30 minutes with Pip Wilkins, Chief Executive Officer British Franchise Association. A candid interview with international bestselling author Dee Blick.
I met Pip Wilkins 15 years ago. I was immediately drawn to her because she was (still is!) a plain speaking, helpful and knowledgeable person about all things franchising. As a newbie to franchising I was a veritable sponge. Pip was also an ace networker with that uncanny knack of connecting the right people effortlessly. In the years that have followed I’ve changed roles and now run my own business. In my spare time I’ve written four business books. I now find myself with a project; The Export Hub – launched by a longstanding client EFCIS. As the name would suggest, it’s a website with the sole purpose of helping UK businesses to export successfully by providing practical advice with access to really useful tools and resources. For The Export Hub we also interview people of influence with a connection to exporting.
I was not surprised when I heard on the grapevine that Pip had been promoted to the top job at The BFA. I emailed her and asked if she would be interviewed as a key person of influence – a person who’s helped many franchisors to export. I wanted to find out what makes her tick too. Despite being incredibly busy she generously agreed. Here’s what she told me…
I’ve risen through the ranks…literally done everything from making tea and coffee to organising conferences, business events and being in charge of business development. In June I will have been at the BFA for 20 years. That’s half my life. I’ve been CEO for 3 years. In this time the BFA has become even better at supporting new and existing franchisors. I see it as our role to alleviate the pressures that new franchisors especially feel. We can show them how they can grow on their home turf and overseas if they have an appetite for expansion.
When I took on the role I was keen to realign the vision of the BFA. Key to this was educating and restructuring our team. I love promoting, empowering and connecting both new and established franchisors and I pretty much live and breathe the BFA. I’m passionate about franchising as an industry. There are long days for sure but it’s so rewarding. I love to see success stories in franchising. It’s phenomenal to meet individuals where you can see that franchising has changed their lives for the better. And I love the people I work with! For me it’s about making a difference. I have a clear vision when it comes to identifying where and how the BFA can be even better in supporting and connecting franchisors.
Initially it felt as though I had bitten off more than I could chew. I didn’t have the answers to everything but I knew I had the ability to ask questions. You can read great books on leadership but ultimately you have to dive in and be unafraid of asking questions and of showing you don’t know it all. Undoubtedly being CEO of the BFA is the biggest challenge of my life. And I love it.
The UK is a fantastic growth economy for incoming franchisors. We see many types of franchisors come to the UK from abroad because the conditions for trading are excellent. For example, in the domiciliary care sector we have master franchisors in the UK. Right at Home is just one of these examples from the domiciliary care sector but it isn’t all about care. There are also brands such as Sandler Training, ServiceMaster, Fastsigns and ActionCoach to name but a few. I get a great deal of satisfaction from bringing international brands into the UK.
We see home grown brands export to the Far East, Canada and Europe. One of our big successes is the Water Babies franchise. On the back of a careful and considered expansion plan with support from The BFA they have recently exported to China. Then we have Tax Assist, Pirtek and the Little Kickers franchises – very different in what they do but united by their success at exporting. Little Kickers for example were UK based. They moved to Canada and are now established in 20 countries.
Committed to the cause
Fun and a bit quirky.