Chip off the old block!

Successful ChipsAway franchise owner Steve Hunt is hoping his son James will prove a "chip off the old block", as he joins Steve's growing business to help fulfil customer demand.

Steve Hunt, who joined ChipsAway 18 months ago, has seen such strong demand for his services he recently reached a point where new customers were sometimes having to wait up to a month to have minor paintwork damage repaired on their cars.

"I simply couldn't handle any more work and I certainly didn't want to let customers down, so clearly I needed to take on some help," he explains. "My son James was laid off from a very good position in the construction industry and was struggling to find a new job, so for him to join the business seemed the obvious solution.

"He's a hard working, reliable lad and came out with me a few times to help out while he was searching for a new job. When I suggested he came to work for me full-time, he was really excited and jumped at the opportunity for us to work together - of course, I'm delighted too!"

Before becoming a ChipsAway franchise owner, Steve had worked in various sales roles, most recently in the outdoor advertising industry. He describes the experience as "feast and famine".

"In the good times you make money, in the bad times you face being laid off," he says. "The result has been a succession of different jobs and sometimes resulted in being laid off. I decided that I'd had enough. I wanted some continuity and also the chance to make money for myself rather than for other people."

As an independent person, used to working alone and being on the road, Steve felt that he could make a success of the right franchise business opportunity. He looked at several options - mostly in the same sector - and decided ChipsAway offered the best way forward.

"In one of my previous jobs I worked in the motor trade selling insurance, and I had come across ChipsAway as an established company with a strong and recognised brand name," he says. "I hadn't really heard of the other similar companies, so once I had been to one of ChipsAway's Open Days, met the management team and seen the operation at close quarters, it didn't take me long to make up my mind that this was the right move for me."

Having liked what he'd seen at the Open Day, Steve didn't waste any time - within weeks he had signed the contract, made his investment and booked on to the next available training course. His new ChipsAway business subsequently launched in October 2008, with the support of a Business Developer - an experienced ChipsAway franchise owner.

"The launch went really well," Steve recalls. "It generated three weeks worth of work. It was a great start and I have continued to be really busy, working six days a week most weeks."

Steve estimates about 60 per cent of his work now comes from repeat business and word of mouth recommendations - he believes that taking on James and putting a second vehicle on the road will not only take some of the work pressures off him in the short term, but creates a strong platform for further expansion.

"I'm very happy with the way my business is going," he confirms. "I want to take things step by step, but if everything goes according to plan, I hope to invest in a second territory and maybe add a third vehicle too!"

ChipsAway is one of the UK's leading minor automotive paintwork repairers. Operating from fully equipped mobile workshops ChipsAway specialists provide high quality on-the-spot repairs to minor automotive paintwork damage within a matter of hours and at a fraction of the cost of traditional body shop repair methods.

With 34 million vehicles on the road and over 17 million repair opportunities each year, ChipsAway estimates that it currently only deals with three per cent of market demand!

Reported by Megan Dunmore