Can you really franchise a Creative Business?

Franchise opportunities for mums

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

 

Women In Franchising!

ARTventurers is a proud member of EWIF – Encouraging Women into Franchising – and our founder and MD Fiona was named Woman Franchisor of the Year 2018 in the EWIF Franchising Awards 2018

In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of women business owners generally – in the USA  more than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, and female-owned businesses now account for 39% of all privately held firms. (Statistics from the American Express OPEN Report “The State of Women-Owned Businesses 2017”).

And franchise experts report a rising trend in women entering the world of franchising.  In the UK women now account for nearly 25% of franchisees and  the International Franchise Association is seeing a similar shift. Women owned 27 percent of franchise locations in 2017, it says, compared with 20.5 percent in 2007 – and that doesn’t include another 17% of the population where men and women operate franchises together as partners. Between 2011 and 2017, female franchise ownership jumped by 83 percent, while male ownership only increased 13 percent, according to FranNet, the US based franchise consultancy.

So what is it about the world of franchising that holds such an appeal to a skyrocketing number of female business owners?

One common held belief is that many women are attracted to franchise opportunities in part due to skill sets and personality traits. Female business owners tend often to be more financially cautious and therefore the lesser element of financial risk often associated with buying into a franchise of an already well established brand may have significant appeal over starting up a business from scratch.

Women generally have strong communication skills, are good networkers and take a collaborative approach to working. These are traits which not only make them excellent franchisees with the key skills to engage their target market and grow their businesses, but which also mean that women are likely to be drawn to the idea of joining an established franchise network and working as part of a team, being in business for themselves but not by themselves.

In addition, an increasing number of women are seeking flexible careers outside of the traditional nine to five role. Franchising is seen as a route to building a flexible business around family life or other caring commitments, with the support of the franchisor and management team.  The speed at which a franchisee is able to be up and running with the new business as it is a tried and tested business model is also therefore an appealing factor.

The growth in the number of female franchisees is also likely to be attributable to the wider variety of business sectors entering the franchise world, particularly those which tend to attract women. I previously wrote for Forbes about the franchising boom in the children’s activity industry – an industry which certainly does currently attract more female than male franchisees. Similarly domestic and caring based businesses are taking up an increasing share of the franchise market and are also historically more likely to attract female franchisees. In addition, it is considered to be the case that women may often choose a business based on their own interests or it’s “purpose” rather than simply on financial prospects alone – and again there are an increasing number of franchises available covering areas such as art, food and drink, tutoring and sports.  Many female franchisees will report that the reason they first investigated their particular franchise opportunity was because they were attracted by the product or service.

One other factor must be the emergence of networks and schemes specifically set up to encourage women into franchising such as EWIF, the IFA’s Women’s Franchise Network, and the British Franchise Association’s Women into Franchising initiative. Networks and initiatives such as this have not only raised awareness of franchising amongst women generally, but have resulted in a trend towards more franchisors specifically targeting women in their franchise marketing.

Whatever the aims and ambitions for her venture a female entrepreneur may have, it is clear that very nature of franchising really can lend itself to the way in which many women want to set up and run a business  – with a network of fellow franchisees and support from the franchisor. With this female focused trend only set to continue, it will be interesting to see how franchisors will not only adapt their franchise marketing methods, but also if many will also take steps to adapt their franchise models and processes to attract more women into their businesses,

A version of this article was first published on Forbes.com in September 2018
Fiona, the founder and MD of ARTventurers is a Forbes Contributor and regularly writes on issues surrounding franchising.
You can read more of Fiona’s articles here