From a humble beginning to going global

Providing a resource-saving research service to blue chip companies across a range of sectors, Ayton Global Research is positioned for a UK'and international roll out of its franchise opportunity

Since its creation in 1995, Ayton Global Research has achieved phenomenal growth. From a humble beginning focusing simply on cosmetics and toiletries, the business has now grown to a stage where it is able to research virtually any product, service or concept on an international basis.

Franchising is playing an important part of this growth, with AGR's first franchise being taken by Fran O'Connor who heads AGR Food & Drink - the dedicated consumer and product research division within the AGR group. Already up and running, AGR Food & Drink is now providing consumer and product research to major supermarket chains and food manufacturers.

The ever-expanding global market presents a real opportunity for AGR franchise owners. The recent downturn in global trade means that clients can ill-afford to make mistakes when planning future business strategies. AGR is, therefore, ideally placed to produce research that will be able to inform client evaluation, enabling them to make profitable decisions.

Sue Ayton, CEO of AGR, sees the future growth of the business via the franchising route and has already had a terrific response to her initial marketing of the AGR franchise concept. 'Italy looks likely to be the first country to benefit from an AGR international franchise, with a deal due to be signed imminently,' she reveals. 'It presents the right opportunities for a franchise owner, as it benefits from a diverse manufacturing base and a growing number of internet users. These factors should ensure success, coupled with the opportunity to service AGR's existing UK-based clients and retailers as they expand into foreign markets.'

Much of AGR's expansion plans have been driven by existing clients who have been loyally serviced for over 12 years and are keen for AGR to expand their overseas network in order to grow their own businesses. With an ever-expanding network of franchise owners, AGR can provide clients with just the data they require to ensure that they have the right look and feel to their stores, carry the right stock with the right labels and point their new product development in the right direction. This saves an enormous amount of wasted resources and assists clients with their profitability. Many clients also have well-established internet-based retail sites presenting yet another real opportunity to service them in areas such as market research, website appraisal and promotion.

AGR benefits from its own bespoke ACORN software - Ayton Consumer Online Research Network - enabling operators to easily set up panels and trials to meet growing demand. This state of the art development, coupled with AGR's own online training programme, is offered free to AGR franchisees so that they can focus on marketing and promotion rather than invest in hours and hours of staff training.

Verto Training Ltd has produced this training capability as a bespoke solution for AGR. It is offered in any language, manages the progress of whole teams of employees (assessing and certifying them automatically), operates from any country and is a huge bonus for AGR franchise owners.

With over 250,000 trained and profiled volunteers internationally, AGR is ready to explode this database to accommodate new franchise owners and, as each country grows, the AGR system is capable of handling more and more trials and effectively diversify its activities to market research and promotions.

AGR now has over 12 employees, has grown its turnover by £100,000 every year for the last three years and still clearly excites its founder. 'While a high degree of commitment and energy is a vital requirement - and the odd night shift in front of the computer - it is still quite possible to enjoy the rewards that a high income can bring, together with a family life,' says Sue.

Having helped many successful businesses grow throughout her career, Sue and her franchise team are now ideally placed to achieve similar results with AGR franchise owners. 'We are having a phenomenal time at Ayton Global Research,' she reflects. 'We have been growing our business since 1995 and now we are ready to go global. We have focused our developments on one homogenous system capable of researching any product, service or concept anywhere in the world.'

'Several of our major blue-chip clients have expressed an interest in having one central agency augment research in multi-territory trials, thus ensuring that AGR's high level of service prevails. The ever-expanding global market presents a very 'now' opportunity for AGR franchise owners and the recent downturn in global trade means that our clients can ill-afford to make mistakes when planning the future of their business. AGR is in the enviable position of benefiting from the current economic trends in that it can conduct the research that will enable its clients to make profitable decisions. '

'I have a background in education and love the idea of helping people in whatever way I can,' says Sue. 'Now, not only can I help our clients to grow their businesses through our excellent research, but I can also help franchise owners to grow theirs too.'

AGR Food & Drink franchise owner Fran agrees: 'Clients with the benefit of cost-effective research as part of their offer will tend, I believe, to succeed. I'm looking forward to being part of the success story behind my new clients and am especially pleased to be servicing one of the UK's leading high street food stores already!'

Reported by Stuart Anderson