I came in to franchising following 10 years as an independent interim executive working in the area of corporate restructuring and turnaround. This followed a 12 year career in the City, in the wholesale financial markets. I started with The Interface Financial Group as a franchisee, buying into something in 2010 that I saw as a fantastic professional business opportunity that was providing funding to SME’s at a time when the traditional finance community was not.
I was subsequently invited to join the UK management team of IFG at the beginning of 2012. As well as being involved in franchisee recruitment and development of our business across the UK, I am also very actively involved in providing training and on-going transaction and operational support to our franchisees around the country.
FranchiseExpo: What is The Interface Financial Group franchise opportunity all about?
Bruce Williams: First and foremost, it is an opportunity for franchisees to start and build their own business. It allows them the flexibility to commit to whatever amount of time and resources that they want in order to generate an income and lifestyle to match their ambitions. We are North America’s largest alternative source of finance for small businesses, and this is something we aspire to in the UK. We are not brokers or financial advisers, we provide short-term cashflow funding to owner-managed businesses. We do this through purchasing selected invoices from the business at a discount.
FE: Who is your ideal candidate for an IFG franchise?
Bruce: They come in all shapes and sizes, but in general they need to have a strong business background, be able to build relationships, have good communication skills, and have an action-oriented entrepreneurial spirit. A background in finance is not a pre-requisite, and we have many franchisees that have been in IT, education, marketing, and science based industries.
FE: What type of training and support do you offer?
Bruce: All franchisees start with initial full time training. This is followed up with field training where I or another senior member of the team will go out with the franchisee to attend meetings and other events. This is part of a detailed start-up road map which gives a great introduction to the business and support during this critical phase of their business. Thereafter the management team and our central resources are available at all times to support franchisees for the life of the franchise. We also have on-going coaching programmes and training webinars to build skills and expertise in key areas.
FE: What are some of the advantages in being a franchisee?
Bruce: IFG has just celebrated its 40th year in business. I see the greatest advantage of being a franchisee is leveraging this 40 years of experience into your own business. You are not alone and have the backing of a proven business model. You also have the flexibility of knowing it is your own business and, within certain fairly wide bounds, can develop it as you see fit.
FE: Tell us a little about the (industry) Market?
Bruce: Invoice finance is a £30billion plus industry in the UK. Interestingly, in terms of value, it is a bigger industry here than it is in the USA. Over 40,000 businesses use it. It is a form of finance that is well established. But that is not to say that there are no growth opportunities. We have a really interesting niche, and there are several million smaller businesses that do not use invoice discounting who could. We all know the daily headlines telling us about the problems in the traditional banking sector and their lack of lending to the small business market. That is our space.
FE: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
Bruce: You cannot say this enough to people, but it is about doing your homework. Make sure you know yourself. Are you a self-starter? You had better be. Do you understand the franchise? Take the opportunity to validate by speaking to existing franchisees. But finally, back yourself. The only person who is going to make the franchise a success is you.
FE: In your opinion, why do you think that The Interface Financial Group would be a great opportunity for someone?
Bruce: There are a number of reasons. We have low start-up costs, no employees, no shop front or office requirements, and a freedom to operate flexibly. We are in an established market, so we know there is demand. We have been doing it for 40 years, so we know we can supply. We provide comprehensive training and support, so previous experience is not a prerequisite. And finally, something that I as a franchisee very much felt when I was funding local businesses; you have the opportunity to make a difference.