What’s behind the QFA badge?
Having worked in franchising for almost 20 years as a franchisor, consultant & digital marketer running a leading franchise portal, what motivated me to found the QFA? I have been an entrepreneur since the age of 19 & over my 31 year career I have worked across many sectors. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur after reading about Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson & watching The Troubleshooter on TV with the late Sir John Harvey Jones, ex ICI Chair, he shared some great quotes & one of the best was “People that don’t make mistakes are no bloody good to you at all” I started work at 18 years old as a trainee French polisher. Does anyone remember the Yellow Pages TV advert? I worked between 8am – 5pm with a short lunch break in the furniture factory during the week & then on a mobile basis every evening & all weekend for years to raise enough money to start my own business & get on the property ladder.
Having run several businesses with employees growing organically, I was very attracted to the concept of franchising. As a new franchisor myself almost 20 years ago, I started my franchising journey with lots of business experience but very little franchising knowledge. I think it’s safe to say I probably made every mistake common among new franchisors! But as the great man Nelson Mandela once said “I never lose, I either win or learn”. The problem with learning by mistakes in business however is they can be very expensive!
Through my marketing business, I would speak to many franchisors of all sizes & stages of growth & it frustrated me that many did not see the value or wish to join a franchise association so that they could learn from others & not make the same mistakes many new franchisors make. It was clear that there was a huge need for support & I spent 6 months planning the launch of the QFA to provide tangible benefits, support & guidance accessible to all franchisors.
It’s been an amazing journey so far & since launch in November 2018 the QFA has already attracted over 170 members, grown it’s team to eleven & started international expansion. I am very proud of our achievements so far, but this is just the beginning.
“Promoting best practice and excellence in franchising through support, membership collaboration, encouragement and education within the franchising community”
As franchising is not government regulated & essentially supported by trade associations franchisors do not need to join an association & sadly; currently, most do not. Therefore we believe that to raise professional standards, it is vital to grow membership, so not joining an association is the exception rather than the rule. Delivering tangible benefits that are accessible to all businesses will encourage this & allow us to engage with them to educate, support & raise professional standards & the reputation of franchising generally.
QFA Code of conduct
The QFA has it’s own code of conduct, the QFA Code of Conduct. Our code is written by a team of UK franchising professionals with practical experience as lawyers, franchisors & consultants. Our code consists of a franchisor code & a franchisee code with clear guidelines on the professional standards we expect from all members. The code is a practical code, easy to understand & adopt & includes clear guidelines to franchisors regarding anti discrimination when recruiting franchisees ( see Franchisor Code of Conduct, section 9 – “Not to discriminate against any individuals in the provision of services and/or the selection of the Franchisee and at all times comply with all anti-discrimination legislation, including the Equality Act 2010” ) & for both parties to always try to mediate any disputes prior to legal intervention ( see Franchisor Code of Conduct, section 11 & Franchisee Code of Conduct, section 4 – “Should a dispute arise between Franchisor & Franchisee always make best attempts to mediate the dispute prior to any legal intervention.”)
QFA Members Charter
The QFA has it’s members at the heart of everything it does. To demonstrate this & clearly define what we expect from our members & what they can expect from us we have created the QFA Members Charter.
Our Accreditation Process
In order to become a member you have to pass our accreditation process. All members must agree to comply with the QFA Members Charter & abide by it & the QFA Code of Conduct. Our accreditation is comprehensive, including an online application & declaration followed by extensive research, including background & reputation checks. We embrace technology at the QFA. As you will see under the innovations section below & just like financial institutions that sanction millions in lending each day, our process is thorough, but swift. We see this as vital as when a member applies to join a franchise association, they realise the need for support & guidance so delaying delivery of support is not helpful for the prospective member or franchising.
