I love being my own boss!

Enjoying freedom and flexibility that he never had working for someone else - and earning more money - Gary O'Rourke is delighted he started his own Autosheen franchise, even during the credit crunch

After 20 years spent doing a job that brought him little satisfaction, long hours and mediocre pay, former delivery driver Gary O'Rourke (pictured right) began to think about how to change his life for the better. "I came to the conclusion that the best way to improve my quality of life was to work for myself," he says. "I did some research and when I came across Autosheen Professional Car Cleaning I was really excited. I've always liked cars and take great pride in keeping my own vehicle in pristine condition, so when I read about the franchise it seemed a great opportunity for me."

Gary was impressed not only by the professionalism of the business, but also by the experience of the management team and the 25-year track record of the valeting franchise. "Leaving employment is a big leap, however unhappy you are," he explains. "Having the reassurance and support of an established, successful business behind me was a really important consideration." After visiting Autosheen's Midlands-based head office, Gary decided to invest in the franchise and says it was definitely the right decision. "I'm so much happier," he confirms. "I actually look forward to going to work in the mornings!"

In the early days, Gary benefited from an instant income stream thanks to regular work from Autosheen's portfolio of National Account contracts, including fleet management and contract hire specialists Inchcape, construction giants Galliford Try, Lloyds TSB and Job Centre Plus. Although he still profits from such work, these days Gary has developed a local customer base which has become the mainstay of his business. "I've been a franchise owner for less than a year and so I've built my business during the recession - in fact, I started just as the 'credit crunch' was taking hold so it certainly wasn't easy in the beginning," Gary recalls. "However, I received tremendous support from the management team, who have a very hands-on approach. General Manager Adrian Steihl still comes up to see me regularly to check how I'm getting on and was a real help in getting my business going at the outset."

Gary confirms that he's increasingly busy. His old company now uses him to valet their vehicles and he regularly leaflets local businesses, which has brought in more work. He finds that word of mouth recommendation and repeat business from satisfied customers is a major source of work and says once your name gets known, the phone keeps ringing.

"Even though I'd say that the first few months were hard work, I've enjoyed every day of being an Autosheen franchise owner," he continues. "Compared to my previous existence, life has become so much easier. Whereas before I made up to 90 deliveries in a single day and was constantly under pressure, now my life is my own. I see much more of my girlfriend and I've started playing football again. If I need time off, I simply take it. I work fewer hours than before and earn more money. I love the freedom and flexibility I have now, I love working out in the fresh air and most of all, I love being my own boss!"

Reported by Megan Dunmore