My franchising story started in 2004, when I was browsing on the internet for alternatives to teaching in a classroom and I stumbled across Kip McGrath. Kip McGrath Education centres provide professional after school tuition in English and maths and the business is a franchise. Franchising is a practice where a corporation permits another entity to use the company’s already successful business solution. The franchisor and the franchisee enter into a contract to use and capitalize on the company’s successful business solution and/or its existing brand awareness (most often called Goodwill) for a faster return of capital.
Setting up something similar had crossed my mind in the past. But, with all the news about traditional firms closing left and right, the horror prevented me from taking action. I also knew that I would be copied very easily as the idea and concept was not new and to try to copy for example just the computer programmes that Kip McGrath use would require months of my time. Private tuition was and still a growing business in the UK and there are a lot of cowboys out there. By going down the franchising route, I knew that I was part of a bigger organization that already had reputation for providing tuition worldwide. (Kip is an Australian company and is also in New Zealand, America, South Africa, Singapore, Nigeria and Kenya). The business model worked and it reduced the chances of failure.
Kip McGrath is also a recognized brand name and I know that in Luton, where I setup my first centre, it is now the household name for tuition. But even though the statistics showed it was a successful franchise to run, I still went to my initial interview with about 20 questions which were mainly to do with the contract which I looked through with a fine toothed comb and got a business link mentor to the same for me.
So what have I learnt?
- Before going into a franchise always ask yourself the question – can I do this without franchising, because if you can then you will save yourselves thousands of pounds in franchise fees. A good franchise cannot be copied.
- How much time will the franchise take? What makes most people decide on purchasing a franchise is the opportunity to run away from the regular 9-5 office job. Owning a franchise is the best way to become one’s own boss. However, purchasing a franchise does not mean a lot of free time for your family and friends. When I opened my first Centre in September 2004, the business took off so quickly that within the first 6 weeks I had to employ another teacher, and was working 7 days a week. My son and husband were neglected because the hours were evenings and weekends. Think about how much time you can spare and the impact it will have on your lifestyle. To make any business successful you have to “work it”. The more you put into it the more you get out. And by my nature I’m the sort of person that doesn’t do things by halves, I can’t provide a half hearted service I can’t not be passionate about my business, I can’t stop caring about the children.
- Do it for the right reasons. It would be unrealistic to say that money wasn’t a major factor into helping me decide to setup in business. I didn’t take a wage from my business for the first 2 years because I re-invested all of the money back into the business. But it wasn’t the main reason. I didn’t go into it for money, I went for it because I loved teaching, I loved helping worried parents and I loved to see children understand something new in class. So if you’ve decided to try franchising, but can’t decide what to do then start off by thinking “what is it that I am good at” “why am I doing this”? Look at the experience? You might have a dream that there is something you’ve always wanted to do – then do that.
- It’s given me confidence. I would never have dreamed of speaking to a group of women at such an event as this. But you know, for the last 2 years I have been a regular guest on the Lorna Milton Show on BBC three Counties Radio. I am the reading and writing expert and I get such excellent feedback after every show that I thought well I must be doing something right. And so now I have my own radio show. It’s a small community radio show run completely by volunteers and I along with my husband do the “Kip McGrath Education Show” every Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.
- I’ve learnt from other franchisees and vice versa. If you have your own business you have to go out there and try different things to help it take off. But with franchising, if I want to design a new newspaper advert, rather than do it from scratch, I just send an email to all the franchisees and get loads of samples for free. The most important thing in business is knowing what works and in franchising you get that. If I want to moan about something business related I just ring up one of the other franchisees and within 10 minutes I’m calm again. It’s like being in a big family.