Why should you choose a BFA-approved franchise?

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The journey to becoming a franchisee can be exciting and nerve racking – and it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. For this reason, it’s important that you make an informed decision based on thorough research, consultations with franchise specialists and open and honest discussions with your family. After all, franchising is a choice that will affect your close family and friends too.

A key consideration when choosing the right franchise for you should be whether the franchise in question is a member of the British Franchise Association (BFA). This is the governing body that represents the franchise industry in the UK. To become a member of the BFA, a franchise business must adhere to a set of standards that establishes best practice in the franchising world.

The main objective of the BFA is to create credibility in the franchise industry for it to grow. To do this, the BFA offers impartial advice and information to franchisors and franchisees to enable them to grow in a positive way. So, if you do find a franchise that is a member of the BFA, what does this mean?

Membership involves more than paying a fee

BFA membership is not simply a case of paying a fee. A franchise will only be accepted as a member once they have satisfied certain standards within their business. There are four main principles that are central to the accreditation:

Viable – It must be evidenced that the product or service being offered is marketable and profitable enough to support a franchised network.

Transferable – For a franchise to be a success, the transfer of knowledge and experience is crucial. Therefore, new franchisees must be able to pick up the franchise model and run the business efficiently without relying on the franchisor.

Ethical – By reviewing the potential member’s franchise agreement, it can be determined whether the franchise complies with the European Code of Ethics for Franchising. Ethical principles must be applied to many areas of the business, including advertising, recruiting, selecting and interactions with franchisees.

Disclosed – All data, statistics and figures that are relevant to the franchise proposal must be made available to prospective franchisees in a clear and unambiguous manner.

This is a rigorous process, but accreditation from the BFA demonstrates that the franchisor is offering a viable franchise opportunity that operates fairly and ethically. Many companies are refused membership because they do not reach all the criteria required. This is exactly why franchisors take such pride in displaying the membership logo.

Different Levels of Membership

When you’re seeking out the perfect franchise, it’s helpful to understand that there are three different types of membership on offer for franchises:

Full members - Full members must continuously demonstrate that they have a proven business model and a good track record of success. They have achieved and maintained the high standards set by the BFA and have an established network of franchisees.

Associate members – These are members that have proven that they have run at least one franchised outlet for 12 months and are now in the process of building their network. A training and support programme will be in place and a small number of franchisees will have invested in the company. Although the business model looks robust, it will have only been tested over only a short amount of time.

Provisional listing – This group represents companies that are right at the beginning of their development in franchising. The business is likely to be successful and the franchise model is currently in its pilot phase. By becoming a BFA member at this stage, a company is demonstrating their commitment to developing their franchise in line with BFA industry standards.

Other Benefits

When a franchisor becomes a BFA member, they immediately benefit from the credibility it provides, which can be an advantage not only when attracting franchisees, but also when applying for funding. Many high street banks that have a specialist franchise department will appreciate that BFA membership indicates a quality franchise. This will make it easier to secure capital from the bank to contribute to development costs.

Franchisees also benefit. They’ll be protected when it’s time to renew the franchise agreement. The BFA states that any renewal fees should not be a profit-making opportunity for the franchisor; they should only reflect the cost of the administration fees associated with the renewal.

On the other hand, if the franchisee decides not to renew the franchise agreement, selling the business may also be easier if the franchisor is a BFA member. Just as the franchisee was initially attracted to the brand because of its credibility, future franchisees will be too, which makes the business more valuable.

Franchisees can join too

In 2012, the BFA allowed franchisees to become members too, so that all parts of the franchise population could be represented under a single ethical organisation. For just £10 a month, franchisees of BFA members can receive cashback on various personal and business purchases, free HR and employment law advice and a wealth of other business benefits. They even get the opportunity to nominate themselves for the BFA board of directors, so that they can have a say in the future of UK franchising.

Hopefully it’ll never be needed but, as a member of the BFA, franchisees can also access a free dispute resolution service, should things go wrong. Even though this service is rarely required, it’s good to know it’s there if there are any problems during the franchising journey.

And remember…

BFA membership is not a guarantee of franchisee success. As with any investment, thorough research should be carried out before a decision is made. A franchise agreement is a legally binding document and may not be easy for franchisees to get out of if they realise that a mistake has been made halfway through the term of the contract. The only way to confidently enter the world of franchising is to use the BFA as a tool to aid decision-making and consult a BFA-affiliated solicitor for advice and expertise.

What else does the BFA offer?

The BFA doesn’t just award memberships to worthy recipients. It also helps franchises improve their business and reach the level where they can become members. It is the BFA’s priority to improve the franchising landscape and make sure that as many franchises as possible are operating ethically. Therefore, it is dedicated to providing training courses and qualifications to those willing to improve.

BFA Franchise Training Academy

The BFA’s Franchise Training Academy – or FTA – is an educational resource that is available to everyone. This includes franchisors, franchisees, professional advisors and even members of the public that are interested in franchising. By earning a nationally recognised FTA qualification, you can learn the skills needed for your next venture in the world of franchising and prove that you have them.

The FTA offers three different qualifications:

Qualified Franchise Professional (QFP)

This is for those that already work in the franchise industry. This qualification will demonstrate that they have the knowledge, experience and ethical approach needed to succeed. It also acknowledges that the qualified individual has committed time and effort to their franchising journey and is dedicated to their professional development.

Those that enrol onto a QFP course can boost their knowledge and experience without significantly disrupting their work. Franchises can benefit from the programme by offering it to employees, which should improve staff retention levels and morale.

The course comprises regular events and seminars that participants must attend for a period of up to three years. By going to these events, attendees can collect points. Once they’ve got a certain amount, they’ll be invited to an interview with a panel of experts, after which they should be awarded the QFP qualification.

Prospect Franchisee Certificate

This is a free, online, video-based programme which participants can complete in their own time. By working through modules, users develop a good understanding of the franchising model. By the end, they should be familiar with the franchisee recruitment process and know how to successfully own and run a business. They will also be given guidance on creating an application that is attractive to franchisors.

Prospect Franchisor Certificate

This is a similar course, but it is aimed at prospective franchisors rather than prospective franchisees. By the end of it, those that enrolled should be ready to franchise their business. They’ll know how to grow a franchise, craft a business plan and negotiate funding options. The Prospect Franchisor Certificate will also provide information about the legal aspect of franchising, regarding confidentiality, deposits and the franchise agreement. Case studies of franchisors will also be available to peruse.

Other Support

On top of these three courses, the FTA also runs regular seminars that present extra information and offer advice to people looking to take their next steps in the franchise industry. Perhaps you’re a business owner hoping to use the franchising model to grow your company? Or a prospective business owner that wants the backing of an established brand as they start their own company? Whatever your situation, you’ll be able to find the support you’re after at the BFA’s Franchise Training Academy.

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