According to Mental Health U.K. and Iwoca, around four in five small business owners are experiencing poor mental health. The same study showed that panic attacks and symptoms of depression are happening more frequently than before the pandemic.
Operating against the backdrop of a worsening cost of living crisis – characterized by soaring inflation, fuel and energy prices, labor shortages, the war in Ukraine, and difficulties trading with the E.U. – many overwhelmed small business owners are increasingly faced with a dilemma: whether to carry on or to give up.
But there is a third option… franchising their business and improving their wellbeing in the process.
Existing franchisors or franchisees can also benefit from going back to basics. Ask yourself – how far have we drifted from the original vision?
Around 2.9 million SME owners in the U.K. say they have experienced burnout because of the pandemic (FreeAgent, 2021).
‘Burnout’ is defined as a state of physical and mental exhaustion. It can manifest in a multitude of ways, such as waking up tired, even after many hours of sleep. Increased conflict, fuelled by emotional or aggressive communication, can impact both personal and professional relationships. The idea of more staff or customers to care for – once a source of joy – now feels overwhelming. Creeping anxiety or dread, coupled with pessimistic thoughts, can accompany low moods. Palpitations and stomach knots may occur alongside a host of physical sensations that are new to you, or increasing in frequency. Working more hours is not the answer. So, if any of this rings true, ask yourself:
- How sustainable is it for me to carry on?
- What are the costs to my health and wellbeing if I do?
- Is there another way to operate?
One answer is to create a blueprint of your business, with your values, procedures and policies as the DNA.
License franchisees to operate under your company name; then step back from the day-to-day running of the business and managing large teams of staff.
Is franchising right for you?
Staying small and being personally involved in service provision is a priority for some owner-operators. They like to be at the core of a handpicked team. Other SME owners, however, aspire to become a figurehead – replicating their model at multiple locations. To these people, having a single unit premises and a limited capacity to serve customers feels constricting.
Neither option is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The key is to stay true to your own nature, which should then guide your choice. Grander plans, for some people, may exacerbate existing symptoms of burnout. For others, they are the gateway to greatness and freedom.
If you have already franchised your business some time ago, or you’re a long-standing franchisee, is that choice still serving your best interests?
Is your business franchise-ready?
Shift your thinking from ‘owning a business’ to ‘designing a pilot business model’. TV executives commission pilot shows to test out the audience reaction. Similarly, you need franchisees to fall in love with your story (your purpose), the cast (you and your happy clients), and the plot (what goes on in your business every day). If you’re not there yet, don’t panic. Perfection is not demanded, but showing promise is.
Prospective franchisees need to know that what you’re offering represents a sound financial investment. So, at a minimum, you should have been operating profitably for 12 months. Adding services, revisiting supplier agreements, lowering costs and increasing prices are all ways to make more money. Accountants and business coaches may suggest other ideas on your franchise journey.
National brand in waiting
Some businesses exist to solve a problem affecting a community within a single geographic location. The service they provide has a localized impact by design. Other businesses are mission-led, with aspirations to serve at scale. The innovative idea behind their vision applies nationwide rather than in a specific postcode. If the problem you solve impacts people beyond a single physical location, there’s potential to become a national brand.
First steps to franchising
For you to be able to fully step back, a franchisee must be able to replicate your exact business model at another location – licensed under your company name and logo. Work with an intellectual property solicitor to trademark your business, then define your non-negotiables. What accreditations must your franchisee have? What industry standards must be met? Which other areas can you afford to be flexible in – allowing franchisees a degree of personal autonomy?
Your pilot business model also needs to be systemized. Put policies and procedures in place that can be adopted by franchisees. Everything, from how you define excellence in customer service to how you attract new clients through marketing, needs a blueprint. Start creating your operating manual now or update one that already exists.
Case study: Can-Do
Joanne Jones is a speech and language therapist of 22 years. She was approaching burnout, having assisted more than 4,000 families across 32 countries who were desperate for the right support to help their late-talking children at home.
“It was just me – delivering my ‘Can-Do’ program via Facebook from my garden shed during the pandemic,” explained Joanne. “Waiting lists for NHS support for late-talking children are at an all-time high, with delays of up to nine months in some local authorities. I felt constantly stressed knowing that what parents really needed was in-person, face-to-face support.
“I’ve redesigned my entire business model – recruiting 13 franchisees in the U.K. As trained Can-Do practitioners, they go out into their communities and help parents to work through the program, supported by an app with bite-sized video-learning content. The benefit to my mental health has been instant.”
5 key questions before you franchise
- Is stepping back from operations what you truly want to do?
- How will you use the time that you free up?
- What are the consequences of not franchising your business?
- Whose opinions do you value to help you make this decision?
- What mission are you asking franchisees to get behind?
Cheryl White is a former district nurse turned award-winning CEO of Apollo Care Franchising Ltd and Mercury Franchise School. She now helps future franchisors through her coaching and online study courses