ChipsAway: Best of both worlds

Family man Lee Draycott has finally found what he's been looking for - flexibility, freedom and time with his family.

A ChipsAway franchise has proved to be the perfect fit for Lee Draycott, who quit his lucrative job as a financial advisor for a leading bank to taste self-employment as a plumber. 'I was bored to death at the bank,' Lee explains. 'I certainly couldn't see myself doing that line of work until retirement age, and I really wanted to be my own boss. I'm a very practical person and enjoy working with my hands and so decided to train as a plumber.

Unfortunately, I felt as though I'd leapt from the frying pan into the fire!'

Lee found himself on 24/7 call out, working longer hours than ever and feeling isolated and stressed. 'Don't believe all those stories you hear about plumbers earning a fortune,' he says wryly. 'I'm not afraid of hard work, but it was very demanding for little reward, either financially or in terms of lifestyle. I have two small children who were usually in bed by the time I got home, and when things got tough, there was nobody there to offer any support.'

Eventually, Lee had to admit that plumbing was simply not for him. He decided that while he still wanted to run his own business, he also wanted to feel part of something. The obvious answer was franchising. He began to research different franchise opportunities and short-listed several that were specifically related to automotive services.

'I visited different companies and attended a ChipsAway Open Day,' he confirms. 'I was really impressed. Everyone was highly professional but very friendly. I had the chance to chat to existing franchisees who were on hand during the day, ask questions of the management team and see at first hand a ChipsAway repair being done. Although ChipsAway was probably the most expensive franchise I looked at, it was unquestionably the best.'

ChipsAway is the world's leading specialist in SMART (Small and Medium Area Repair Technology) repairs to automotive paintwork, a concept pioneered in the US and introduced to the UK 12 years ago. Franchisees operate either from ChipsAway CarCare Centres or from professionally liveried vehicles, customised as fully equipped mobile workshops, enabling them to travel to homes or work premises according to their customers' preference. The quality, value and convenience of the ChipsAway SMART repair service has made the company number one in the marketplace, with over 350 franchisees across the UK and a network of Master Franchisees worldwide.

Following extensive training, Lee launched his new ChipsAway franchise last August, supported by a ChipsAway International Business Developer. Over his first weekend, he generated estimates worth over £3,500, most of which he booked in as firm orders. Since then, Lee's diary has continuously been booked up weeks ahead.

'I'm very happy with my business,' he says. 'I have done another promotion since my launch, and occasionally I persuade the family to help out by delivering leaflets, but increasingly my work comes from repeat business and word of mouth recommendation from satisfied customers. Although I work hard, I'm doing far fewer hours than I did before and am earning a better income. Most importantly of all, I see a hell of a lot more of my family. I've definitely found exactly what I was looking for in ChipsAway.'

Reported by Megan Dunmore