Once a franchise is up and running, a franchisor might look to add a franchise development manager to their team. But when’s the best time to hire?
Whether you’re franchising a business for the first time or have acquired the master licence for an overseas brand, the recruitment of a franchise development manager is a necessary step for many franchisors. However, while the rationale for bringing an FDM on board is often the same, the timing of such an appointment tends to differ.
Dog-sitting franchise Barking Mad has grown at an impressive rate over the past 16 years. The company was founded by Lee Dancy who, after receiving a puppy as a Christmas present, saw the need for an alternative to kennels when it came to dog care. “She was going on a family holiday and she had nobody to look after the dog,” says Richard Dancy, marketing manager at Barking Mad. “A dalmatian puppy is a bit of handful and a kennel was not something she was willing to do. She took [the dog] back to the breeder but the next time she found somebody who was able to look after it. Very quickly, she decided that could be her business.”
Upon launching the business, Dancy knew that Barking Mad was a concept that could be franchised across the UK. “She always had in the back of her mind that it was something that could be replicated and leveraged via franchising,” says Dancy.
Initially, Dancy enlisted the help of a franchise consultant, a franchise lawyer and the British Franchise Association, all of whom could offer the necessary support to get the franchise off the ground. However, as the company approached the ten-franchise mark, it became clear that Dancy needed an additional pair of hands to help steer the ship. It was for that reason she hired Barking Mad’s first ever franchise development manager in the shape of Nikki Brown. “Like many franchisors, Lee had her own company-owned outlet but the next stage was to sell her business and concentrate on being a franchisor rather than a provider of pet care,” says Dancy. “She brought Nikki in after about three years because she needed help supporting the franchisees.”
As with any recruit, it was crucial that the franchise development manager was the perfect fit for Barking Mad. While Brown has now departed the company to set up her own business, the fact that she spent over a decade at Barking Mad is testament to her compatibility with both the brand and its owner. “One of the reasons Nikki and Lee worked so well together for so many years is that they are very similar,” says Dancy. “They shared the same values and both of them loved dogs. But Nikki is also quite entrepreneurial and had the same spirit and same desire for the business to expand.”
With 74 territories under its belt, coffee franchise Cafe2U has built a strong presence in the UK since landing on these shores just over a decade ago. Tom Acland, founder and managing director of Cafe2U UK, first encountered the brand in Australia where he’d been setting up an IT company. “The first Cafe2U concept van came to our business,” says Acland. “I went out every day, bought coffee and decided it would be a good idea and good timing to bring it back to this country.”
At the time, the British coffee market was starting to stir and, combined with the low overheads and flexibility offered by a Cafe2U franchise, Acland was convinced the brand would translate well to the UK. “I could see from the Australian franchisees that you could run it as a part-time and full-time business,” he says. “You could run it five days or seven days a week.”
Nevertheless, Acland’s limited experience of franchising made the early appointment of a franchise development manager essential. Rather than throw somebody straight into the role, Acland brought in his chosen candidate as a pilot franchise before promoting them to FDM. “I wasn’t prepared to recruit my first franchisee without that experience in the business,” he says. “It needed to be somebody who had been there, done it, knocked on the doors and sold the concept.”
As Acland explains, appointing an FDM freed him up to focus on business-critical issues, safe in the knowledge that the franchisees were being well managed. “It allowed me to guide the business slightly more strategically and look for partners in the supply chain while they were out in field answering all of the franchisees’ questions,” he says. “It meant I could actually manage the business rather than be too front-end-focused.”
Cafe2UK has since appointed another two franchise development managers – each of whom is responsible for about 30 franchises – as well as an operations director and franchise recruitment manager. “I have always recruited the next FDM prior to needing to them so that they’re trained and understand the business before they are needed,” explains Acland. “That means we will be adding our fourth when we get to 90 franchises so that they are here as we grow to 120.”
Now a fully-fledged franchise, Wigwam Holidays started life as a small-scale operation in Scotland. After a stint working for the Countryside Commission – where he designed low-cost accommodation for people hiking along Scotland’s long-distance footpaths – the company’s founder Charles Gulland established All Round Buildings, constructing lodges from rounded pieces of locally sourced timber. And it wasn’t long before he had devised the ‘camping pod’ that was the inspiration behind Wigwam Holidays. “We had a lot of experience in designing rural buildings from homegrown timber but we saw a very clear opportunity to diversify into the holiday business,” says Gulland. “So in 2000, we started with our first four sites and that was the beginning of Wigwam Holidays.”
For the best part of 13 years, the company grew organically, constructing wigwams and selling them to sites that would operate under the Wigwam Holidays banner. However, once it had amassed 55 sites, it became apparent that franchising was the best way to ramp up the company’s growth. “It was clear that there was huge potential in the Wigwam brand but it was also clear that we were undervaluing it by licensing the brand,” says Gulland. “We just knew the way forward was to turn the whole business into a more formal franchise model.”
With six franchisees signed up, Gulland has now started to think about recruiting an experienced franchise hand who can help take the company to the next level. “We are probably at the point to start looking for a franchise development manager,” he says. “It would be interesting to bring somebody with that industry experience into our team.”
Like many franchises, Wigwam Holidays relied on external parties in the early stages: a consultant helped put together its operations manual and a lawyer took care of the franchise agreement. But it’s now time to bring a seasoned franchise professional on board. “We have got a strong brand and a good ops manual but, as we grow this, we could probably do with some specialist expertise,” Gulland concludes.