ARTventurers is a creative business – we run art classes for babies, toddlers and children, what could be more creative than that?! But can a creative business really be franchised without losing the creative heart of the business?
The International Franchise Association offers the following definition of a franchise :
|Franchising is a method for expanding a business and distributing goods and services through a licensing relationship. In franchising, franchisors not only specify the products and services that will be offered by the franchisees (a person or company who is granted the license to do business under the trademark and trade name by the franchisor), but also provide them with an operating system, brand and support.|
Franchising, by its nature, therefore generally discourages innovation and creativity on the part of franchisees. Franchisees are required by their franchisors to follow very specific policies and procedures on exactly what they will sell, how they will make or deliver it, where they can and cannot trade and how they carry out their marketing. The strict adherence to brand guidelines will be one of the major keys to the success of the franchise brand – I have previously written about the importance to both franchisor and franchisee of brand consistency in marketing messages and beyond.
However, for a business like ARTventurers which has creativity at its core and therefore attracts creative individuals to it as potential franchisees, there’s a real challenge if the business is to expand through franchising. Is it even possible to franchise a creative business given the structured and often rigid nature of a franchise relationship?
It might be unsurprising for you to read that I firmly believe the answer is yes – it is possible to franchise a creative business successfully. However there are unique challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that the creative heart of the business isn’t extinguished as it grows, whilst also ensuring that the franchisees remain on brand and the core identity isn’t lost.
As with any franchise recruitment, getting the right people on board in the first place as franchisees is fundamental. Creative minded people often are deterred from exploring franchise opportunities in the first place, fearing that they won’t have enough flexibility to stretch their creative muscles. However, creative individuals can make fantastic franchisees – not only do they have the inherent passion about what they do to communicate to and enthuse their customers and build a successful business, they’re also able to think outside of the box when it comes to marketing and promotion too, helping them to stay ahead of the rest and stand out among the crowd. On the flip side though, it’s vital to ensure that franchisees from the very outset understand the importance of and respect the wider brand identity and message, being clear that any creative flexibility on their part must remain within strict parameters. It’s important to select franchisees who ultimately share the core values of the franchise brand so that everyone is working towards the same common goal.
As a franchisor, having a franchise network that is buzzing with creative ideas and energy can be your biggest asset and one to be ignored at your peril. I believe the key to successfully franchising a creative business is empowering franchisees with the opportunities to be involved in the creative development aspect of the business, encouraging them to innovate and share ideas. Within my own business, we make sure that our franchisees have fully mastered the basics first with our support and training, and of course it goes without saying that there are certain aspects of the brand, product and service which must never be tampered with. Consistency in brand marketing and messages remains vital. However giving franchisees the opportunity to put their own creative stamp onto certain aspects of their business not only satisfies their creative flair and needs, but also means that they continue to be passionate and enthused about what they do and feel valued as part of the wider business therefore producing excellent franchisee retention rates. And harnessing a franchisee’s creativity and taking a collaborative team approach to business development with their input and ideas means that the brand is constantly moving forward, innovating and evolving rather than plodding along – essential as a company in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Communication is also a necessary foundation to successfully franchising a creative business. Making sure that there is an open and honest relationship between franchisee and franchisor results in franchisees having the confidence and feeling supported to implement creative ideas of their own in a transparent fashion. Encouraging creativity with a high degree of transparency is vital because that is what allows the organization as a whole to see what is working and what is not, identify where franchisees may be going “off piste” and need to be steered back in and other compliance issues, and provides the brand with valuable insights into customer responses.
Of course this approach to franchising won’t work for every brand, and I can imagine that some elements of this article may strike fear into the heart of some franchisors! The key must be communication and clear guidelines with a real ethos of teamwork within the franchise network. Staying consistent with the core components of your brand doesn’t mean that you can’t keep the creative heart of your business alive – with the right framework in place I firmly believe it is possible to franchise a creative business in a way that benefits both franchisor and franchisee, producing an extremely exciting opportunity for both parties.
A version of this article written by ARTventurers founder and MD Fiona Simpson first appeared on Forbes.com in October 2018. You can read it here
Fiona is a Forbes contributor and regularly writes for Forbes on issues relating to franchising. You can read other articles written by Fiona here