Dickson Low: Scale up beyond borders

Dickson Low, president of the Franchising and Licensing Association (Singapore) emphasises the pivotal role of franchising and licensing to foster business growth in today's world, and lays out what the association does for its members

Who are members in Franchising and Licensing Association (Singapore) (FLA) and how much has it grown since its establishment in 1993? Can you tell us about FLA and its main mission?
FLA has 140 members representing 250 brands, of which 40 per cent are in the F&B industry; 20 per cent in the education/enrichment industry; 25 per cent in the retail/lifestyle/wellness/services industry; and the remaining 15 per cent are Professional Service providers.

FLA’s mission is to nurture and develop Singapore’s franchising and licensing industry. The association is governed and managed by a team of 15 EXCO, three Advisors & two Legal Advisors; while operationally, the activities are organised by a team of four secretariats.

Here are the key capabilities of FLA:

(a) Diagnostic Franchise Readiness Assessment (close to 300 brands have undergone to identify areas of growth);

(b) Annual flagship event FLA Awards: to give well-deserved brands the honour and due recognition and credit to high achievers;

(c) Business lead generation (i) Annual flagship FLAsia presented by FLA (Singapore): annual franchise and license tradeshow to showcase brands and facilitate business opportunities (ii) Bring members/brands to participate in overseas Franchise tradeshows (iii) FLA business matching digital platform that is generating leads for members 365 days (since the launch for the platform 15months ago, FLA has facilitated 400 leads for our members);

(d) Approved training organisation that organises WSQ Franchise courses (we have four topics at the moment and developing five more in the next three years);

(e) Networking and awareness sessions.

What are the challenges you face in maintaining the current membership?
Brands that have received business leads through FLA business matching platforms (e.g. FLAsia, overseas trips, digital platform) may stop participating once they’ve successfully appointed a master franchisee in overseas markets.

How do you attract new/young blood into the association, and is it difficult to reach out to younger business owners/franchisees?
The EXCOs are constantly on the lookout to invite new – different raising sectors for franchising and licensing – and younger representatives to the EXCOs, as well as the secretariat team.

FLA membership has been on a stable rising trend over the last four years and was not impacted by the pandemic. It is likely due to the secretariat team’s quick pivot and adoption of online media to keep active engagement with members to support the community. Also, the team’s active engagement and collaboration with vertical associations in the retail, wellness, and education sectors to share franchising as a business growth strategy kept FLA (Singapore) at the forefront post-pandemic.

How do Singapore franchise brands fare abroad?
Most of the Singapore brands, such as Jumbo Seafood, are doing well and continue to expand post-pandemic.

As president, what are your five-year plans for the association?
There are still growth opportunities for FLA in the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) training space which we will continue our efforts in. I plan to continue to bring brands to overseas franchise tradeshows to drive business opportunities and leads.

There will also be a focus placed on licensing, education, as well as marketing to better position FLA and drive more traffic and business leads to our digital business matching platform.

How does the association raise funds to carry out its activities?
FLA does not organise fund-raising activities but we have many value-adding activities (such as WSQ courses, awards, franchise exhibition participation, digital 365 business matching portal, etc) that keep FLA sustainable.

Could you share some advice that you hold dear in your line of work?
In my line of franchising for F&B industry, success is often focused on a combination of factors to maintain a foothold in a very competitive environment. Consistency is one critical aspect of a brand. This is often supported by operational efficiency, research, and innovation of products, branding strategies, training, and customer feedback.