From Here to Security. ChipsAway franchise provides a solution to Roger's redundancy blues

The rewards of self-employment have been generous for ChipsAway franchisee Roger Catchpole, who has bought a'BMW'Z4 and a Harley Davidson with his earnings inside three years

When IT manager Roger Catchpole was made redundant for the second time, he realised that being employed was no guarantee of security. He decided that in future his life would not be dictated by the decisions of other people and that by becoming self-employed he would take control of his own destiny. 'I've always wanted to run my own business, but I'm a cautious character and don't like to take risks,' Roger explains.

'In fact, in choosing a franchise my number one priority was ensuring that whatever the business the risk factor had to be minimal. Of course it was important to find something with potential for me to earn at least the same income as I did before, but most of all I wanted security.'

Roger recognised that franchising was the safest route to self-employment and set about researching the industry and identifying franchise opportunities that were well established and had a long term record of success. In a previous career, Roger had been a panel beater and welder. He'd often wondered how he would have fared had he not changed direction and, therefore, was particularly interested in automotive franchises.

His experience led him to a couple of auto repair franchises and then to ChipsAway International, the world's leading SMART (Small to Medium Area Repair Technology) repair specialists, with approaching 370 franchisees in operation across the UK and a network of Master Franchisees worldwide. Using a unique system developed in the USA, franchisees provide on-the-spot repairs to scratches, scuffs and bumps on car paintwork, in a fraction of the time taken by a traditional body shop and usually at around half the cost.

'Initially I attended an Open Day for another franchise,' Roger recalls. 'It all sounded great until at the end they told me that the franchisor would be taking 30 per cent of all profits. Somewhat disillusioned, the following day I attended a ChipsAway Open Day and the experience there was entirely different. Everyone was extremely open. They were very professional, but also friendly and informal. We were given a demonstration, which was very impressive, and they confirmed that ChipsAway franchisees pay only a flat license fee of £70 per week, irrespective of how successful and profitable the individual franchisee's business!'

Ever cautious, Roger wanted further reassurance and was encouraged to speak directly to different franchisees around the country to find out at first hand what their experiences of the franchise had been. 'ChipsAway were brilliant,' he reflects. 'I was able to speak to lots of different franchisees, whose feedback was really positive; I also met up with a Business Developer - an existing, established franchisee who helps new franchisees by providing support during and after their launch. Even after that, I searched the internet looking for customer feedback on ChipsAway repairs. Everywhere I looked, the comments were excellent. Finally, I was completely convinced and signed up for a ChipsAway franchise.'

Having completed his training, Roger launched his franchise in Spring 2006 and has been booked solid for weeks ahead ever since. 'By coincidence, Clive - my Business Developer - was the same chap who I'd shadowed for a day and he was great. He came to supervise my last practice repair, helped out at my launch promotion and came with me for my first 'real' repair job. He also provided additional support over the phone. The training was very comprehensive and once you've had the chance to put it into practice a few times, you soon get the hang of things!'

Roger has found that he had little need for any further promotions although he advertises in the local papers. Work, he says, has continued to flow in from word of mouth recommendations, both individual customers and local businesses.

Roger is continuing to see steady growth in his business, earning a turnover of £50,000 in his first year and expecting to turnover in excess of £70,000 in year three. His philosophy has been to focus on building a reputation for quality, reliability and professionalism. It's an approach that has paid off. Within his first three months Roger surpassed his initial projections, after only six months he had achieved an income equivalent to his previous well-paid position as an IT manager, and today is the proud owner of a top of the range 3-litre Z4 BMW Sports Coupe and a brand new Harley- Davidson Fat Boy motor bike.

'I am so glad I took the leap and invested in a ChipsAway franchise,' he says. 'I love being self-employed - I am no longer just a number on a company payroll and my quality of life is directly affected by my own hard work and determination to succeed. I believe that if you work really hard and do every job to the best of your ability you deserve to do well.

'When I was made redundant, it hit me like a ton of bricks, but my ChipsAway franchise has given me my life back and restored my self-belief. I thought I'd made the right decision from the start - but now I know it!'

As for the future, Roger acknowledges that if his business continues to grow at the same rate, he will have to consider taking on a second vehicle. Although becoming an employer was not something he'd initially factored into his plans, he says he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it. 'Whatever other potential challenges face you, for ChipsAway franchisees, getting work is not one of them,' he laughs. 'There's certainly plenty to go at - if anything, trying to cope with the workload is the biggest problem - but then again, I guess that's a nice problem to have!'

Interview by Megan Dunmore