With a yearning to improve his work/life balance, Ross McLaren quit his job with Honda to launch a ChipsAway franchise. With £5,000 worth of bookings on his first weekend, he is enjoying a 'phenomenal' start

Ross McLaren is one of ChipsAway's newest recruits. A former Vehicle Technician and Training Manager for Honda, Ross was covering an extensive geographical area - Scotland and North England - and was constantly working away from home. He felt he was missing out on family life and became increasingly aware that he needed to address his work/life balance.

Having decided to work for himself, Ross took a closer look at several automotive franchises, including SMART (Small to Medium Area Repair Technology) brand ChipsAway as well as other competitors in the same marketplace.

ChipsAway is one of the most successful franchises in the UK with around 350 franchise owners operating nationwide and a network of Master Franchisors overseas. Franchise owners provide 'on-the-spot' SMART automotive paintwork repairs, operating from professionally liveried vehicles customised as fully equipped mobile workshops, which means they can remove minor damage to car paintwork on a 'same day' basis, at a place most convenient to their customer and at a fraction of the price of traditional body shop methods.

Franchise owners are supported in building their customer base by a dedicated 24/7 UK Call Centre and access to a portfolio of National Accounts. "I kept coming back to ChipsAway," Ross confirms. "It was clearly offering the best franchise package, with an excellent support programme, a market leading system and a well respected reputation in the industry."

After visiting the company's head office in the Midlands, Ross was convinced that ChipsAway was right for him and started his training a short time later. He says he knew he had made the right decision: "The training was absolutely first class. Although I had come from an automotive background, I knew absolutely nothing about paint - and neither did my fellow trainees, who included a Bank Manager, an IT manager and a used car Salesman! By the time we'd finished our course, we could all accomplish a fantastic quality invisible repair. It was truly amazing."

Ross had high expectations of his launch weekend and was not disappointed. Over a Saturday and Sunday he wrote estimates for work worth £9,000 and took £5,000 of firm bookings. "I could hardly believe how well things went," he admits. "Actually, due to an administrative error at my local newspaper, they initially ran my advertisement a week before my launch, so the phone didn't stop ringing during my training. In fact, I'd generated £1,000 worth of work even before I launched, so in some ways I couldn't have had a better start!"

Ross confirms that new business has continued to flow in since and describes his first couple of months as 'phenomenal'. He says he enjoys the sense of working for himself, but still being part of a large, professional organisation. "You have the independence to run your own business, but also access to all the back up support services that you need," he adds. "Whenever you need technical advice, for example, you know it's only a phone call away.

"Everything that ChipsAway promised, they have delivered. I have a superb lifestyle now - I am able to pick the children up from school and still get a full day's work done. Although I'm home early every night, I've managed to maintain the same income levels as before and my closest friends and family have all commented on how much more relaxed I am since I made the move. I've absolutely no regrets - being a ChipsAway franchise owner is just brilliant!"

Reported by Megan Dunmore