It’s not a tick list, certificate & then it’s done! Our accreditation process is not a one-off process, it is ongoing. Businesses constantly evolve & change. Companies may change hands. Franchise agreements maybe varied by side letters or regular changes in the operations manual, which affect the legal positions of the Franchisor & Franchisee, need to be consistent with the QFA Code of Conduct & QFA Members Charter. We use a huge network of resources & technology to engage with members proactively to support them to remain compliant with the QFA Code of Conduct or QFA Members Charter.
After around 20 years in franchising & seeing the good, bad & frankly sometimes ugly, I believe that many of the bad practices that can lead to failed businesses, disputes & tarnish the reputation of franchising comes down to education. As I mentioned earlier, I was a very experienced & successful business person before I made just about every common mistake as a first-time franchisor.
When I was at school & then college taking a business diploma, I was never taught anything about franchising, why? Until my mid-twenties, I didn’t even know what franchising was & even then just thought it was only fast food businesses that were franchises! If you were to ask 100 people in the street today what franchising was & to name 10 successful franchise businesses that are not food-related do you think they could?
So what is the QFA doing to change this? We have big plans over the coming years but here are a few of our activities so far;
- Universities – We have already lectured at several Universities to explain franchising from the perspective of Franchisors & Franchisees
- Seminars & webinars – To raise awareness of franchising & educate prospective Franchisors & Franchisees of what franchising is & it’s Pros & Cons.
- Sky national TV advertising – We have already run a national campaign raising awareness of franchising as a means to become self employed, providing free guides & telephone & email support
- Free franchise training platform – We have launched our own franchise training platform. Currently, the platform has a free training course for prospective franchisees & a free course for prospective franchisors.
- Franchising Professional Qualification, Verified Franchising Professional ( VFP ) – Our new training platform also provides an educational route to achieve the VFP. Currently we have the VFP Foundation Course which will shortly be joined by the VFP Advanced Course, which some have referred to as similar to an MBA. Both courses will shortly be officially recognised & I believe these will be the first franchising training courses to be formally recognised in the UK
Members are at the heart of everything we do at the QFA so practical support & guidance is vital. Here are some examples of the support we provide to members & how we deliver this;
- Regular webinars – We run dozens of webinars for our members. Some popular topics have been prospective franchisee profiling, franchisee recruitment strategies & process, HR compliance, social media marketing, to name a few. Webinars can be viewed live, recorded, or viewed via the QFA IOS/Android app when convenient to our members.
- Chat support – We have a healthy Skype chat group where members can receive unlimited support from the QFA team & other members. The topics for past support requests include financial, operational & legal support from members including franchise consultants, lawyers, HR professionals & accountants.
- QFA IOS/Android app – Members can receive unlimited support via the members group or 1-2-1 private chat support from the QFA team.
- Email & phone – We are a very friendly bunch at the QFA. You don’t need to book an appointment or stand on ceremony to speak to me or any of my team. Just call or email us & we are happy to help.
Long before I founded the QFA, I provided franchising thought leadership content to many leading businesses & I have written for Microsoft, Sage & FSB, to name a few. The QFA are innovators within the franchising community & our approach & ideas have been both innovative & unique. This leadership has enabled us to achieve some important firsts for UK franchising, including sponsoring the UK’s first virtual franchise show & launching the UK’s first virtual franchising awards. We are currently working on several additional major thought leadership projects we will be announcing soon.
I love to explore new ideas & we love to innovate at the QFA. Here are a few of our innovations including some UK firsts for franchising;
- Virtual Franchising & Business Opportunity Show, the UK’s first & largest virtual franchise show – We are headline sponsors for this innovative event supporting the first show in the middle of the first lockdown to provide franchisors an opportunity to exhibit when face to face events were cancelled due to COVID-19. For years prior to COVID-19 face to face franchise exhibitions were dwindling in numbers. Premium venues like ExCel & NEC are expensive, so costs of course need to be passed onto exhibitors so as numbers dwindle, so does the potential ROI for exhibitors. Being an online marketer I had thought about creating my own virtual show back in 2018, but work commitments at my paid role & launching the QFA prohibited me from pursuing this. When I saw that CBO Group were launching the show just before the first lockdown, I immediately contacted them to lend support, and we developed a great working relationship with them, QFA are now headline sponsors of the events, just completing our 3rd event which attracted 63 exhibitors!
