities?

Of course, is the leading website for franchises for sale. Other online sources include the British Franchise Association (bfa), which has some 400+ member franchises. The bfa also runs seminars that show you how to start a franchise in the UK.

There’s plenty of trade press too. And, like the bfa, the national newspapers run features on how to start a franchise in the UK. Finally, there are all of those franchise exhibitions at which you can meet franchisors face-to-face in a neutral environment.

That’s a lot of research. This whole process could take some time. And the wider the remit, the harder it is to whittle down your long list.

Imagine you’ve found 50 franchises you like the sound of. You’ll have 50 prospectuses to pore over. You’ll also have 50 franchisors – or their recruitment personnel – chasing you for a decision. And if you plan on visiting those 50 franchises, and undergoing the proper due diligence, it will take years to make a decision.

So take time out from work and your other commitments. Pore over those prospectuses and remind yourself of the key questions to ask when buying a franchise. Then call half-a-dozen franchises in one day, and have a meaningful conversation with each of them. Do that for a few days in a month, and you can narrow that 50 down to a much shorter list. And that’s when the serious stuff begins. Due diligence, documents and decisions…

So what happens when you visit a franchisor?

You’ll have your questions ready, but expect to be questioned hard yourself. And don’t expect to be accepted straight away. The franchisor needs to know why you want to be a part of their brand and be comfortable they can trust you to look after it.

Then, when you have their approval, you can dig deeper into the franchise itself. You’ll be able to meet some franchisees. And, in time, you’ll get access to sensitive documents like the business plan and franchise agreement.

Ask to see a selection of franchisees, and make sure you choose them yourself. Try to see a good, an average and a bad one, because there will be some of each in every brand. That way you can measure yourself against the best, and see whether you could do a better job than the poorer performers.

Of course, you want to know how to start a franchise in the UK and make some money. So talk to franchisees about that too. Find out if they’re seeing the returns they’d expected, and ask them whether they’d sign up if they had their time again.

And finally, you want to know what you are signing up for. A franchise agreement typically runs for five years, is weighted in the franchisor’s favour and won’t be amended to suit you. If you choose to take legal advice, make sure it’s from a specialist franchise solicitor. Because, while they will charge you to read and explain the agreement, they won’t waste your money entering into pointless negotiations with the franchisor.

So that’s it. Admittedly it’s a short guide on how to start a franchise in the UK. And it’s by no means comprehensive. But for more information on everything from franchise agreements to sub-£10k franchises (more advice on these here), you should visit today.


How to start a franchise in the UK