Lean Thinking – The Low Cost Route to Franchising for Some?

Ten years ago I was in the market to franchise my cleaning business. I had read some American books on how to franchise a business but none of them approached franchising from an angle of keeping expenditure to a minimum or running an efficient franchised operation from a lean perspective thereafter.

Having traded my own operation for the previous decade and having grown it year on year, some 400 cleaners worked for the brand and I had to get it on the franchise market somehow. I did what many franchisors in the same position would do and approached the consultants to the industry.

Being naïve I didn’t even know who to contact for advice. I wasn’t aware of the bfa. There were many people calling themselves consultants even in those days. There were no discounts offered for businesses such as mine that wanted to enter the market around under the £10k level. The consultants I approached seemed to view franchise development from the communist perspective – all franchisors must pay the same. One of the well-known ones who told me “To get your brand to pass the bfa accreditation process with us it will cost you £30,000.” Of course this was not true but I did not know that.

After recovering from apoplectic fit at this news and the cold reality of not having a budget of £30k to play with it dawned on me that franchising my business was not going to be a walk in the park after all. All I had was a strong desire to franchise and a willingness to apply my own effort and knowledge of lean and six-sigma wherever necessary.

After much jargon busting (people still use words like Franchise Information Memorandum) I declined the consultant’s kind offer to ‘help’ franchise my business and decided to find a flexible consultant who was happy to offer advice and leave me to do the donkey work. This was the start of my lean-thinking journey into franchising.

My limited budget forced the need to question every penny spent whilst developing my business. I recognised franchising my business would be a personal learning journey unique in some aspects to my business alone but there would also be parts that would be common to all franchisors alike. A lean franchise plan was created and the approach I used is shown below.

Getting the right advice at key stages at the right price would be another critical aspect. How could I do this from a lean perspective with a very limited budget? I quickly realised that some of this advice could be gained for free by networking and talking to those successful franchisors that had done it before me.
It also became apparent that not every corner could be cut nor all advice could be relied on. Neither could all good advice be acquired for free (e.g. legal agreements from a bfa approved solicitor, territory mapping demographics, cost models, marketing brochures etc.) but a great majority could be if I was prepared to put in the effort to turn the information into tangible deliverables myself.
I unashamedly asked for discounts from every supplier I approached and moved to an alternative if I met with inflexibility. After 24 months of hard work I finally brought the franchise to market but that was only the start of the business. As territories began to sell my core focus became how to operate the franchise operation as efficiently as possible whilst being as lean as possible.
In franchising there are dozens of ways to reduce costs whilst not adversely impacting the franchise operation. Finding these avenues is an on-going process. Some quick examples of how lean thinking cost reductions can be deployed in daily operation are shown below.

Seven years after launch, when Maid2Clean passed the 100 franchisee mark, I knew I wanted to share the experience I had learned with others in the industry. I’m hoping there is a market for a book that is focused on franchising done from a lean thinking perspective. Over a two-year period I wrote “The Lean Thinker – A guide to franchising your business on a shoestring budget.” I hope it will be a help and positively influence those that wish to take a similar approach.

Learn more at http://theleanthinker.co.uk/

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