Want to be your own boss but don’t fancy being stuck in one place all the time? Why not get on the right road with a mobile franchise?
WORDS: PAUL F COCKBURN
After years of following orders, the idea of becoming your own boss in civvy street can be very attractive; not least the idea of being able to choose what you do, how you do it – and when!
Of course, setting up on your own does have drawbacks; not least the fact that… you’re on your own. The buck starts and stops with you when it comes to attracting – and keeping – customers, getting the job done properly, and making sure that all your finances are up to date.
Which may well explain the rising popularity of franchising – where you’re running your own business under the banner of a company that has, essentially, done all the hard work for you – they’ve tested the market, sourced the best products, and learnt from their mistakes. You’ll still have to work hard to make a go of it, but at least you have good reconnaissance on the business front line, and head office back-up just a phone call away that has a vested interest in your success.
If, during your time in uniform, you’ve got used to a life on the move, the prospect of working in the same place, day after day, might not appeal. Luckily, with 21st century Britons increasingly expecting services and products to come to them, rather than the other way round, there are growing opportunities to get a business on the road.
Mobile franchises – what are often still called ‘man and a van’ businesses, despite more women getting involved – are increasingly common and cover a wide range of sectors: from household and kitchen cleaning to catering and delivery services; from car valeting and DIY trades to lawn and garden maintenance; and everything from drain cleaning and pet care to snack and fast food delivery.
These are just some of the van-based businesses that you could become involved in through franchising. More information on the opportunities available can be found through the British Franchise Association – the sector’s trade body – and the range of franchise exhibitions, magazines and websites currently available in the UK.
MOBILE FRANCHISES – THE ADVANTAGES
Mobile franchises come with certain advantages:
- Mobile franchises can be among the least expensive businesses in which you can invest, certainly compared with those requiring large premises and numerous staff. Some mobile franchises will not even expect you to buy the van and equipment, although leasing is usually more expensive in the long run.
- Your vehicle is your office. With just you on the road, there’s no need to hire and fit-out an office or hire somebody to answer the phone – keeping your costs down and your profits up.
- Your vehicle is also your biggest promotional tool. With the business name and contact details across the sides of the van, you have a prominent advert that will be seen by thousands of people every week as you drive around your area.
- You have flexibility to change your day and adapt your lifestyle to suit your business needs – and vice versa!
- You may be working for yourself, but you’re not on your own. Reputable franchisors provide training, advice and a range of support (from administration to marketing) at all stages of your business – from initial start up to the end of the franchise period. As you’re using their carefully nurtured brand, they have a real interest in ensuring you succeed.
- You’ll be part of an expanding sector in the economy, able to react to growing customer needs – not ‘stuck’ in one place.
- Many van-based mobile franchises enable you to build on your own success by hiring additional drivers and vans to develop your business onto the next level.
ON THE ROAD
When it comes to mobile franchises, it’s fair to say that – as with most businesses – profits are there to be earned, rather than just taken. You’ll have to put in the time and effort; almost certainly, that’ll mean spending hours behind the wheel, on your own, travelling between customers – most franchisors will not overpopulate any particular geographical area with too many franchisees, so you’re unlikely to be restricted to just your local neighbourhood.
As with any franchise or business start-up, there are important points to consider. Finance, as ever, is vital. Make sure you don’t borrow more than you can afford to pay back; and that you maintain a sound financial way of thinking as you stop off at that roadside cafe. There’s plenty of advice on offer, from sector body the British Franchise Association, websites including whichfranchise.com and the numerous magazines and exhibitions around the UK.
If all of this doesn’t appeal, then chances are that a mobile franchise isn’t the kind of business for you. But, if you’re looking to be a kind of Lone Ranger – travelling alone (or maybe with your own loyal ‘Tonto’ sidekick) – who goes in, does the job, and then move on, then a van-based mobile franchise could be just what you’re looking for.
British Franchise Association
01865 379 892, www.thebfa.org
0141 204 0050, www.whichfranchise.com
FRANCHISING: THE BASICS
• Business format franchising is when a company licences its trade name, brand and business system to others, usually in return for an initial payment and a monthly royalty fee.
• The UK’s franchise sector generated more than £11.4 billion in 2008, employing some 467,000 people.
• Reputable franchisors have a success hit rate of more than 90%, according to Mike Goddard, chairman of the British Franchise Association. He told us: “If you look at a similar statistic for non-franchised business, it’s much lower, below 50%.”
• Mike Goddard believes Service leavers have the discipline, motivation, and ability to follow structures and procedures set down to get a job done – all qualities franchisors love in their franchisees.
• The bfa is the main trade body in the UK; full members have passed an accreditation procedure which ensures they adhere to agreed ethical, legal and financial standards. Call 01865 379 892 or visit www.thebfa.org for more information.