Puddle Ducks had been a regular attendee of the Coconut Creatives Franchise Marketing Workshops at the end of 2011 and in to the start of 2012. They began working with Coconut Media in January 2012 and built a relationship that we feel matches their own company ethos – to live life, swimmingly.
Puddle Ducks deliver swimming lessons with a difference. Each class comprises a carefully balanced set of activities to promote increased confidence in the water and other skills that can be transferred into everyday life. In 2007, Puddle Ducks took the leap into becoming a franchise and rapidly grew to 20 centres across the UK. They plan to extend their reach to 63 centres over the next five years.
Puddle Ducks wanted a project-based campaign that would really lift the exposure of their brand. We therefore spent time discussing their objectives and key messages and incorporated this into a 3-month PR project.
- 1 article a month, researched, written and sold into target media
- Coverage online and in print franchise media plus coverage through social media such as Twitter
Smith & Henderson, a specialist franchise research firm, has announced today the winners of the inaugural Best Franchise Awards. This follows an industry-wide study of franchisee satisfaction, involving over 1,000 existing franchisees, to understand what franchisors best deliver on their promises, training, support, financial and non-financial rewards.
“With almost 1,400 different franchise opportunities available in the UK, prospective franchisees are faced with an overwhelming challenge when trying to find the very best franchise opportunities,” said Steven Frost, Partner at Smith & Henderson. “What makes these awards unique is they are based on what the real experts think – actual franchisees who work in those businesses day-in-day-out and their first hand experiences. The four franchisors recognised in this year’s awards are in an elite group and represent the very best franchise opportunities in the UK today.”
The industry-wide study of franchisee satisfaction, known as the Franchise Satisfaction Benchmark, involved gathering feedback from over 1,000 franchisees. Questions included everything from training and support, the actual franchise system, the relationship with their franchisor, the value of the franchise and ongoing management fees, and how the rewards on offer compared to their expectations. Franchisors from all corners of commerce participated, ranging from children’s sports coaching to business coaching; from lawn care to domiciliary care; and from retail to accountancy.
Presented with the awards were:
Overall Best Franchise: Puddle Ducks
Puddle Ducks provides baby and children swimming classes and has 19 franchisees in the UK. As the Best Overall Franchise, Puddle Ducks received the best overall feedback from its franchisees.
Jo Stone, Co-Founder said, “We commissioned the Franchise Satisfaction Benchmark survey to get feedback from our franchisees to see what improvements could be made to our systems, with no thoughts about winning awards at all. We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to win such prestigious awards amongst such tough competition. Winning the Overall Best Franchise is just fantastic endorsement from our franchisees that our training, systems and every other aspect of our franchise is of a high standard within the industry.”
Best Training & Support: TaxAssist Accountants
TaxAssist Accountants provide tax accountancy services and advice through over 200 offices in the UK and Ireland. Recognised as having the Best Training & Support, TaxAssist franchisees rated the quality of its initial training and support, head office, marketing and franchisee-to-franchisee support the best in the UK.
David Paulson, Franchise Recruitment Manager said, “At TaxAssist Accountants we have invested in the resources to provide training and the right level of support to ensure our network can build profitable businesses. Being recognised with this award and knowing it is the result of the opinion of our network is testament that our training works!”
Best Franchise System: Home Instead Senior Care
Home Instead Senior Care provides award-winning home care to elderly people, allowing them to stay in their homes for as long as possible. It has almost 100 franchisees in the UK and these rated its services, systems, brand and approach to innovation as the best in the UK.
Dan Archer, Marketing Director said, “We are delighted to have been recognised as a winner in the Best Franchise Awards 2011 – Best Franchise System. As the results of these awards were based solely on the Franchise Satisfaction Benchmark survey conducted amongst franchise owners from many established brands, we are very proud to be recognised as a leader in the eyes of our franchisees.”
Most Recommended Franchise: Puddle Ducks
94% of Puddle Ducks’ franchisees would recommend its franchise to a prospective franchisee – the highest in the UK.
Best Growing Franchisor (franchisors with 8-14 franchisees): Jasper’s Online
Jasper’s Online provides corporate catering throughout the UK. It was rated the best franchisor with less than 15 franchisees (a minimum threshold for entering the main awards).
Nathan Siekierski, Director, said, “Being able to compare your franchise model to the industry standard is something new and refreshing in the franchising world. Winning an award based on franchisee opinions is the icing on the cake and makes the hard work of the Jasper’s team worthwhile.”
Best Franchise Conference Seminars
As well as the awards, franchisors benefited from seven best practice seminars from:
- Smith & Henderson
- The Franchising Training Centre
- The Alternative Board
- Puddle Ducks
- Home Instead Senior Care
- Coconut Creatives
These were attended by over 50 franchise professionals and designed to help them improve franchisee satisfaction and develop even stronger franchise networks. Matt Trevor-Roper, from Toni & Guy, summed up the day: “A fantastic opportunity to go behind the scenes and find out other businesses’ approaches to running a successful franchise operation,” while Dan Archer, Home Instead Senior Care said, ““A really valuable discussion of franchising best practice – book next year now!”
With a dozen additional franchisors already registered to participate in the 2012 Franchise Satisfaction Benchmark that did not take part in 2011, Smith & Henderson is on target for 80 franchisors to participate in 2012 as the programme becomes a key feature in UK franchising.
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 WhichFranchise.com or SelectYourFranchise.co.uk 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:
- Approx. 30 franchise recruitment websites
- National franchise exhibitions
- National newspapers
- Regular regional exhibitions
- 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:
- Return on investment
- Working hours
- Office or home-based
- Hands-on or management set-up
- Length of franchise agreement
- Training and support available
- Size of the existing franchise network
- 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.