Walking the tightrope: how franchising can help you find a great work-life balance

Buying a franchise is perfect way to improve your work-life balance but it requires maximum effort to get there

Walking the tightrope: how franchising can help you find a great work-life balance

If you crave the freedom to choose your own hours and break free from the corporate serfdom that’s separating you from friends and family, then franchising may be the solution you’re looking for. Given that it enables you to become your own boss, it’s no wonder one of franchising’s biggest selling points is that it offers a great work-life balance.

However, before quitting your job in a fashion similar to Renee Zellwegers’ character in the original Bridget Jones movie, you should be warned that launching a franchise is not all fun and games. “You have to be realistic and put the hard yard in,” says Thomas Rebel, managing director at HomeServe, the home-service franchise ranked as one of the best companies for work-life balance in the UK by Glassdoor, the workplace review platform. “You cannot start your own business and expect that working 20 hours a week will turn you into a millionaire.”

However, not all franchisees are created equal and what’s considered a good work-life balance may differ from one business owner to the next. “Some really enjoy working a huge number of hours and their families may be OK with it,” says Rebel.

In light of this, budding franchisees’ ability to secure a good work-life balance starts with selecting the right franchise to meet their needs. Every potential franchise owner should speak with other franchisees in the network before buying a franchise just to get an idea of how the business works. This will give you a taste of the kind of support you can get from the network and how likely it is to offer a good work-life balance.

However, achieving a better work-life balance doesn’t just require the support of your franchisor. You also need talented people beneath you. Rebel explains that a common mistake threatening franchisees’ work-life balance, their health and ultimately their business is that they may be too be cost-conscious, resulting in them not hiring enough people. “If they don’t hire someone, then they’ll work themselves into the ground,” says Rebel.

No family drama

Before hearing about Pyjama Drama, the kids’ drama-class franchise, Jo Partridge had never considered franchising as a career. “I was floating all over the place and went to drama school,” she says. But her priorities changed when she started a family. Faced with the challenge of supporting a two children, Partridge considered enrolling in an Open University course to become a primary school teacher until her husband came across an advert from Pyjama Drama on Gumtree, the classified ads website. “It was really a no-brainer because it would allow me to work with children and in drama at the same time,” she says.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Partridge quickly reached out to the franchisor and bought herself a franchise in Llantrisant, Bridgend and the Vale. However, while she embarked on this new path to be able to support her family, finding a good work-life balance proved more challenging than expected. “It was initially really hard for me to try to fit in having two children and the business,” she says.

Looking back, she confesses that much of the initial stress wasn’t only due to the business being new and her desire to prove herself; it was also because she had a difficult time separating her job from her personal life – something exacerbated by the fact that she was working from home. However, thanks to the advice of other franchisees in the network and her own trial and error, Partridge has become better at striking the right balance between her two lives. “When I work, I don’t bother going and doing the washing-up,” she says. “You wouldn’t be able to nip into the kitchen and do it if you were working somewhere else.”

Disconnecting and not answering any emails during her time off also enables her to fully enjoy her time with the family. Drawing that line in the sand has enabled her to achieve a better work-life balance, as has being able to choose her own hours. “For instance, I want to be able to drop off and pick up my kids at school,” she says. “So now I plan my days around that.”

Ultimately though, the thing that has enabled her to strike a balance between her professional and her personal life is the fact that she has chosen the perfect franchise for her. “If you’re working on something that you’re passionate about, then it will be fun and won’t feel like you’re slugging away at some pointless exercise,” she says.

Cleaning the slate

Paul Clark hardly saw his family before he bought the Ovenu franchise in Warrington. His job as a social worker had left him in a situation where he could end up working 20-hour shifts. “Life was basically work and sleep,” he says. “It got to the point where we couldn’t do anything with the family because I was too tired. It wasn’t a good situation to be in.”

Like many others trying to solve the puzzle of how to make life and work fit together, Clark turned to franchising to find that missing piece. Not one to rush into decisions, he spent six months researching different options before deciding to buy into Ovenu, the oven-cleaning franchise. The factor that finally helped him make his mind up was that while many other businesses seemed singularly focused on selling franchises, Ovenu demonstrated that they would support Clark in his new endeavour. “I could ask any question I wanted and they gave me the contact information of a dozen franchisees that I could talk to about their experiences,” he says.

Those contacts would prove essential throughout Clark’s first 12 months because it gave him a chance to reach out and ask for advice whenever he needed to. However, that doesn’t mean his initial period as a franchisee was a pleasure cruise, as he still had to establish a network of customers and build up his own business. “But as time went by, I felt less and less pressure,” he says.

And when his first year was up, he found himself able to decide when he wanted to work and when he wanted to spend time with his family. Noticing how his work-life balance improved, his wife decided to join him in the business a few years later. “We can have friends over and plan our work lives around our social lives,” Clark says. While being a franchisee still means a lot of hard work, it’s helped him strike an improved balance between his job and his time off. “Working as a franchisee has given us a better quality of life,” he concludes.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson