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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Q&A: Franchising agreements

Laura Clarke, associate solicitor at WBW Solicitors, answers key questions about franchise agreements

What types of franchise business arrangements are there?

The "business format franchise" is most common. The franchisor (ie original business owner) grants licences to franchisees for a fee, which enables them to run their own business while using the franchisor's established brand. Franchisees buy into a tried and tested business model. The franchisor provides training and assistance, while maintaining quality control to protect standards. In addition to the upfront fee, the franchisee must make regular payments to the franchisor.

Any other types of arrangement?

The word "franchise" is sometimes attached to other arrangements that are not true franchises, such as distributorships and dealerships, agency arrangements, licences, etc. A "tied house" arrangement between a brewery and a pub is often referred to as a 'first generation franchise'.

Do these all require signing an agreement?

Yes, whatever the arrangement, both parties should expect to see their rights and obligations clearly set out within an agreement. You need certainty about the terms, fees, identity of and legal relationship between the parties, responsibilities, provision for dispute resolution and agreement termination.

If I want to join a franchise network, what type of agreement will I need to sign?

A comprehensive one that explains your responsibilities, chiefly to operate the business in accordance with the franchisor's instructions, comply with legislation, keep sufficient stock, pay suppliers promptly and to provide the franchisor with important information it requests. You are liable for your own costs, such as business rates, rent, taxes and wages, and for your own legal and accountancy fees.

How long would the term be?

The agreement would typically be for five years, with options to renew on at least two occasions, so that if you're running the franchise satisfactorily, the term could be for 15 years or longer.

What about carrying out research before signing a franchise agreement?

You should carry out as much research as possible, as you would for any business. The franchisor should also put you in touch with other network members, otherwise – consider it a potential warning sign.

Should I seek professional legal advice before signing a franchise agreement?

Yes. The franchise agreement will be drafted to the franchisor's favour, so you must understand what you're signing. If you also take into account upfront fees, regular fees and possible additional fees if you withdraw early, signing a franchise agreement without proper legal advice could prove a very expensive mistake. Finding a solicitor with relevant franchise contract experience is essential.

How much in legal fees could I expect to pay for such a service?

Depends on the length of the agreement and follow-up work required, but budget for £1,700-£2,500.

What terms within a franchise agreement might I find to be unfair?

You may be required to buy all your equipment and stationery from the franchisor, instead of being able to shop around. The franchisor's fees may be excessive or you may be required to spend more on advertising than if you were running another business. It's also common for there to be restrictions on running a similar business to the franchise after the term has ended. The agreement will favour the franchisor, but it should not be unfair.

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