Q&A with BLUEBIRD franchise owner Maria McCaul

Q: Where did you pick up your copy of The Franchise Magazine?

Maria: I heard an advert for a franchise show at Olympia on the radio in March 2008 and when I attended the show, I picked up a copy of The Franchise Magazine.

Q: What made the Bluebird Care franchise stand out?
Maria: My first impression was that I liked the image they portrayed. Bluebird was very professional without being too slick which attracted me.

Q: What was your previous occupation and was it easy to make the transition to franchise owner?
Maria: I worked in events management and I decided to make a complete turnaround of my life when I hit 40. Owning a Bluebird franchise was my red Ferrari! It has been an absolute roller coaster of emotions as I had no experience of being self-employed beforehand so I had to adapt to a brand new sector and business language as well as all the tasks involved in running your own business like organising payrolls, recruiting staff etc.

Q: What territory do you own?
Maria: I own the franchise for the Barnet area and launched it in May 2009 following a three to six month set up period.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being your own boss?
Maria: I love the aspect that I don't have to answer to anybody and I had always wanted to be self-employed and fly free. I think I was probably a hard person to manage but being your own boss doesn't make life easier! However, when I have my successes I love feeling that I know I got them by doing them my way. You have to keep your self-motivation going because, although it is tempting to have a 'lazy day' you need to realise there could be a lot of risks as there is no one to pick up your slack.

Q: Were you pleased with the support you have received from Bluebird Care?
Maria: Yes definitely. For people looking to become self-employed, franchising is certainly the best route to take. As I had no experience of being self-employed personally or from people I know I have found being part of a franchise makes me feel safe without being mollycoddled. Bluebird Care has the perfect approach to this, as you know they are there to guide you and although you sometimes wish they'd take the reins they don't - so that you learn from your own experiences.

The support is not just from head office either; the network is also great and is the biggest bonus of working for Bluebird Care. All the franchise owners know each other from the annual conference and other events, so you feel comfortable calling them for help and advice and know they will only be too happy to help.

Q: How do you intend to reward yourself?
Maria: I have just treated myself to a spa break - my first break in a year, which was lovely. At the moment I have been incredibly busy getting my franchise up and running. After my first year I feel I have opened the door, and during my second year I know I have done it all once before so I have points of reference when something comes up again. However, at the moment I regard my business as my little baby Bluebird and don't want to leave it for too long so I can keep nurturing it. By the third year when I am well established I intend to treat myself to a cruise.

Q: What support have you received from your friends and family?
Maria: My friends have been brilliant especially as I have not been able to find much downtime to meet them as much as I used to, while my partner has been fantastic helping me remember some of the business language and giving me lots of support. I couldn't have done it without them.

Q: Who is your hero in the business world?
Maria: I have always been drawn to Richard Branson and aspire to feel how his image looks - casual, relaxed, comfortable, happy and successful but always in control.

Q: What qualities do you think you need to be successful in business?
Maria: You need to have lots of energy, have absolute belief in yourself and make your own luck, by that you've got to follow your own instincts because you are the boss.