Part of my role as Franchise Director entails many hours of travelling to meet existing and potential franchisees, so I spend many hours on trains. Often I just keep my head down and get on with my work, but sometimes travelling companions want to talk- sometimes this can make me think, “ I don’t actually have time for this today”, or at other times it is great to be submerged in conversation with someone I would not normally get to talk to.
One day last week as I travelled to London, I got talking to a man that worked in the financial sector in ‘the city’ – so save him from embarrassment, I’ll refer to him as ‘Tom’. After a few generic pleasantries, he asked me what I did. As soon as I mentioned the franchise model, a glazed look of possibly horror took over his face. To be fair, I have seen this before- I think it happens through lack of understanding and out-dated views that seem to be very wrongly mixed up with pyramid selling and the sometimes ‘dodgy’ double-glazing sales reps of yesteryear.
I realised in the moment his face changed I had two options, to smile politely and continue working, or more in my nature, challenge and explore his views- I chose the latter!
I began by explaining that the franchise model is one of the most popular types of business globally, with the majority of trusted household brands belonging to the franchise model- huge names throughout fast food and high street restaurants, global cleaning companies, and tax accountancy firms for example, are not ‘chains’ as he thought, but franchises. Problem one was identified with his understanding of what a franchise was- he thought a brands’ ‘head office’ managed the entire business (chains), rather than each individual location independently operating their own business (franchises).
Once I could see that ‘Tom’ had started to lose lack of enthusiasm for the franchise model of success, I got further into my explanation of the advantages of running your own business under the strength of a national household name. Customers have trust in brands they are familiar with, both in their own locality and when they visit places further afield, they automatically recognise known branding as people take comfort in the familiar.
As many of us know, running your own business brings many advantages; taking ownership of your successes and struggles, ability to steer your own company in the direction you think is most beneficial, working hard for recognition and feelings of pride at building your own successful business or even an empire, however, the downside can often be seen as being hard to compete with big brands in terms of communication strategies, marketing, technology and training; unless you have a large staff with specialist skills then all of these vital areas are going to be very expensive to implement in terms of time and financial investment.
‘Tom’ asked how we steer our franchisees through the complexities of remaining an independent agency, with a national brand identity- I wasted no time in explaining all about our 4 strands of support in the form of ARLA & NAEA accredited training for all franchisees and their staff, communications systems such as our support desk to advise and support all our franchisees and a referral system that helps to build networks to help them grow their business but not compromise their own strategies and business areas, technology in the form of bespoke agency software, own branded website with SEO backed results and online portal that uses Hunters® MI (market intelligence) to generate valuations, and marketing solutions that come with PR support, printed and online marketing, and social media integration as standard.
As ‘Tom’ and I started to gather our things together ready to leave the train and get ready for our day of work in very our different environments, ‘Tom’ showed a real interest in the Hunters® way of working. He asked how much initial investment the franchise would cost- he couldn’t believe that the actual franchise and rebrand is awarded at no financial outlay to the franchisee- I think he was ready to jack in his job in ‘the city’ and join us on our journey as the nations favourite estate agent- he was visibly disappointed when I had to let him down gently as with no experience of running his own successful estate agency business he was not ready to make the move- that honour is only available to sales and letting agents with a proven track record of excellence.