Should You Join a Franchise?

If you're operating an optometry practice, it's likely that at some point you've been approached by one of the big franchisors in the industry, or at least considered whether joining one of the major players is for you. Or perhaps you have been prompted for the first time to think about setting up your own practice by an enquiry to, or an approach from, a large corporate franchisor. Before you make any decision, you should stop and think about what it is that you’re hoping to achieve from operating your own business, and indeed what your wider lifestyle goals are.

The value of independence

There can be more work involved in being independent, especially in the set up stage, but you also have greater control and freedom. In addition, franchise fees can be steep and with some of the more budget providers, margins can be slim, which means you have to sell a significant volume of stock to make a comfortable return. Indeed, some industry experts are now suggesting that there is likely to be greater returns from remaining independent, due to the hefty fees that are now required of franchisees. 

The benefits of a franchise 

This is not to say of course that it’s always a bad move to go with a franchise. On the positive side, a lot of the set up and development of procedures will be done for you, plus the ongoing marketing and promotion work may well lead clients to you without you having to do as much for yourself in this regard. So if you like what you do but are not really a ‘systems’ or ‘business’ person, it can be potentially much easier, especially in high exposure locations. There are different franchise models available too, some of which are less onerous than a full franchise. While Specsavers only offers a full franchise, Luxottica offers more scalable alternatives through its various brands. You can still have a full franchise, but you can also have an Optometry Room Only franchise or an Alliance franchise.

Other alternatives 

If you like your independence but would also appreciate some business support, another alternative is the cooperative approach, through organisations like ProVision and Eyecare Plus. In this scenario you control your practice and for a much smaller fee simply align yourself with a group that helps you with marketing and business development. In some cases you can choose the level of commitment you want, such as whether to be branded with the alliance partner or simply use their resources under your own banner, and the fee will vary accordingly. By adopting the corporate brand, you can open up opportunities to share costs such as advertising and marketing. So it’s possible that some compromise might be available that allows you to leverage the systems, goodwill and marketing of an established brand or group without the additional expense of a fully integrated franchise. The right choice of franchisor will determine which options are open to you. 

For a great comparison of the Specsavers and Luxottica models, read this recent article from mivision. In this separate article, a case study for the Co-operative model with Eyecare Plus has been provided.

Either way, it’s a significant decision that requires considerable thought and analysis. The right way to go may not be the path that is most immediately apparent.