Can you franchise anything?

I’m not sure.

Technically, I suppose, anything, or at least elements of anything could be franchised and up until a few days ago I would have staunchly defended the idiom that anything could be turned into a franchised system.

After all, as long as seven boxes are ticked, i.e. there’s a brand that does what it says on the tin, the legals are sorted including trademark and copyright protection, that you have systems and process all logged and can train people to use them, that you have a defined recruitment process with a suitable package, you have manuals in place for franchisees to follow and you have a decent support function… well, how hard can it be?

The answer, of course, is that it’s no walk in the park but it’s entirely doable and the only real constraint is the franchisor’s ability to recognise that their product has changed from whatever it was before to ‘the franchise system’ they are now selling.

That’s not to say that everything should be franchised, just that it could be franchised if the owner so chooses.

But last week I was approached by a lady with a business, which is successful in its own right, which does have (or could have) a defined process with a clear role for the franchisee and which, on paper, looks pretty ripe for franchising.

The thing that’s got me scratching my head about it is the lady herself.  Not that she’s not committed to franchising, because I think she could be, but that her own personal story is so enshrined within the business that to give bits of it away would be like giving bits of herself away.

Does that sound as wishy washy and spiritual to you as it does to me whilst I write it?

You see, the lady in question is passionate about a part of Africa where she used to live.  She is a high end interior design specialist with a process that she takes people through so that their homes not only look great but feel great, too.  The designs are then transmitted to her team of crafts people in Africa who make the bespoke furniture.

By doing it this way my potential client is able to sacrifice some of her margin so she can pay the crafts people a proper fee for the work they do rather than the few dollars for many hundreds of hours of labour which they used to get.

She sees franchising as a way to increase production and therefore the money that gets sent to Africa… but I don’t think any franchisee will be able to get across the look/feel concept.

You see my dilemma?

Answers on a postcard please.

Editor note: we accept email too these days or better still a comment on the blog

2 comments for “Can you franchise anything?

  1. 24 June, 2012 at 09:22

    Being too sentimental does not get you far in the long run like this lady, my humble opinion. There are always exceptions however.

  2. 22 June, 2012 at 08:37

    Surely it’s a common theme for the bigger franchises – specified suppliers. Makes sense from a continuity of look/feel point of view – thhis is a business that depende on its look/feel as an integral part of the brand.
    I vote go for it!

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