Ten years after stepping down as chairman of the bfa, Nigel Toplis explains why there is much more work to be done to raise the profile of franchising in the UK
Despite its longevity and the awareness of many franchised brands in the marketplace, franchising doesn’t have the profile it should considering what a powerful concept it is. There are 901 franchisors and 44,200 franchisees in the UK today: the sector employs 621,000 people and contributes a massive £15.1bn to the UK economy, something that is indicative of an industry that has proven itself robust in the face of the economic challenges we've seen in recent years.
The bfa has done some excellent work over the years and it remains committed to doing the right thing for franchising, including accreditation, promotion and protection but members cannot be complacent. We have to continually improve and I believe there are a number of things we as a franchise community could do to further raise both the profile and reputation of the franchising sector.
First and foremost, I’m a great believer that the concept of franchising could hugely benefit from establishing franchising ambassadors to work with regional development agencies, chambers of commerce and other organisations of influence to promote the benefits of becoming a franchisee. The more we bang the drum, the more people learn about franchising: the more people learn about franchising then the more quality potential franchisees will become available.
I would also like to see a strengthening of the bfa certification for good franchising and the introduction of an ombudsman scheme for franchisee complaints. Both of these positive actions would increase the brand value of franchising.
There have been odd – and sometimes very odd – attempts to engage politicians and educate them about the benefits of franchising and its potential to regenerate the economy. We have to make serious and concerted efforts to gain significant recognition from national government. Those of us who are passionate about franchising must join together to champion the benefits of franchising to enterprise, job creation and the development of a stake-holding society.
My final area of focus would be the creation of a British Institute of Franchising to recognise the achievements of all those engaged in the management and professional support of franchising – a body of learning, teaching and recognition. The whole focus of this new institute would be to place franchising at the centre of business choice and not on the periphery.
I am proud to be a franchisor and I am proud of the support we give to our franchisees but the time has come when pride in itself is not enough. As an entity those of us in franchising have to do far more. We owe it to the sector to do more to raise awareness of franchising, promote ethics in the industry and drag local and national government out of a condition of ignorance and persuade academia to treat franchising with the respect it deserves as a proven business model.