By Peter Grant
If youâve been contemplating running your own business but think that the economic climate means you canât start it yet, think again. The financial slowdown has made it difficult for some businesses, yes, but if you can find a niche to work in, you could make a real success of your fledgling business.
Many people who want to work for themselves start out by opening a franchise business. Running a franchise can help to provide the support you need because you arenât thrown in at the deep end but rather, are given support by the franchisor. By running a franchise, you essentially buy the rights to trade under a certain brand and use its logo and other intellectual property. Hereâre some tips to take on board if you want to start your own business.
Thinking like a businessperson
There are so many franchises available that you can afford to think about what really interests you and what you think youâd be good at. How could your personality help you to run a business? With any business venture, youâll need to have strong motivation and enjoy meeting people and giving them good service. This is, after all, what makes your customers want to return to you again in the future.
Choosing a franchise
Think about the experience you have and how you could best lend this to a franchise. If youâve worked in a restaurant before and helped to manage the business, you could think about running a food franchise. Or, if you enjoy graphic design and have good attention to detail, you could contemplate running a print franchise.
Make sure the franchise you choose offers support. Contact existing franchisees and ask them what they think about the franchisor. Use this feedback to help you in weighing up the risks and benefits of each particular franchise youâre interested in.
Your business plan
The very nature of a franchise means youâll get much more support than if you were going it alone in a start-up. You will need to write a business plan though, to give yourself direction. Your franchisor and any finance lenders you meet with may want to check this.
Start by describing your business and the service you are going to offer. Mention the competition you believe youâll face in your area and how you will navigate around this to be successful and one step ahead of them. Include a conservative estimate of what you expect to make in your first, second and third year of operation.
How to anticipate your customers
Whatever service or product you want to offer, and however unique you think it is, potential customers wonât come near you unless you can persuade them why they need your product â and why they should choose you over a competitor. You need to focus on unique selling points, or USPs. Which USPs do you think you can offer, and how will these benefit your customers? You might find it easier to come up with USPs by thinking first about the lives of your customers. For busy mums who work full time, can you offer a delivery service in the evening to suit them? Can you do a quick turnaround? Think about what convenience you can offer your customers, including a competitive price.
Money, money, money
One question that will certainly need answering before you jump into a franchise is â how are you going to fund it? While it is certainly significantly cheaper to start a franchise than your own stand-alone business, you will need some funds up front.
If youâre thinking of getting finance to get the franchise going, banks are usually quite positive about lending to franchisees because there is much less risk involved.
Regarding the everyday running of your franchise, remember to set yourself a budget for everything â from phone providers to stationery providers â and stick to it. For a healthy cash flow, make sure your customers pay on time. You can encourage this by asking them to pay a deposit or signing a contract.
Advertising your franchise
Thankfully for franchisees, marketing isnât as tough as it could be. Due to the awareness of the brand youâre joining already being in the public arena, youâve got half the battle won.
Donât forget though that people will still need to know your particular branch of the franchise exists, so itâs often a good idea to focus on your local market, demonstrating local knowledge.
Make sure the area you want to open up in has a market for your business, otherwise itâll be an uphill battle from the offset for you to win customers.
You can advertise in a number of ways, and donât underestimate business cards for networking â keep them on you at all times. Doing a little market research could be very helpful too, giving you an insight into what makes your customers tick and what they think about your competitors.
As youâre running a business, youâll be able to access your customersâ details so you must be careful with them â and make sure your staff are too. Train them consistently and make sure they check details each time a customer contacts you. Consistency helps to reassure customers and will also help you build a great reputation.