How to Identify a Good Franchisor – Sarah Carlile writes for Making Money Magazine, December 2011

With around 850 franchise packages on offer in the UK alone, there is plenty of choice available. So how do you start your search? Sarah Carlile, Founder of Coconut Creatives, the franchise industry’s leading provider of marketing services for franchise recruitment, explains what you need to look out for.

Among the total packages on offer, around 350 are accredited by the British Franchise Association (bfa). The bfa is an excellent place to begin your search as well as the many online recruitment websites that list both bfa and non-bfa members. If you are at the beginning of your search and just thinking about your next move, websites such as or are a great place to start from the comfort of your own home! At some point you will need to create a shortlist of options and make the leap of faith, this feature will give you some pointers on where to look and what to look for.

There are lots of different places to look for a franchise:

  1. Approx. 30 franchise recruitment websites
  2. National franchise exhibitions
  3. National newspapers
  4. Regular regional exhibitions
  5. Business and franchise magazines

A good franchisor should be active in terms of promotion as this demonstrates a dedication to the continual expansion of the franchise network. More coverage will ultimately benefit you and the franchisee as you can draw from national accounts rather than just local. Clive’s EasyLearn Pop Music Schools and The Athena Network – Business Networking for Women, are two prime examples, both having recently branched out into the worldwide arena!

Start by making a list of what you want in terms of earnings, hours of work, place of work and style of work. You may plan to maximise on your current professional experience and look for a franchise in the industry you already work in or take the opportunity to set up a dream business by expanding on a much-loved hobby. Whatever your reasons or choices, it is vital to be clear with yourself at this stage as you can use your criteria as a measure to find your ideal franchise.

Once you have made contact with a franchisor they will typically send you their Franchise Prospectus. This document should detail all the basic information you need to see if they meet your required criteria, which will then help you to narrow your search. This will be a really interesting time for you as you will start to build relationships with different franchisors through email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings.

Take note on how the franchisor starts to build a relationship with you (are they prompt with their email replies and friendly on the phone?). This gives you a good indication of what it will be like if you join them as a franchisee.

In November 2011, baby swimming franchise Puddle Ducks was awarded Best Overall Franchise 2011 in the Smith & Henderson Best Franchise Awards. The awards were the first of their kind to review and judge franchisors based purely on the opinions and experiences of their own franchisees. There really can be no higher praise than that of your franchisees and Puddle Ducks are now in the enviable position of being confident that should any prospective franchisee talk to any of their network then they will get a positive response! During your research process, ask to speak to existing franchisees about their experiences so far, a good franchisor should always be happy to offer you the opportunity to do so although be prepared for this to be at the convenience of the franchisee and not yourself, after all, they are busy running a successful business.

Yet how do you really assess one franchise from another? With such a variety of franchise fees and different earning potentials on offer, it can be extremely difficult to compare franchise packages like for like. Do not discount franchises that you initially think could be outside your price range as there may be funding or loan structures available which then make it a viable option. Therefore it is best to check them against the following criteria:

  1. Return on investment
  2. Working hours
  3. Office or home-based
  4. Hands-on or management set-up
  5. Length of franchise agreement
  6. Training and support available
  7. Size of the existing franchise network
  8. How established the franchise is

Within this set of criteria, pay particular attention to the level of training and support available. A good franchisor will not only offer a comprehensive, in-depth initial training package, but also deliver continued support through a network of key individuals throughout the franchise period. Originally located primarily in Hemel Hempstead, the Rosemary Bookkeeping Franchise went from strength to strength in 2011 with a record year for both head office and its growing franchise network with consistent, above target growth throughout the UK. This was largely helped by the almost unrivalled training and development package offered to new franchise partners. The franchise has four Directors each specialising in a different, relevant sector for the business – Tax, Marketing, Operations and Training & Support. Franchisees have an initial training period of 10 working days training of which much is tailored to individual needs followed by a regular support and development programme, as well as access to the franchise network as a whole for advice and support.

“Our business has proven itself to our franchise network over the past 2 years and people seriously looking at buying a franchise have realised that our support is unparalleled in the industry,” explains Lisa Curteis, Franchise Recruitment Director for Rosemary Bookkeeping.

As well as the start-up package offered by the franchisor, it is always useful for your decision-making process to know the background and
experience of the key figures within the franchise. A good franchisor will have relevant, proven industry experience. FASTSIGNS, the global leader in the sign and graphics industry with over 540 franchises worldwide has over 25 years’ experience in the sector. Garth Allison, FASTSIGNS’ UK Managing Director, ran the FASTSIGNS Sheffield franchise centre for 9 years with his son Paul before joining head office and you can’t get more relevant experience than that!

Innovation is Key

Never has this been truer than in today’s competitive market. A good franchisor should always strive to bring the latest in technological and intellectual innovations to the table, ideally with a dedicated research and development function within the business. A franchisor who is both prepared to, and has the desire to, continually evolve in their specific sector is far more likely to be successful than those who choose to ignore industry advances. Mac Tools, a highly successful national franchisor based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, pride themselves on continually researching and providing their franchisees with the latest innovative tools, enabling them to offer the latest, most original products to their customers.

