2012 Franchisor Awards finalists
A shortlist of 14 franchisors was announced in the 2012 bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards, supported by Express Newspapers. The finalists were selected from entries spanning multiple sectors, business sizes and locations across the UK to reveal this year’s potential award winners.
The Awards represent an opportunity for the UK’s best franchisors to gain recognition for their achievements in 2011, a year when businesses had to work harder than ever, using innovation and clever management strategies, to compete successfully in a still-forlorn economic climate.
The winners in each of the three categories were announced at the 23rd Awards Gala Dinner on 21 June 2012 at the Telford International Centre.
Shortlisted franchisors are as follows, listed alphabetically in each category and with a picture from their judging day:
bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Award
Like so many other companies, 2011 looked like it was going to be a tough one for Autosmart. Costs had already been rising for years, but jumped by an even bigger margin, leading to a squeeze from both suppliers as well as business customers, who were feeling the pinch too and looking to cut down on their expenditure. But rather than increasing prices, or diminishing their product quality to save on supplies, the company decided to innovate its way out of the recession.
By completely re-engineering their research and development processes, Autosmart were able to produce stronger, more powerful cleaning products using more sustainable, more affordable raw materials. The upshot was that rarity in business: less expensive production of a better product that meant in the long run that all three of franchisor, franchisee and customers saved money. The response from franchisees and customers alike has been exceptional, and the complete shift in methodology has changed the company from the ground up and been a key component in transforming what looked like it could be a very difficult year into one of their best yet, with record franchisee sales in a market that has shrunk by up to 30% since 2008.
Evolving their business has been central to Driver Hire’s continued success, and the company has launched several new initiatives against the backdrop of a changing landscape to maintain its strong growth. In 2011 the company also attracted new investment into the business, showing that its ability to diversify made it an attractive proposition.
One of the biggest challenges facing Driver Hire in 2011 was the introduction of new legislation concerning temporary workers and the need for employers to record their length of engagement. Driver Hire developed a new free, online tracker service that took all the headaches out of what could have been a difficult situation, adapting and evolving to keep the business moving forwards.
Another key element of their success during 2011 has been the delivery of driver CPC training, the undertaking of which was a key strategic management decision taken by the franchisor when many companies were shying away from it. Driver Hire is now the UK’s leading provider of driver CPC training and cites it as an important income stream for their franchisees.
2011 was an exceptional year for Home Instead, seeing big leaps in revenue, number of franchises and number of employees, while at the same time winning several awards for the quality of the care they provide. At the same time as this business success they’ve remained acutely aware of the commitment required to support their franchisees, and incorporate a standards team which operates independently from their main support team to provide an encompassing franchisee engagement proposition. As a result they have a very strong network of involved franchisees, very high standards, and have never had an owner voluntarily close their business.
Last year also saw the introduction of their ‘All In’ index, reinforcing the key areas franchisees should be aiming to excel in to grow and manage a successful business; concentrating on essential business basics, it helped over 90% of the network increase their revenues over the year. Combining their UK success with very strong growth globally during 2011 allows Home Instead to look forward to another strong year of results.
Last year was the third year running that McDonald’s broke new ground for sales, profits and customer numbers. Developing very strong links with suppliers ensured they minimised the cost inflation of food prices compared to the food industry as a whole, and the number of ex-franchisees now working in head office ensures that head office does not lose sight of what is important to their business owners.
Environmental concerns have been high on the McDonald’s agenda during the last year, with their delivery trucks now running on biodiesel made from used cooking oil and the company also participate in a pilot scheme in Sheffield where rubbish is burned and the energy created used to power some of the town’s local government offices. In addition, around half of all franchisees are now in some form of group or committee, meaning that they have a real say in the future direction of the company and allowing local initiatives to remain relevant even in a global giant of a brand. And this to say nothing of the apprentice schemes, education equivalents and charity work that the company makes available to its staff.
Accountancy and innovation aren’t generally considered to go hand-in-hand, but TaxAssist Accountants are trying to change that. They’ve invested record profits back into the business in a successful attempt to provide abundant support to franchisees, including the creation of a brand new Academy to provide specific and general training in fields such as social media, at minimal cost to their franchisees (they took the decision not to profit from training courses to make them as widely accessible as possible).
The investment has paid off; TaxAssist has registered double-digit growth on its KPIs during the recession, which include sales and client numbers, a performance that comfortably outstrips the top 6 accountancy firms in the country. With business thriving, next up for the franchise is international expansion as it prepares to launch in North America and the antipodes.
HSBC Franchisee Support Award
Auditel’s support for its franchisees has become a crucial aspect of business growth. Achieved through a mix of strategic and practical support, franchisees have benefitted from a bespoke suite of systems and tools designed to both speed up and improve basic operations to allow franchisees to spend more time finding and recruiting new clients. These have included: new training workshops and continuous professional development; project management, accounts and analysis software; and dedicated mentors, paid for by the franchisor, all successful franchisees in their own right. And Auditel have borne the cost of these innovations themselves, without charge to franchisees.
Two other important developments that led to their being named as finalists were the increase in their portfolio of assessment costs by over 40 items during the year, achieving this through the expertise and backgrounds of their franchisees, and migrating to secure, cloud-based database technology, which improved the speed of access and navigation to combined knowledge and resources for franchisees.