- QFA app – The QFA app can be used on desktop, laptop, IOS & Android. It’s a communication platform that has a timeline to share posts, including news, events, training, PDF’s & videos. The app is available to everyone & users are added to relevant groups. We have a group for members, one for prospective franchisors & one for prospective franchisees. This enables us to share events & content that are relevant to each group & also provide guidance & support. Hundreds have already signed up to the QFA app & we see this as a great way to educate prospective franchisors & franchisees as well as providing thought leadership, guidance & support to our growing membership & general public.
- Free Franchise Recruitment CRM – We listened to our members feedback at a webinar regarding franchisee recruitment. Many said the CRM’s available were too expensive & too complicated as they were not a dedicated CRM for franchisee recruitment. We created a working group & developed our own CRM. The CRM includes powerful functions such as pipeline analysis & automated emails & is completely free to QFA members!
- Virtual Franchising Awards sponsored by Barclays ( VFA ) – We had a long think about franchising awards before we came up with the concept for the VFA. We wanted our awards to celebrate & raise awareness of franchising across the UK, not just promote our members. To achieve this, we decided to make the awards completely free & open to the entire franchising community. Making the awards completely online significantly lowered our costs so that we could make them completely free & invest more into marketing, raising awareness of franchising & giving all within the franchising community an opportunity to be recognised for their achievements. The first year’s awards were a huge success attracting well over 100 entries & this years awards are set to be even bigger & better!
How we have supported members through the COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic hit many of our members hard. Our team immediately knew our members would need more support than ever facing an uncertain future, we put together an emergency plan & implemented the following;
- Increased our team at the QFA to 11
- Increased webinars & chat support
- Provided legal, operational & financial advice covering topics such as force majeure clauses of franchise agreements, HR legal compliance for homeworkers, free financial planning support, guidance on MSF charges, variations of franchise agreements when core business unable to operate, Job Retention Scheme ( JRS ) claims & Bounce Back & CBILS funding options.
- During this period we wanted to ensure we could provide support to franchisors at the time they needed it most so for every franchisor member who’s membership renewed during the pandemic we extended membership FREE until May 2021. This was not a payment holiday & did not tie them into future membership. Our members are at the heart of everything we do so being a support organisation with no profit agenda we believe this was the right thing to do in a time of crisis.
Tangible member benefits
At the QFA we want to deliver tangible results for our membership. We are constantly working to increase benefits & value for our membership & have created substantial member benefits. There are far too many to list here but you can view all current membership benefits here https://www.franchise-association.org.uk/join/
Growing franchising, creating self employment & employment opportunities with free franchise recruitment advertising
One of our many tangible member benefits is free franchise advertising on 3 websites. Having worked very successfully with franchisors generating thousands of quality franchisee recruitment leads for 17 years I realise the value of quality leads to help franchisors grow.
I put my marketing skills to use & created a huge amount of free advertising for QFA franchisor members including;
UK Franchise Opportunities ( UKFO ) – The official franchise directory of the QFA. UKFO drives quality leads via search engines & social media for our members. Advertising is completely free & only available to QFA members.
Franchiseek – A global multi lingual franchise directory established in 1999 promotes franchising globally in many different languages. QFA members receive Bronze advertising in up to 3 selected countries worth £1200 a year. UK & international lead generation, particularly useful for franchisors seeking international expansion via master franchising.
QFA Franchise Directory – Each QFA member receives a free listing in the QFA website directory. The website is actively promoted on search engines & social media delivering tangible leads for our members.
It has not been without it’s challenges but I have really enjoyed the journey so far with the QFA. We have a very talented team & membership which is demonstrated by our achievements to date. If you want to be part of our dynamic association & help us support & grow franchising find out more about the QFA.
One membership, one community, many tangible benefits, apply to join today