Above all, remember that whichever franchise you choose, you are entering into an agreement to work with the franchisor for a number of years. You must like and respect each other, as successful businesses are always underpinned by a trusting and professional working relationship. So spend some time with the franchisor and their head office team to see how the relationship builds and if this will be a mutually-beneficial alliance for your future.


Start Preparing NOW for a successful 2012 – Sarah Carlile writes for Making Money Magazine, October 2011

Sarah Carlile, Founding Partner of Coconut Creatives, the only marketing company to be accredited by the bfa offers her advice on preparing for a successful and sustainable 2012.

Whether you are looking to start a business or buy a franchise, now is a really good time of year to ask yourself some questions. What will be the best industry to be in, in 2012 onwards? How will the changes in Government affect me? What franchises are growing and providing profitable sustainable business opportunities.  In the UK there are around eight hundred franchisors both from inside and outside the British Franchise Association, all looking to recruit the best candidates for their franchise network. Could that be you?

October through to April is the most important time of year to focus on business development. The kids are at school, the summer holidays are over with and Christmas provides an ideal opportunity for reflection on the previous year’s accomplishments. As we approach Christmas many people start to re-evaluate their life choices and a big part of this is their career. We are all familiar with cyclical national headlines such as ‘new year new career’ but how you maximise your chances to capitalise on business opportunities will depend on a number of factors:

It is all about timing. Being in the right place, at the right time and meeting the right franchisors for you. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Review online profile’s for franchisors: it is really important that you can access current information including availability of territories, current prices, quotes and case studies. You can spend time comparing information you find on different website against information on 3rd party websites. If you find conflicting information on different recruitment websites, the franchisor could be unprofessional or just not keep their communications up to date and this can give you an indication of how they might treat you if you bought into the business.
  2. Case studies are really useful to you to build a picture of the types of people that have already bought into the franchise. Many franchisors like the van based franchise, Cafe2U will offer video case studies which are very useful in understanding what you might do on a daily basis. The reality is that if they invest in video and better communications, they are likely to be investing more in you when you join. You can gain a huge amount of confidence by reviewing case studies and if you can’t find any that are publicly available, call the franchisor and request some.
  3. Social Media sites like LinkedIn can be very useful to gain an insight into the business community that you are interested in. Whether you choose a business or a franchise, ensure you join LinkedIn and sign up for some of the special interest groups. See how they communicate with each other and what discussion topics are brought up.
  4. Consider ALL your options including who the client/ customer will be. Is the market growing? Do you see it growing through 2012? Undertaking due diligence into the market sector, general growth statistics online can give you a good indication of whether your chosen sector and business will work for you.
  5. Read around the subject: Magazines such as this one and newspapers will have a number of features on business opportunities. These are great for you to review and to gather information on specific individual businesses and also sectors that you could be well suited to.
  6. Make sure you reach a decision! Ensure you do set yourself a deadline for making a decision about your next career or business move. It is easy to get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’ and spend so much time deciding what to do, that you never actually get on and do it! Make sure you evaluate all your options and make an informed decision on moving ahead. Gut instinct is usually right, so let this also guide you.
  7. Relationships are key: No matter how good a franchise opportunity, you need to make sure you get on with the franchisor you will be working with. Relationships are key for your ongoing business development, especially where training takes place.

Overall consider whether a business or a franchise is right for you. Franchises can often be seen as the more expensive choice but the reality is often that the money you invest will save you time and money later on by avoiding common mistakes.

Coconut Creatives: the first marketing company with accreditation from the BFA

Coconut Creatives has now achieved the ultimate confirmation of its success by becoming the very first marketing company to attain accreditation from the British Franchise Association.  Coconut Creatives, founded by marketing specialist Sarah Cook, responds to the needs of owner managed, SME and franchised businesses that need outsourced marketing expertise. Having already taken many businesses forward over the last five years, this honour will be certain to take the Coconut business forward for 2010!

The British Franchise Association acts as the governing body of the franchise industry and has recognised Coconut Creatives as THE specialists in the field who add value to businesses through expert marketing for franchise recruitment, franchisee marketing and progression of the core business and its long term strategic direction covering the areas of advertising, PR and promotional activities.

Brian Smart, Director General of the BFA, says: “Marketing is both a structured discipline and a creative art.  Building the one into the other is a continuing process that Coconut Creatives do, and do well.  Franchising is a similarly a structured discipline and a creative art which you need to understand to get right.  Coconut Creatives do understand franchising and we are delighted to welcome them to the BFA.”

Coconut Creatives’ service combines the benefits of employing an in-house Marketing Manager with those of a Marketing Consultant, without the disadvantages of either; this means franchisors benefit from a complete service from marketing planning right through to implementation   ensuring the delivery of the key activities and tracking return on investment.
“We are thrilled to be welcomed as a member of the British Franchise Association. Having worked with many franchisors over the last few years, it seemed like a natural step for us to take,” says Sarah Cook, founder of Coconut Creatives.
For more information about Coconut Creatives or to arrange a free consultation, please contact Sarah or Chris Cook on 01963 360896 or email