As the property market has been amongst the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn, franchisee support has been absolutely crucial to the continued success of Countrywide Signs. A history of promotion from within the franchise (many of the board’s families run their former territories) gives head office a strong franchisee perspective and ensures they understand, and have themselves experienced, the levels and types of support needed for success.
Their support begins before a franchisee has even signed on the dotted line, with financial advice and assistance provided to prospective owners and a two-year programme of marketing support for new franchisees. Continual investment back into the business has evolved the support systems they have in place and increased the ability of the franchisor to work with franchisees on the individual direction they would like to take their business in, for example whether they prefer to concentrate on the commercial, lettings or estate agents market. Technology support has allowed franchisees to use QR codes on boards to provide further information to customers, as well as providing the ability for individuals to order their own custom-made signs.
When the company started out with no systems or processes in place and struggling with a lack of resources, Jasper’s founders had to find the right paths to ensure the business survived, being resourceful rather than abundantly resourced. These humble beginnings have had a profound effect on the way Jasper’s conducts operations, giving the head office team great insight into the needs of their franchisees as they start out on their own journey into business.
The development of their Business Management System as a comprehensive solution to the needs of their franchisees goes further than most such business tools. Involving it in every decision from the smallest upwards allows franchisees to concentrate on the bigger picture of their business and not the minutiae of day-to-day operations. In addition to significant pre-launch support and no timeframe on their franchisee training, managing director Nathan Siekierski’s philosophy background also sees the company concentrate their attention on the psychological and mental support necessary as franchisees run their businesses, distinguishing it from many other brands.
Maid2Clean has used innovation, investment and technology to maintain a strong position in the highly competitive cleaning sector and give franchisees the tools they need to run their business successfully. Not only does the company retain a crucial role in client recruitment through its central marketing support, but it has introduced a number of initiatives and concepts to engage franchisees and their staff.
These have included an online portal for franchisees to recruit cleaners; online forums for franchisees and staff to share best practice with each other and with the franchisor, helping to ‘professionalise’ the cleaning industry and engaging its workers; a new system for the storage of data and important documents in the same, secure place; and a brand new ‘check in check out’ system that gives clients peace of mind with regards to when cleaners started and stopped work in their absence.
Being an internationally-recognised company might make one think that support would be easy for O2, but it’s precisely this recognition that made them work so hard to innovate with their initiatives and catch the eye of the judges. Reinvigorating the perception of such a well-known name on a local level is no easy task.
With all new store openings during 2011 being franchises, O2 has realised the benefits of the model and has adapted its strategies accordingly. There’s been a focus on helping franchisees develop links within the local community, for example the use of local suppliers such as caterers for new store openings, and the introduction of a completely different kind of store on Tottenham Court Road, which includes office space given over to local businesses, received widespread praise. Its success means more quirky, interesting franchise stores are in the pipeline as the company look to work closely with individual franchisees to distinguish their offering.
Express Newspapers Brand Builder of the Year Award
Managing director Tom Acland introduced Cafe2U to the UK when he recognised that the growing trend for businesses to relocate to out-of-town business parks was going to create a market for a quality mobile coffee company. With 20 million cups of coffee now sold every day in the UK, strong branding is crucial to stand out from the crowd – something that’s been a core element of the company’s marketing plans since day one.
Cafe2U impressed judges with their distinctive and consistent branding throughout all of their products, based around their easily recognisable bright red colour scheme. Particularly noted was the company’s ability to promote their brand strongly across a wide variety of platforms, from initial training for franchisees and the livery on their vans, through to demanding operations standards, social media and the internet, major event attendance and charity collaborations.
Creating a new direction for a company is never easy, but when EnviroVent began to develop ventilation solutions for private residences and landlords in addition to their traditional social housing sector, they were creating a completely new market for themselves. They needed to educate potential customers about their new products and their benefits, particularly to the country’s five-and-a-half-million asthma sufferers.
A strong branding message has therefore been essential in the company’s impressive growth. The use of their character ‘Venty’ across traditional press, television and radio communications has combined with trade shows and events, clever investment and innovation in digital media and linking up with national charity Asthma UK to promote a single, consistent message to educate potential customers and increase sales impressively during 2011.
Mac Tools has managed to reinvent itself since the 2000s, when the company admits it lacked investment and innovation. It’s been a rapid transformation since 2009, and the company is now associated with excitement and quality thanks to its approach to branding and listening to their franchisees and customers, many of whom are motoring mad.
Head office is in no doubt that the synergy between franchisor and franchisee has been essential in the reboot. By listening to their franchisees and involving them closely in their branding strategies, Mac Tools has been able to combine the advantage of being associated with several world-renowned brands through parent company Stanley Black & Decker with strong UK-wide and local initiatives, such as their sponsorship of British Touring Cars, increased social media output, developing promotional items such as branded coffee cups and a completely new slogan. As a result sales increased strongly despite the economic difficulties, and have continued to do so into 2012.
Wiltshire Farm Foods
After deciding that their brand needed reinvigorating, Wiltshire Farm Foods conducted focus groups, enlisted the help of experts and worked closely with their franchisees every step of the way to promote the image they were looking for. A little celebrity help courtesy of Ronnie Corbett on their television campaigns put the finishing touches to the franchise’s new direction in their branding.
The company has subsequently become a mainstay for maintaining independence for their elderly customers for longer, and works with several different partners including speech therapists and home care services to promote the needs of their target demographic. Their branding has resulted in strong increases in sales, awareness and interest in the business.