Recent figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have revealed a rather worrying landscape for small business owners across the UK, with confidence reported to be in negative territory for three consecutive quarters now.
And it’s no wonder. What with the ongoing political concerns, uncertainty surrounding Brexit and continuous legislation changes from the government, small businesses from across the industries have been facing tough times.
The FSB’s latest quarterly small business index reports that 74% of small firms have reported increased expenditure compared with last year, bringing costs to their highest level since 2011, and 72% have said they are now putting their plans for investment on hold.
What’s more, government initiatives like HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’, GDPR and minimum pension contributions continue to place financial and administrative burdens upon business owners, who are having to scale down their workforce while dealing with increasing amounts of work.
This picture is a bleak one, and unfortunately for small businesses in the property industry, times have become tougher. The sales market remains subdued, lettings has taken hit after hit from legislation changes and owners of small independents are having to deal with huge amounts of pressure to stay afloat.
With the future still looking uncertain, it’s time for small business owners to take stock and consider how they can protect the companies they have worked so hard to build against the peaks and troughs of the market.
As the first estate agency franchise in the UK, Winkworth has almost 40 years of franchising experience, during which time our business model has proven itself to be one of the most resilient in this industry. Not only do our financial results for last year speak for themselves, but we have also helped many struggling independents to flourish as part of our network.
The reason? Because franchises believe in independence. We understand that estate agency is not a one size fits all model, and the best succeed because they are managed according to their local market.
So, while 74% of small firms in the UK expect no improvement in their performance over the coming months, many offices in franchised networks are experiencing unprecedented success.
While 72% of businesses are halting their plans for investment and growth, franchises are investing in their offices and encouraging them to reach their goals.
And while many independent agencies out there are struggling to cope with the mounting workload and costs related to tax, legislation, training, marketing and recruitment, franchises have expert teams and systems in place to advise on best practice and take away the headache of working out everything for yourself.
I’m sure I don’t just speak for Winkworth when I say that joining a franchise doesn’t mean losing your independence or freedom, nor does it mean losing your values or the essence of who you are as a business.
It’s about making the decision to focus on what matters most - serving your clients. Once you have made that decision, there are a variety of franchises to choose from depending on your ideals and the way you prefer to work.
As a franchise, we are essentially a conglomerate of independent estate agencies, owned by different people, in different locations, and operated in different ways according to their own markets and experiences. However, unlike independents, we offer the advantage of access to a nationwide database, enabling our offices a wider reach whilst retaining their personal touch.
Naturally, the figures released in FSB’s latest index are worrying to us, particularly given that small businesses account for 99% of the UK’s business community, so when it comes to protecting the backbone of our industry, we strongly believe that franchising is the way forward.
We are dedicated to ensuring the success of independents within this increasingly difficult market, which is why we have plans in place to help with the financial cost of converting to our brand for those that decide to choose this path.
*James Campbell is New Franchising Manager at Winkworth