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
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
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
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.