Looking Back: Franchising Lessons We Never Expected to Learn in 2020

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Last year was tough for virtually every business owner, but there are a number of positive takeaways from 2020. Even though many of them were learned as a result of stress, heartache and necessity, we believe the lessons learned from 2020 can set any franchise professional up for a brighter future.

Plenty of difficult lessons were learned in 2020, including how quickly fortunes can reverse. But aside from the harsh truths that none of us welcomed with open arms, franchise owners across the globe also learned valuables lessons. The global franchise sector hasn’t been immune to struggle, but many of its incredible networks have rallied and managed to thrive despite the incredibly trying circumstances. 

In this article, we’re going to be looking at five of the lessons we never expected to learn in 2020, but that will set franchise businesses up for an even stronger future. We’re going to be highlighting incredible examples from across our network to show just how much franchises managed to achieve. 

How adaptable business models are

Franchising has always been an excellent choice for entrepreneurs who crave more flexibility in their lives, but 2020 has seen even more franchises flex their business models. From the introduction of virtual consultations at home improvement franchise Shuttercraft to Daniel Moquet’s virtual showroom, franchises in every sector pivoted their way of operating. 

One franchise went even further. Century 21 has introduced two new models to its franchise offering, Century 21 Flex and Century 21 Solo, in light of changing working habits. Now, franchisees won’t need to find a permanent base to operate their business, as the new franchise packages are designed to work with remote operation in mind. 

The original, high street branch package, Century 21 Max, still exists, but now investors can choose an option that best suits their goals and lifestyle. 

Giving back to the local community is key

The Covid-19 pandemic ushered in wide-spread hardship across the country. Many businesses that were lucky enough to escape the impact of restrictions have made it their mission to give back to individuals and businesses around them. Of course, plenty of franchises give back year-round, but at a time like this, charity felt even more important. 

Minuteman Press is just one of the franchises to keep its local communities at the front of its mind. Its ‘Bounce Back’ scheme was rolled out by individual franchisees across the world, which gave them an opportunity to use their services in a charitable way. Some set up websites or offered free services to help local businesses attract new customers and get back on their feet. 

Recognition Express’s West Scotland location stepped up its work with the Salvation Army to combat the effects of lockdown on modern slavery. It produced face masks alongside its usual product range that were designed to raise awareness of modern slavery, which sadly still happens all across the UK. Owner Stephen Price said:

“We are proud to be involved with this campaign, and it has been an enlightening project to work on. I have a far greater awareness of this very serious and worrying issue and hope that the striking imagery on the face masks encourages people to find out more about tackling modern slavery.”

How much a franchisor’s support can mean

During troubling times, being able to rely on a responsive and supportive franchisor has emerged as one of the most important things for franchisees. Many have answered franchisees’ questions as quickly as possible, distributed information about the support that’s available or offered guidance to steer franchisees through tricky periods of restrictions. 

TaxAssist Accountants has stood out as one of the most supportive franchisors at its franchisees’ greatest time of need. It set up a Covid-19 information hub on its main website and regularly published informative content to keep franchisees in the loop. New franchisees were also refunded £4,000 of their franchisee fee to compensate for its fully virtual training course. 

The impact technology can have on a business

Everyone knows just how much digitalisation has changed the way we do business. But without technology, many franchises wouldn’t have been able to trade at all, let alone enjoy growing numbers of customers. 2020 has made it clear just how massive the impact of technology can be on a franchise’s chance of succeeding. 

Swimtime introduced a new AI feature to its classes. Mypass allows students at the kids & children’s franchise to enter just 15 minutes before their session, minimising how many people are together at any one time. Due to their bright colours, the staff at the franchise can easily review them from a safe two-metre distance and keep everyone safe. 

Another franchise used the first lockdown of March 2020 to roll out innovative new technology. The Wheel Specialist introduced a new Contactless Customer Processing System (CCPS). This smartphone-based method of processing a customer's job from start to finish cut down on paperwork and kept each franchisee safe, as it removed the need for any physical signatures. 

How successful a franchise can be during a crisis

Despite all the challenges 2020 threw their way, some franchises actually enjoyed periods of incredible success. My Window Cleaner franchisees Gareth launched his business right at the beginning of the pandemic. After making some adjustments to the usual launch plan, the ambitious franchisee was able to rake in £1,400 in his first week - more than My Window Cleaner’s first recruit made during the whole of their first month! Gareth said:

“Here’s to many more records! Hopefully, the next wave of franchisees can break them working from our experiences.”

Looking ahead

2020 was a year most of us would never wish to repeat. But the lessons we’ve been forced to learn will hopefully help franchisees, franchisors and independent business owners across the UK come out even stronger. As they say, ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’. 

If you’re looking for more handy franchising resources, check out our articles page. We publish fact-based content every day, covering everything from marketing to our favourite books and podcasts.

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