Experienced Franchise Consultant Pam Gordon discusses how you can balance starting a business while managing a family. Pam has been in franchising for 18 years and was previously with HSBC so she had a great grounding in customer service, relationship building and cross-selling, spotting opportunities; all of which has served me well in franchising.
Pam has worked with many franchisors across different sectors and in distinct roles from helping to recruit franchisees through to national roles overseeing the development of a franchise network in start-up and developing a support team to oversee the network growth.
For the last 3 years she has been working as a Franchise Consultant for The Franchising Centre. Pam is self-employed and predominately home-based so can talk about taking the leap into running your own business from experience in terms of the positives and negatives.
Pam's main reason for choosing to do this has been the ability to maintain a career whilst having a child to still be able to do the school run, manage some of the school holiday cover so that she isn’t in childcare 100% of the time.
With help from franchising expert Pam Gordon, we explore the considerations of this situation, and how franchising could be the answer for some people.
As a working mum, I went back to work (part-time) when my child was at nursery, but this was a field based support role that meant driving around the UK.
The role seemed impossible to do once my child started school – with no family support, 12 weeks holiday, school finish times at 3pm. So, I had to find a role to work flexibly.
I therefore used my experience in franchising and began to work as a franchise consultant which means I could be home based, choose my clients and work around my child.
I work early morning and late evenings as well as between 9am-3pm. I try to work Monday to Friday, but projects sometimes have deadline to complete so occasional weekend working as well. But working like this allows me to do school runs, attend school events and be part of the local community.
I do think it does depend upon what your role was before having children. If you were office based in a role like a book-keeper, then with technology there should be no reason for an employer not to allow you to work at home as well and have the flexibility. There is still case for being team based in an office as you do hear and connect with information so having ways of communication and meeting up would overcome these problems.
The challenge faced by mums returning to work shouldn’t actual be classed as ‘mums’ returning to work it should be ‘parents’ returning to work after children and to have a flexible working environment for men and women this would help the situation.
A franchise can offer someone looking at flexible working a business model to follow and a way to get started more quickly.
Training – a franchisor will offer training and support to enable someone to come into a sector they don’t know about or have experience within. The franchisor will have training and systems to support the franchisee to come on board.
Support – on-going support from the franchisor about how to run and develop the business
Advice – on start-up and what to do and when the time is right to grow it further, take on staff, get new business, sell the business.
Network – a key factor is the network of other franchisees, doing what you are doing and offering that additional layer of support to each other.
Financial – a franchise by its proven nature is less of a risk to the banks so often they will lend more money to a franchisee starting than they would a standalone start-up business
Any franchise that offers flexibility of role. When they are sole operator businesses or where you might build and grow a team quickly which would then allow you to work more flexibly.
But often women are drawn to:
Children’s activity sector as it might fit with their current lifestyle situation. But these might not suit everyone, I looked at one when I was considering my options. I liked the franchise model, but it was being with other people children all day every day that I realised it wasn’t a sector for me.
Animals – often franchises like pet sitting, dog walking, grooming allow people to work flexibly and around family time.
Professional white-collar business-like consultancy, recruitment, accountancy, book-keeping again allows a person to manage their own diaries and time in terms of appointments and the work itself, so they aren’t tied to a 9-5 role.
Care / Cleaning Businesses – these might be hands-on initially but over time you build a team of people who are doing the work and you may have office managing the bookings which allow you as the business owner to manage your own time.
If you question all that the franchisor has built and is offering, then franchising might not be right for you. You must commit to understanding the relationship with your franchisor and the expectations on both sides.
Franchising doesn’t work if the franchisee expects the franchisor to give them business just by buying a brand. The business is still yours to develop and grow, the franchisor is providing brand, systems, training and support but the franchisee still has the local responsibility.
It is understanding what the role of the franchisee is going to be in a flexible or part-time business. It might be that the class or service is in term time, but they also need to commit time for accounts, marketing planning and sales and it is less ‘part-time’ that perspective.
You get out what you put in – and the more you work on the business, the more it will develop. But it is not expecting things too soon, every business I know takes longer than expected to get to the milestones that originally thought, but it is having the tenacity to keep going.
There are many more franchisors offering flexible working models as they target the children’s, older people customer base there is less reliance on a 9-5 service model.
Technology has allowed more home-based business in the white-collar sales sector to thrive such as accountancy, book-keeping, consultancy, recruitment where you don’t need office premises any more.
Society is changing to allow a more flexible approach to work and use of mobile phones mean we are contactable where ever we are whether by apps. Emails, text.
You can have employees yourself in a franchise, you can call upon the network to cover for you – but ultimately, it’s your business and you can cancel a meeting to stay home with an ill child with being frowned upon.
Many franchisees start off in smaller flexible franchises, but I have seen franchisees build their business confidence and when the kids grow up or leave home they move onto larger team building franchises.
The flexible business model means that you can come in and build the business as your own circumstances change. A franchisee will need to check what the expectation of the franchisor is i.e. that they are also on board with a smaller business initially building to one later in the life of the franchisees.
Buying into a franchise can offer the perfect solution to being able work flexibly but I would advise the following: