OPINION: Let’s work on Euro franchising ignorance

Let’s work on Euro franchising ignorance National Franchise Week has just ended. I know, because among my bit parts on the national stage these days is the presidency of the British Franchise Association (BFA). In my six years in that role, British franchising’s turnover has doubled to around pounds 7.5 billion and the sector now directly and indirectly employs 300,000. All this, I’ll bet, is news to 90 per cent of you.

Let’s work on Euro franchising ignorance National Franchise Week

has just ended. I know, because among my bit parts on the national stage

these days is the presidency of the British Franchise Association (BFA).

In my six years in that role, British franchising’s turnover has doubled

to around pounds 7.5 billion and the sector now directly and indirectly

employs 300,000. All this, I’ll bet, is news to 90 per cent of you.



It is a reasonably safe gamble because Professor David Kirby of

Middlesex University Business School has just shown that only ten per

cent of the 1,250 people he surveyed across Britain had a clear idea of

what franchising is about. Twenty per cent hadn’t a clue and the other

70 per cent were vague to varying degrees. This ignorance is thought to

be an obstacle to franchising’s growth. If only more people knew

something about it, the argument goes, the easier it would be to

interest them in taking a franchise.



It is certainly why we hold National Franchise Week in the same week as

franchising’s marriage market - the Birmingham National Franchise

Exhibition.



But just how much can we expect to intrude on the national consciousness

when, according to Gallup, an even smaller proportion of us can identify

the Agriculture Minister (Nick Brown, seven per cent), Lord Chancellor

(Lord Irvine of the Wallpaper, six) and Trade Secretary (Stephen Byers,

three) even though they are often in the public prints and on TV? Surely

ten per cent with a clear understanding of franchising is a high

score.



So I was even more astounded when it was revealed that most of the

people questioned, whether they were vague or clear about what

franchising is, thought that franchising is a good way to own your own

business and safer than starting out on your own. The statistics show

that 94 per cent of franchises are profitably in business after five

years, compared to only 45 per cent of other enterprises. And that goes

for busts as well as booms.



But I never expected this to have registered so clearly with most

people.



If only governments were as quick on the uptake. Over recent years, the

BFA has battled first with the Government and then with the Euro

Commission to stop them introducing legislation that would either have

crippled franchising as we know it or rendered it impracticable.



The Euro fight continues. Recently, I spent a whole morning listening to

a commission official defend draft regulations which quite simply

betrayed fundamental ignorance of the nature and organisation of

business format franchising which finds work for well over one million

in a Euroland where 17 million or so are out of work.



Never have I seen a more depressing justification for public affairs and

lobbying divisions of PR companies. On this evidence, your prospects for

future business are dazzlingly bright. The Euro Commission is clearly

the answer to a lobbyist’s prayer: God send me ignorant legislators.



bernard.ingham@haynet.com.



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