From whence we came

Do you know where franchising came from?


Not many people do and much of the history is lost in the mists of time.

It is thought, however, that the very first franchises where stores implanted into forts that sprang up to protect routes from the fledging USA’s affluent east cost into the more challenging west.

One company was given the rights to operate stores in these forts and they sold the rights to enterprising individuals who saw the opportunity to earn a buck or two as the country opened up.

Not long after, the iron horse (yes, I did watch a western movie this weekend) came and the first formal franchises were granted… a chain of about 120 restaurants sprung up on station platforms across the US. These restaurants are the first known formal franchise operations with a single brand governed by a franchise agreement.

Franchising, or, more accurately, Business Format Franchising was born. The essential principles haven’t changed much since the 1860s when those restaurants appeared.

But do they need to? Is there a case for radically reforming the franchise industry?

Well, yes, I think there is. I don’t really mean changing the fundamental principles but the way the franchise industry does business with franchisees and their customers.

A lot of what the industry does is good in an old-fashioned sort of way. Oh, there are some operations at the forefront of the latest technology, but this is as a result of what they do, not the way they deliver services.

No, it’s the industry’s governors who need to heave themselves into the twenty first century and an injection of new blood is needed into what is a slowly stagnating pool of talent to make sure there is the desire to change, evolve and embrace a new way of doing business.

New franchisors are needed with renewed energy and we need advisors for those franchisors who want to do things differently, not with a vested interest in the status quo.

Last year I put my name forward as a potential candidate for the Board of the British Franchise Association. I got a ‘phone call to say it probably wasn’t worth my standing because the guy who had been elected to the board for the last ten years was standing again!

Come on, BFA, new blood is needed to make a step change in the franchise industry!

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