Gold Medal franchising Franchisee of the Year announced

This year the ICC in Birmingham played host to the British Franchise Association's (bfa) Franchisee of the Year Awards 2007, organised by the bfa and sponsored by HSBC and Express Newspapers. All 12 finalists attended a black-tie Gala Dinner on Thursday 4th October with the winners sharing prize money of £10,000, courtesy of HSBC

The 2007 'Customer Focus' theme again highlighted the importance the franchisee should put upon customer loyalty and customer care with all 12 finalists having shown that they had made the customer their top priority. The judging panel, chaired by bfa President Sir Bernard Ingham and including FDS Southern Franchise Consultant Gordon Patterson, was looking for franchisees who could show how they have achieved customer focus - the theme for this year's Awards.

In the end the Gold Award, and prize money of £5,000, went to Terry Lucking of Belvoir Lettings. The Silver Award, and prize money of £3,000, went to Atul Pathak of McDonald's Restaurants. The Bronze Award, and prize money of £2,000, went to David Amos of Pitman Training. Speaking immediately after the Awards, Terry Lucking commented: 'This is one of the proudest moments of my life and terrific recognition for my team who have worked so hard to achieve this success.'

Cathryn Hayes, Head of Franchising for HSBC Bank, said: 'Judging these Awards is always a difficult task but we felt that Terry showed determination and commitment to building a successful business.' Express Newspapers' Business Advertising Manager, Yvette Taylor, added: 'The Gold Award Winner in these important awards is an ambassador for the franchising industry and an inspiration to all those thinking of starting up on their own.'

Director General of the bfa Brian Smart noted the importance of the awards and the key franchisor and franchisee relationship for creating successful business growth, commenting: 'The awards recognise the very best franchisees and how their focus and drive, when supplemented by the support of a franchisor, result in the growth of a sustainable, and profitable business.'

Gold Award
Terry Lucking, Belvoir Lettings

During the eight years he has been running his Belvoir Peterborough franchise, Terry Lucking has kept customer focus at the forefront of his business. Terry won the Gold Award for his ability to consider the needs of both tenants and landlords. Some of the procedures he has introduced are now used by many Belvoir franchisees, these include making digital recordings of properties at the beginning and end of tenancies and providing prospective tenants with 'mini movies' of properties on home or office computers.

Additionally Terry provides landlords with access to a free investment and protection review with a leading wealth management company, as well as using feedback forms that encourage customers to grade the level of service received and all suggestions and criticisms are addressed personally. Former prospective customers are contracted for their opinions and 'mystery shopper' reports are carried out on Belvoir agents and their competitors.

'This is a franchisee who truly understands that without the customer there is no business,' says Cathryn Hayes, Head of Franchising for HSBC Bank. 'It's a strategy that has seen a whole raft of innovation and inspired initiatives flow into the business. Indeed, so successful have these been that many of Terry's ground breaking ideas have quite rightly been adopted through the Belvoir network.'

Brian Smart, Director General of the bfa, adds: 'Terry is an inspiring example of such a partnership working at its very best and we congratulate him on winning the 2007 Gold Award.'

Silver Award
Atul Pathak, McDonald's

Establishing his first McDonald's franchise in 2003, Atul Pathak has since increased the number of McDonald's restaurants he owns by 10. Atul put a lot of his success down to developing a customer-focused approach that has enabled him to generate sustained sales growth.

Some of the measures Atul has taken include spending time talking to his customers, both in his restaurants and outside, as well as attending local resident groups such as Safer Neighbourhood meetings and religious and community events that means he knows many of his customers by name and allows him to build relationships based on mutual trust and understanding.

This has lead to Atul trying out some groundbreaking initiatives such as a Halal menu in his Southall restaurant, the response of which has been an increase in sales and guest counts of 100 per cent.

'Atul's customer focused approach has generated sustained growth that's built an extraordinarily successful business,' reveals Cathryn Hayes. 'By listening carefully to the customer Atul has been a bold innovator, achieving success in areas previously thought to be impossible and setting the standards for others to follow.'

Bronze Award
David Amos, Pitman Training

David Amos' Pitman Training franchise covers a small area and, therefore, has a limited customer base. Despite this David has been outperforming much larger operations, due to his dedication in providing an excellent service to his customers.

Knowing that many of those taking the course are doing so to find work, David has developed good relationships with recruitment agencies to ensure learners have the best possible chance of getting a job. This has proved very successful as 97 per cent of his diploma students go on to find employment.

'Judging these Awards is always a difficult task but we felt that David showed determination and commitment to building a successful business,' explains Cathryn Hayes. 'David is a perfect example of how a franchisee can deliver added value by listening to their customers and responding to their needs, moreover his business is delivering the figures to prove it, even outperforming much larger operations.'