The British Franchising Association‘s CEO explains why the UK – Brexit notwithstanding – is the perfect place to expand your brand

When did you join the bfa and what positions have you held?

My journey at the bfa started back in 1999 as a business services assistant, and I loved every second off it. Since then I have taken every opportunity to progress –  from event manager, client service manager, business development manager, operations manager, Head of Operations, and finally CEO in April 2016. It’s no understatement to say the bfa has been at the very heart of my life for over 18 years now.   
What does it mean to you to be bfa’s CEO?

Being CEO of the bfa has given me the chance to build on the massive success of the association, driving previous initiatives forward whilst introducing some of my own ideas. Crucially, I see the opportunity for the bfa to grow and go beyond a standards and membership driven organisation, delivering much, much more. For example introducing the Training Academy is a way of broadening the many potential services we provide to the franchise community, with many more such initiatives to follow. We as a team are genuinely excited with the potential to grow the membership on the back of an enhanced offering and increasing the visibility of the amazing work being done, whilst lobbying hard for all things ethical in business format franchising in the UK.   
What have you achieved in this position?

In terms of our achievements, I’d highlight the introduction of professional franchising accreditations such as the PFC, via the training academy, with several more courses under development. I’m also very proud of the International Franchise week in 2016 – first ever Global Franchise event held in the UK! And achieving membership growth across all categories for two years running is a real milestone for the organisation. And we are just getting started, so much more to do… 
What are the franchising issues you most care about?

I want to see the bfa take the lead in driving recognition of the role ethical franchising plays in the UK economy, and using this visibility to drive interest in the sector for both new franchisors and franchisees. Franchising simply does not get the recognition or interest it deserves amongst the business and mainstream media and we need to do something about that.   

What are the challenges facing the franchising industry as a whole today?

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, obviously – it’s driving uncertainty. However I see a green light at the end of the tunnel now. It should slowly start to resolve itself, and in time even become a driver for further growth, both nationally and internationally. The UK economy is one where small businesses can thrive, with massive opportunities for growth going forward, and ethical franchising plays a major role in driving this potential. 

Which areas of the franchising industry could stand improvement?

Visibility and education, both of which will be the main focus of the bfa for the foreseeable future. Business format franchising is a pillar and driving force of the UK franchising community and needs to be front of mind for the UK business media, in itself driving further growth. Education is a fundamental part of researching the specific industry sector, which is the No1 factor in determining success for franchisees in all sectors, so improving this has to be at the heart of the bfa’s mission.   

What drew you to franchising in the first place?
The opportunity to make a difference in a meaningful, ethical organisation. Opportunities to have a life-long career in such an association as the bfa are not as common as one would hope, so I grabbed it with both hands.

How important is franchising to the U.K. economy?

The numbers speak for themselves: Franchising is worth £15 billion to the UK economy annually; franchising delivers 1% of the UK GDP, all by itself; 620K people are employed in UK Franchising directly; over 50% of everyone employed are full time. 

What makes the U.K. a promising place to expand to?

Short answer – everything, once we have clarity on Brexit. Of all the reasons I could pick here, I’ll highlight one that is rarely mentioned – UK Franchising does not suffer from the rules and intense regulatory environment you see elsewhere, driving costs and time delays, and is therefore much easier, cheaper and quicker on existing international franchisors expanding into the UK. Much as that sounds like a smaller concern for many large global businesses, trust me, it’s not. 

If you had your time over, is there anything you would do differently?

I loved every second of my time at the bfa, and I’m so excited for the future. There will always be challenges, and we will always need to learn and adapt to grow, but I honestly would not change a thing. 

What advice would you give to those considering master franchising?

Three words – research, training and advice! You have to know ‘what’ you are doing and ‘who’ you are doing it with before you engage. So check, learn and get professional, accredited advice. It does not matter if you are from the same industry, if you have known people for years, or if you are super confident – do your research, attend the training seminars and get a consultant and a lawyer who specialise in business format franchising! Join the bfa and we will ensure you have the very best opportunities for research, training and advice, ‘cause we want you to succeed.   

What would you consider to be essential considerations when planning an overseas expansion?

Good question… I’ve always found that the real key to working overseas, outside of the UK is about the people – your advisors, your partners, your suppliers, everyone you rely on to tell you what you need to do in that environment. The crucial element is in-country experience. Get that right - get committed, professional and knowledgeable people on your side, and you will not go too far wrong. Thinking you can go it alone and muddle through is probably the fastest way to an expensive disaster. 

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