CEO Meets Ashtons Franchise Consulting

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The British Franchise Association have created a series of interviews with their members, in CEO Meets Ashtons Franchise Consulting, the bfa’s Pip Wilkins meets Nick Williams – managing consultant at Ashtons.

What is your background in franchising?

With 22 years in franchising, I started by accident really. After rising through the ranks of Barclays Bank, to the point where they made me redundant, along the way I had lent money to franchisors and franchisees.  I had come to know something about franchising because of the presence of a business based in Norwich called Franchise Development Services and the founder of it, Roy Seaman, was a prominent promotor of all things franchising. After seeing an advert for a consultant role, I promptly picked up the phone…

My time through franchising has been fantastic, people talk about franchising as being like a family, and it is exactly that. I’ve loved it and it’s taken me all through the UK. It’s taken me to all the major exhibitions for franchising in Europe and to the States.

(Watch the full interview – ©British Franchise Association)

So, talk to me a bit about the services that you deliver at Ashton’s for both new and established franchisors.

We start from the very beginning. For some clients we start from a point where we may just do no more than spend a day with them at the business talking about how to structure their business from the very beginning so that it can be franchisable once they’ve reached a state of maturity.

Franchising requires a state of maturity; the brand must be proven and profitable, with established methodology that isn’t too dependent on the founder and has some traction in the marketplace so that consumers are interested in the proposition.

So, what we work with is essentially businesses that want to grow through franchising. They maybe don’t have the financial resource to reach their goal organically, but they can do that by reaching out through franchising. So, we help them first to look at how ready they are, what systems may be lacking, what they know, what they don’t know. We’ll help them by doing a feasibility study.

The second stage is where we help people to prepare the infrastructure, training programme, systems and controls, manual and then we take them through to recruitment strategy and documents, their marketing campaign, teach them how to franchise, and to be a franchisor and support franchisees.

We are partly owned by Ashtons Legal, which is a bfa affiliated legal company, and that’s been the case since the end of 2015, when the former company was sold and at that point, I became the managing consultant. That relationship enables us to be a one stop shop, but that is not an exclusive relationship. We’ve worked with many of the great and good franchise lawyers in the UK and will continue to do so. It’s the client’s choice, but a lot of clients like that one stop shop.

More and more we’re staying with brands for the long term, acting as their mentor.

We work with established franchisors as well.

We work with franchisors who are mature and maybe there’s been a change of management. They want to readdress the way they think, and sometimes it’s good to have a fresh set of eyes to come in and question.

Part of your business is that you are a kind of trusted partner. That kind of coaching, mentoring relationship to be able to help somebody really structure out and look at things in a different way, isn’t it?

Yes, and I tell people we are not a prescriptive consultancy. We don’t say this is how it’s going be done, but we give people options. For example, this works, this may not work, this thing you want to do has not been tried, this is the risk…..

What about franchisees? Do you do any work with the potential franchisees?

We do. We’ve actually found more and more people who are potential franchisees coming to us. You’ve got an amount of money – maybe it’s redundancy, inheritance or savings. You want to make a lifestyle change. You’ve got to get that right. We support the potential franchisee to help them to look at something that’s the right fit, based on their skills and their experience.

We guide and support them through the recruitment process. We coach them really to present themselves well to the franchisor. We help them to interpret the information they get from a franchisor. We introduce them to High Street banks for funding if they need it.

What is your top tip for someone looking to franchise their business?

Understand the journey before you begin it. Understand what it’s going to take in terms of time, money, potential disappointment and extra involvement when you start a franchise business. You’re starting a new business, helping and supporting other people to be successful as your franchisees, and there’s a real responsibility in that because you’re working with people and their aspirations and hopes. So, take your time, get it right. Always think about the best interests of the franchisee – when they succeed, you succeed – then you’ve got a lovely, harmonious relationship.

This video interview was created by the British Franchise Association.

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