Credibility and Standards: Plan-it Cards

Co-founder Carlton KnightPlan-it Cards, the greeting card distributor, became Associate Members of the bfa in April 2013, 12 years after they began using the franchise model. We caught up with co-founder Carlton Knight to discuss why he was determined to achieve membership and what it has meant for his company.

Why did you join the bfa?
Our focus had always been on building our business, which was going very well for us. But we wanted Plan-it to be recognised as an ethical franchise with certain standards in place. That meant joining the bfa.

What were you looking to get out of your bfa membership?
Initially we thought the standards ‘kitemark’ of membership would benefit us in terms of franchisee recruitment, and that’s proved absolutely true; since joining we’ve seen around 15 to 20 prospective franchisees, and to a man they have all said they wouldn’t be talking with us if we weren’t bfa members. Not only that, but the quality of applicant has improved dramatically since we started promoting the fact we’d joined.

Through the process of joining it became clear that the review of our business practices during dialogue with Andrew [Quail, Head of Quality Standards and Compliance at the bfa] was also going to make a huge difference to us as a franchisor. It made us look at ourselves and improved our business.

Can you elaborate a little on this?
An extensive review of our operations manual with Andrew showed us many areas where we could improve the way we engaged with and supported our franchisees, to the benefit of both them and the company as a whole. Much of it was rewritten, in a good, positive way, with the help of a bfa Affiliate solicitor – this was obviously an extra business cost, but it was imperative that we used the proper legal expertise.

It’s easy to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done, but the joining process made me step outside the Plan-it ‘bubble’ and identify areas that could be improved; the change in perspective was so useful. It was also important for me to remember that Andrew read our manual as an outsider to the company – exactly the way that a prospective franchisee approaches it.

We now have a much-improved synergy between us as the franchisor and our franchisees, even though we were already very happy with it before! Their businesses are benefitting, and we have much more clarity about our operations manual being followed. This also means that our re-sales are starting from the right place, with good practices embedded into the business from day one.

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