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Experienced Franchise Consultant Pam Gordon discusses how you can balance starting a business while managing a family.
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Women In Franchising August 2018

August 2018

Balance starting a business and managing a family

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 Gordon, Franchise ConsultantPam 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.

Many women find themselves in a position of seeking a second household income whilst balancing managing the needs of a family, so how feasible is starting a business in such circumstances? 

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.

The challenge facing ‘mums returning to work’ 

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.

The challenge of flexible working is:

  • Part-time is still seen by some of non-committed and this couldn’t be further from the truth
  • Trust – some business owners still don’t trust their employees to work from home or be as productive if they work flexibly

Routes to flexible working:

  • Licences
  • Franchises
  • Direct Selling Opportunity
  • Commission only sales
  • Volunteering to gain experience to get a career change
  • Part Time employment

Why would franchising hold advantages over starting a stand-alone business?

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

What kind of franchises could suit women seeking flexible business models?

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.

Why might franchising not be suitable for some people?

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.

How do franchisors create opportunities for time-flexibility seeking mums?

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.

School holidays or illness can cause issue, but more so in conventional employment.  How can being part of a franchise provide advantages in such situations over stand-alone businesses or employment?

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.

How can franchising provide long-term growth potential as well as short-term?

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.

My advice to those thinking of buying a franchise

Buying into a franchise can offer the perfect solution to being able work flexibly but I would advise the following:

  • Start with what financial investment you have or want to put in as this helps the search (be aware of covering any personal costs as the business starts as it will take a while to be able to take money out)
  • Think about what you like to do as a business.  Do you want a career change?  Then spend some time getting to know that sector. A good franchisor as part of their process should let you attend an event, go out on a van, spend the day in a retail unit – you must see whether you can really see yourself doing the role of the franchisee day and day out.
  • Identify your sector, research your own local market for competition, pricing, venues whatever that business requires. (A franchisor can usually give you guidelines on this)
  • Build a business plan even if you don’t need finance to be able to review where you are against where you want to be.  Be realistic and give yourself deadlines and goals to get where you want to be.  Many people drift into business without really think about what they want out of it – to fill time or really to earn secondary income or full-time income. Can it give you what you want?
  • Review the franchise agreement before you sign anything.
  • Be positive and keep an open-mind for learning.  This is what franchisors want in their franchisees, people who want to keep learning and developing the businesses.
  • Ask for help if you don’t know – that’s what a franchisor is there to do.
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