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Building a better trade body

Written by Ronnie Dungan on Tuesday, 30 March 2021. Posted in Interviews

Joel Bissitt, CEO of the Quality Franchise Association, explains the rapidly growing trade associations mission statement and its ambitions to become the market’s industry association of choice…

Building a better trade body

Joel Bissitt, CEO of the Quality Franchise Association, explains the rapidly growing trade associations mission statement and its ambitions to become the market’s industry association of choice…

Not everyone is a fan of trade associations. Reputations can vary between those that are an indispensable source of help and assistance for members and those for whom the benefits do not justify the annual fee.

Love them or hate them, for any industry they provide a useful focal point for media, act as a unifying force for disparate parts of the trade and are a gateway for individuals new to any market. 

Given the varied nature of franchising there is a greater need than most other industries perhaps, to ensure best practice, enhance the reputation of the participants and encourage protagonists that there is strong governance in place. 

Joel Bissitt considered that there was a need for an organisation that promoted the best and most ethical standards of franchising and so formed the QFA - The Quality Franchise Association - in 2018. Its mission statement describes it as “Promoting best practice & excellence in franchising through support, membership collaboration, encouragement & education”

As such it provides free guides, training, support, events and awards.

Joel Bissitt brings with him more than 30 years experience across a variety of sectors, latterly as a digital marketer, and has been running a franchise portal since 2004. 

So he knows the franchising model very well and it has given him access and exposure to many key players in the industry. Conversations with them lead to him setting up the QFA.

“I have spoken to hundreds of franchisors over the years,” he says, “and the feedback I had from many was that they simply did not see the value in joining a franchise association. They advised membership was expensive with very little, if any tangible benefits. From experience I know that all franchisors would benefit from being part of an association and sharing best practice with experienced professionals. To encourage franchisors to join we focused on delivering tangible benefits at an affordable cost. By doing this we have been able to grow rapidly, engage and support franchisors of all sizes and stages of growth.”

Noble ambitions, but of course for would-be members, the key question will always be, what do I get for my money?

“We provide very similar services to others,” he adds, “including unlimited support, events (all are free to attend), qualifications and training but we also have many tangible benefits included in the £350 a year franchisor membership fee. Some of these include:

  • Free franchise recruitment advertising on three franchise websites. Last year we generated over 2,000 leads from these websites.
  • A free franchise recruitment CRM. Developed by our team using member feedback we developed our own CRM which includes powerful features including pipeline analysis and automated emails.
  • A franchising communications platform and app. The free Android and IOS compatible app keeps members up to date with all things QFA. It also provides free promotion of their businesses to other members and  the ability to chat and watch recorded webinars if they cannot attend live events.
  • Free international franchise advertising. We are growing our international partnership program rapidly and provide free international advertising and networking opportunities for members.
  • Virtual franchise show free guest speaker opportunities. We sponsor The Virtual Franchise and Business Opportunity Show, the UK's first virtual franchise show and have already run two shows in 2020. Our members have access to free guest speaker slots plus preferential discounts with stands at the next show just £599 for QFA members.
  • UK's first virtual franchising awards. Sponsored by Barclays, we launched the UK's first ever Virtual Franchising Awards in 2020. Our awards are very different to others. They are entirely free and open not just to QFA members but the entire franchising community. We received 171 entries to our inaugural awards.”

It’s an impressive offering, but he maintains the ambition is not to become the de facto association (although he does want to eventually be able to boast the largest number of franchisor members) but to rub alongside the other trade bodies, presumably in the hope that competition will see all of them up their game for the good of the market. 

“We wish to provide as much support as we can to members and grow franchising. We have many members that are also members of several other trade associations.

“We strongly believe competition is vital for any sector to thrive,” he adds.

The QFA’s offer of support from experienced professionals includes plenty of educational tools including webinars that cover topics such as franchisee recruitment, social media marketing and HR including IR35 planning.

The Virtual Franchise and Business Opportunity Show it sponsors is mainly targeted at prospective franchisees but there are also plans for public webinar events for prospective franchisees and franchisors.

In these difficult times, trade bodies come into their own in being able to offer support to their members who will have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic and the QFA has been front and centre in assisting its members 

Joel says the association has offered: “A huge amount of support via our groups, phone, app and email. Some areas covered included HR, JRS claims, Bounce Back and CBILS loans, operational and legal issues.”

In the inevitable shake-up and disruption caused by the pandemic, with people changing careers, either through choice or forced by circumstances, he says franchising has already become a serious consideration for many. 

“Our free franchise recruitment advertising for members has seen a large increase in leads since the start of the pandemic. We are also receiving many more enquiries from prospective franchisors and we predict this trend to continue.”

Since forming in 2018 the association has already garnered an impressive number of members and wants to achieve a position of dominance in that regard.

“In two years we have recruited almost 160 members including 107 franchisors,” he enthuses.

“Our goal is to become the largest franchise association by franchisor numbers within the next two years. We have already received 14 applications to join us in 2021 and are well ahead of this target currently.”

Clearly he is extremely positive about the future for franchising in the UK and wants to develop the QFA in anticipation of growth across quite a few sectors

“We predict huge growth for franchising over the next few years. We have many new projects we are working on throughout 2021 to increase support and our benefits package to members. I am seeing many home based, lifestyle and technology related franchises doing very well.”

There’s clearly plenty to come from the QFA and whatever your views on trade associations, for franchising neophytes it provides a useful jumping off point to start their career. 

If you’re interested in joining the QFA, you can find more information here - https://www.franchise-association.org.uk/join/

About the Author

Ronnie Dungan

Ronnie Dungan

Ronnie is a business journalist and comms specialist of some 30-plus years' experience, although thanks to a rigorous moisturising regime, and the right lighting, you wouldn't necessarily know it. He has edited and published so many titles that he has properly lost count. It's well over a dozen, but he shows no signs of calling it day just yet.

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