7 Franchising Lessons Learned a Year Into the Pandemic

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Businesses have had to be resilient, adaptable and innovative to survive the past year - and the security of the franchising world has given franchisors and franchisees the chance to flourish. With the end of lockdown (hopefully) in sight, let’s run through the top franchise trends and business lessons we’ve learnt over the last 12 months.

While some franchise units have been forced to close their doors, the majority of franchisees have been able to survive - and even thrive - during the Covid-19 outbreak. At a time when furlough and redundancy is widespread, franchising can offer secure self-employment. People looking for a new start can gain independence from the 9-5 workday, but access expert advice and higher income potential at the same time. 

In fact, there are three main reasons why franchising has been a safety net for unemployed workers over the past year. First of all, redundancies have encouraged people to explore better work opportunities. But also, people have been able to generate savings, as a result of favourable economic conditions in recent years, and take advantage of the low-interest loans currently available. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the franchise industry has been hard at work providing its partners with new, robust supports and resources — something independent business owners did not have the opportunity to lean on… On top of that, they are answering the questions pertinent to any business’s survival: Do I continue to operate? What do I need? Where do I get this? Without a franchisor those questions become a lot tougher to answer. - Forbes 

7 franchising lessons we’ve learned a year into the Covid-19 pandemic

Franchising has helped many people launch businesses over the past year - but here are some of the key takeaways they’ll have to consider as we put the pandemic behind us: 

1. The importance of reviewing supply chains and keeping them simple 

Most businesses, no matter their industry, have experienced disruptions to their supply chains. Almost overnight, franchises were forced to cater to huge changes in consumer demand and keep things moving while suppliers paused or stopped their operations. 

Ultimately, the longer and more complicated your supply chain, the higher your risk of experiencing problems, so lots of franchises have taken steps to simplify their operations. 

2. The benefits of agility and adaptability

Businesses unwilling or unable to think on their feet and adapt quickly were left behind in 2020. For many companies, the pandemic made it necessary to consider and implement practices bosses had been putting off for a long time. As the UK continues to deal with the effects of the virus for months and years to come, commercial agility will remain an important aspect of running a franchise business. 

3. The unlimited uses of technology 

A large number of studies have demonstrated just how beneficial technology has been over the past 12 months. For instance, over half of businesses say they’ve adopted previously available but ignored technologies (Cisco), and that digitalisation has boosted their revenue, reduced outgoings and improved employee experiences (McKinsey). 

What’s more, many bosses have reported moving 20 to 25 times faster than they thought they could, in areas such as improving supply chains and data security (McKinsey).

Interest in entering franchising has accelerated in recent months as many people seek to establish new careers or stable business income streams.
—Mary Aldred, Franchise Council of Australia CEO

4. Consumer preferences are changing 

When McKinsey recently surveyed consumers in 13 major countries, over two thirds of respondents said they’d tried new ways to shop. And in the US, e-commerce grew by the same amount in the first six months of 2020 as it had during the previous 10 years. 

The increased focus on internet shopping and local businesses is likely to continue as the pandemic recedes, and businesses will need to carry on adapting to cater to demand.

5. Employees need more training

Back in 2018, the World Economic Forum suggested over half of employees would need “upskilling” by 2022. The Covid-19 pandemic and our increased use of technology has likely boosted this figure even further. 

At a low level, many employees have been forced to learn how to adopt new technologies and working practices over the past 12 months. But the pandemic will have boosted the need for upskilling and professional development even further. Most industries, from tech-heavy sectors such as financial services to customer-facing areas like retail, will need to invest in their workforces.

6. Bosses can trust their employees 

While bosses may previously have been wary of giving their staff more freedom, the pandemic has shown how beneficial remote work can be. Many companies have introduced flexible hours as well as home-based working. 

In most cases, employees have remained productive and enjoyed a more relaxed approach to their job with a better work/life balance. This change is unsurprising, given workers tend to perform better when they’re empowered by their bosses. In fact, almost seven in 10 people have considered leaving their job due to micromanagement - and over a third actually have (Harry Chambers). 

7. Importance of continual review and communication 

From sudden spikes in infection levels to the short-notice introduction of government restrictions, the past 12 months have been full of rapid changes. One of the biggest franchising lessons we’ve learned is the importance of ongoing reviews. It’s no good adapting once; businesses must implement plans and be ready to change them at a moment’s notice.

Having a collaborative communications team in place to manage changes with employees and customers is vital when it comes to success in the franchising industry and the wider business world. 

While trading conditions remain tough, the strategic value of being part of a strong franchise network hasn’t gone unnoticed and as we move into 2021, a well-qualified pool of potential franchisees are looking for new opportunities in a post-COVID economy.
—Mary Aldred, Franchise Council of Australia CEO

Find more tips on franchising during a pandemic 

Point Franchise is a one-stop shop for franchising tips and guidance, particularly when it comes to managing operations during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can find handy guides and articles informed by the latest industry data and keep up to date with franchising news right here.

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