A word from the Director of Ableworld

The Franchise Magazine spoke to Ableworld Director, Paul Boniface, to find out why 2015 is the year to get on-board with this growing business.

Even when starting the business in 2009, the company recognised that franchising would be a fast way to expand the mobility stores nationally. After years of organic growth, Ableworld joined the bfa in 2010, more than doubling the network and earning positive recognition ever since, including as a finalist in the Emerging Franchise award 2014.

Paul comments: “Most of the growth has come from the franchise side of the business; a trend we plan to continue until we hit our medium term target of 60-70 stores.”

In 2015, Ableworld is targeting between six and eight new franchise owners, and Paul described the ideal profile for an investor: “We try to leave the door open as wide as practicable because we believe that we can teach most of the skills and knowledge needed if the candidate has the right attitude. Having said that, we are a retail rganisation, so customer-facing skills are very important, as is an empathy with our core customers. The stairlift operation requires light engineering skills if the franchise owner is to handle that side rather than employing someone.

“You have to be comfortable in dealing with our core customers, many of whom are elderly or disabled. Discretion, patience and empathy are therefore important as we help our customers purchase products that make their lives more active and comfortable. Finally, of course no-one should under estimate the hard work and commitment required to make any franchise a success.”

Unsurprisingly, with Ableworld a respected name, and mobility a growing market, the business attracts a lot of interest from prospective franchise owners of various backgrounds. Suitable candidates are invited to with the franchisor at Ableworld’s head office in Cheshire, where they have the opportunity to meet key people in the company and enjoy a working lunch with members of the board. The day gives both parties a good idea of whether the relationship is something they wish to pursue.

If they do choose to go ahead, new Ableworld francise owners can expect robust support from the franchisor, both in getting started and on a long-term basis.

Paul comments: “We believe our opening package is hard to beat and we reinvest all the Initial Franchise Fee, directly or indirectly, into making the franchise a success.

“Firstly there is the use of our brand and system in a very generous exclusive territory. Our comprehensive training programme is backed up by an operations manual on every aspect of the business.

“Roughly a third of the fee is used to create an on-line and off-line marketing campaign which ensures an extremely effective store launch after which an experienced Ableworld manager stays with you for two weeks to help you run the business.

“We offer advice on the property, assistance in finding finance, accounting help and provide you with your opening stock of stationery and promotional material (worth thousands of pounds). We even pay for the graphics on your van!”

After being established, franchise owners can expect continued guidance through monthly visits from Franchise Support Managers to assist with training, brand adherence, local marketing and generating new business contacts and potential sales.

As a retail organisation with its own stores, Ableworld also has various specialists, made available to franchise owners, including in the areas of marketing, buying, finance, engineering, human resources and operations.

In-store product training is arranged regularly to ensure franchise owners have the knowledge to effectively guide their customers in making the right purchase, and discussion between franchise owners is fostered via a dedicated online forum. At least annually, franchise owners and company figures meet for a franchise meeting, attended by internal and external industry speakers and including Q&A sessions.

Of course, for anyone considering investing in a franchise, the most important thing is the potential to make money with the chance to grow profits by developing the business over time. Paul assured that this is very much the case with Ableworld.

“Our business model suggests 15 per cent growth in year two and 10 per cent in year three. As a company, we have had double-digit growth for many years and are currently 20 per cent up on last year. The prospects for the industry are very strong with more people living longer and the buoyant ‘grey pound’ meaning that demand for Ableworld’s products and services is set to increase significantly over the next few years,” he confirms.

With these prospects and the ambition for expansion in the coming months and years, Ableworld is not prepared to rest on its laurels, and firm plans are in place to further strengthen the franchise offering. Paul concluded by explaining why Ableworld is now, more than ever, such a great opportunity for those with the right ambition and skill set, looking to own a franchise.

He comments: “We are the only bfa-registered mobility retailer. This is an established franchise where you can set-up a serious retail outlet for around £75k. The strongly positive demographic and economic factors mean that the sector will experience very good growth in the next few years. The earnings potential is there and you gain real job satisfaction from helping the less able in your community.”