Cracking The Market: How To Build A Successful Franchise Business

In order to guarantee a solid business strategy, both the franchisor and the franchisee need to share the same vision and have an open door of communication on how to continue developing the brand.

learn more about Lina El-Saheb

By Lina El-Saheb

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It's been a thrilling journey being the Managing Partner of a franchise business in the UAE, with the process enabling me to learn many lessons on how to ensure success in a competitive market. After all, according to a new study by LinkedIn, the number of entrepreneurs in the UAE has nearly doubled in the past year, turning it into the country with the highest percentage of entrepreneurs in the Middle East. The government's encouragement and support toward startup businesses and SMEs has been one of the many key drivers for the rise of entrepreneurs.

My company, HintHunt Dubai, is a franchise business originally from London. Although this type of business model provides an established product or service that may already enjoy widespread brand name recognition, it is crucial to understand the challenges and best practices to ensure a successful franchise business. Here are some of my insights from my own journey:

1. Being an entrepreneur is not a job; it is a state of mind

Before developing a new business, people should understand that entrepreneurship comes from within, and that it should be part of their life's philosophy. As a female entrepreneur, I consider myself a true believer of the fact that when you love what you do, you will make your business work and succeed. Any business needs a high percentage of dedication, but passion does, if I may say so, 90% of the job. With passion, time and teamwork comes creativity, which will then lead to the business' scalability.

2. Take risks and strive to be different

Taking risks is a feature intrinsic to any entrepreneur. However, it is always good to keep a note and remind ourselves to create value in everything we perform by thinking out of the box. Entrepreneurs have fears too, but it is crucial to believe in the vision of the brand and strive to achieve the competitive edge, whether it's through the services or through a constant innovation of the product offering. Being different was undoubtedly the reason why I decided to bring HintHunt to Dubai, even though that could have brought some challenges in the early stages, as people couldn't completely comprehend the new concept. The first challenge of an "escape game" is that people were threatened by the thought that they might not be able to complete the game successfully, and that might lead to frustration. However, with a solid and consistent messaging as part of an integrated marketing and communication plan, HintHunt Dubai has been able to change people's perceptions. Also, the fact that it is a franchise originally from the UK means the brand is recognized by a significant number of expats, who are willing to experience it with their family, friends and even co-workers.

HintHunt in Dubai.Image credit: HintHunt Dubai.

3. Believe in your brand

This step is crucial to develop a successful business. Just as important as being passionate, entrepreneurs must believe in their brands, and understand why and how their concepts are bringing and adding value to the community. With HintHunt, we saw the great opportunity escape games brought to the UAE, as they are great alternatives to the mainstream activities such as going to cinemas and malls. Being in a country where indoor activities are highly promoted, this represents one of the many strengths of HintHunt that attracts more people, especially tourists who are eager to search every corner of Dubai. Apart from the entertainment feature, HintHunt is also relevant to corporates as its games are highly engaging, and hence corporates aim at enhancing teamwork through this creative team-building activity. In such a cosmopolitan country, the corporates in the UAE understand the importance of engaging their employees from different cultural backgrounds. Being relevant across different targets, whether they are families, hospitality or even corporates, is key to ensure a sustainable continuity of the business.

4. Franchisor + franchisee = best match

In order to guarantee a solid business strategy, both the franchisor and the franchisee need to share the same vision and have an open door of communication on how to continue developing the brand. As a franchisee myself, I truly believe the chemistry between the different parties highly facilitates communications and that naturally helps in the success of a business. It is crucial to have two-way communication to ensure healthy synergy and support between the two entities. To recreate the brand's experience across different markets is challenging, and it requires a trained and an experienced team. This is where the franchisors play a vital role in presenting their unique products that guarantee an unforgettable experience, which is consistent across their different franchise businesses.

The Zen Room at HintHunt Dubai.Image credit: HintHunt Dubai.

5. Staying ahead of business competitiveness

Uncertain economies are dreaded elements for some business people- but you should never give up on your brand, regardless of the obstacles. Opening a business requires caution, but at the same time, it also needs boldness. To stay ahead in any competitive market, businesses must always maintain a high standard approach across all stakeholders, whether internal or external to the organization. In addition, team work is another crucial element to ensure a positive synergy between management and its employees. Investing in people and giving them opportunities to grow within the company will reflect positively on the employees' productivity and customer service as well.

6. Glocalize your messages

The term "glocalization" is already known among the business market; however, it is worth underlining the importance of being regionally relevant to the community where the business is present. Being a franchise originally from London, the opening of HintHunt Dubai was the brand's first exposure to the Middle East and North Africa market. In order to attract the local community, we understood the importance of conveying relevant messages to our targets not disregarding the overall positioning from global franchise. That is why HintHunt Dubai's team developed in-house a solid messaging plan tuned into the region's profile in order to add value to our target audiences. Glocalizing the brand's messages builds a powerful brand narrative that will guarantee a sustainable business strategy and also create social value.

As you can see from the above, perseverance, vision, creativity and relevancy are four of the top elements that must be intrinsic to any successful business model. It is important to keep track of these features on an ongoing basis, and promote a culture of excellence among the employees, while ensuring their engagement with the company's vision.

Related: How To Adapt A Franchise For An International Market

Lina El-Saheb

Managing Partner, HintHunt Dubai

Lina El-Saheb set up HintHunt Dubai in November 2013 and has been the Managing Partner of HintHunt Dubai since June 2014. She is responsible for its day-to-day operations, and continuously works on its development, while also being the main point of contact with the franchisor based in Budapest. Lina is a graduate of the American University in Cairo, with a major in Mass Communication, specializing in Public Relations and Advertising, and one course away from a Psychology minor.

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