Time is a funny beast, isn’t it? The most precious and limited of resources for anyone running a business. Whether franchisor or franchisee – weeks and months can disappear in the blink of an eye. Franchisors must focus on both the present and the future at the same time, which isn’t easy in the frenzy of day-to-day activities that go into managing a network of franchisees. Planning and developing for the future at the same time is no mean feat, especially today when technology moves at a pace never seen before.
But no matter how difficult it may seem, it’s central to continual success. Casting your mind ten years back proves the point and not just in franchising. In 2008, Twitter had barely got going, Facebook’s news feed was just a baby and Tumblr was an internet niche. Instagram and Pinterest were still two years away from launch and Snapchat didn’t see the dawn of day until 2011. These embryonic days of social media’s journey played out to a soundtrack from the likes of Leona Lewis and Duffy while Iron Man and The Dark Knight held sway at the box office, long before every other movie was a superhero sequel. Meanwhile, the economy was tanking and the first iPhone was released.
In UK franchising, modern day behemoths in their sector were nothing of the sort back then. Home Instead had just a handful of franchisees, Anytime Fitness was unheard of on these shores “and Costa Coffee had around 170 shops – a far cry from today’s 2,400 plus.”
Digital marketing was still in its infancy and feared by many. Dashboards were things you had in cars, not accounts, and tablets were what you took when you were ill. Some brands flourished spectacularly, others went bust or were radically changed by market forces. And that’s just a decade ago.
The point of that little trip down memory lane isn’t to laugh at deals gone wrong or marvel at our choices in film and music but to highlight that, as Ferris Bueller pointed out in 1986: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The pace of change has accelerated ever more ferociously since Ferris and his friends took a day off and it’s only going to get faster. Between technology, socio-political turmoil and Brexit-related economic uncertainty, even the near-term has plenty of vicious waters for businesses to navigate. Add to that AI and its potential impact on franchisors and franchisees and you can easily see why franchises must plan for the future.
Forward-thinking has opportunities and threats galore for franchising. One of the biggest advantages for franchisees of choosing a supported business model rather than going it alone is that someone else should be considering the bigger picture, future changes and evolving to meet demand, leaving them free to focus on growing their own business. For franchisors ahead of the curve, there’s a clear differentiation and feel to the business that makes them attractive to people considering their new venture.
In such networks, a long-term outlook is about much more than an excellent ongoing support structure – it’s about keeping the business itself relevant in a changing environment. If your business is in driving for example, threats come from the take-up and success of automated vehicles just as much as they do from that competitor franchise you don’t like very much. Every industry will face similar challenges in the future and the wheat will sort from the chaff in the way it always does. Essentially, as the saying goes, you snooze, you lose.
I’m lucky enough to work with what I consider to be some of the best franchises in the country and I get to see and hear first-hand how they approach evolution and innovation. It might be products, technology or even the franchise model itself but the common thread is that they’re never standing still.”
Through a combination of their teams, franchisees and suppliers they’re constantly pushing what’s possible in their business, making them well-prepared for what’s coming next. Nobody knows what that is of course but if the culture is one of continuous improvement, a franchise can be agile in ways that other businesses can’t.”
Future-proofing is one of the key differences that make the Netflixs stand out from the Blockbusters of the world. Franchisors are asking people to invest significant sums of their hard-earned cash into something that’s going to hopefully set them up for a brighter future. Those franchisees are, in most cases, looking to build an asset with a sale value that can transform their life after five, ten or more years of hard work. And as we’ve seen above, even when weeks and months are flying by, a decade is a long time in business. Life moves pretty fast and so do the finest in franchising. It’s important to make sure you’re one of them.”