The Pensions Problem is something we've all heard a lot about recently. For a fortunate few, however, there is no problem. Some have been lucky, some have saved hard and others - like Norman Ryan - made a smart move and bought a ChipsAway franchise
At 59 Norman is contemplating his retirement with relish. After eight years as a ChipsAway franchisee he has sold his franchise for 200 per cent more than he bought it for, having worked hard and built a superb, thriving business with an extensive high spending customer base, not to mention tremendous loyalty and good will.
Before joining ChipsAway Norman had run a Post Office for a number of years, but was becoming bored with it when by chance he spotted a franchising feature in the Sunday papers and read about ChipsAway.
With a background in body shops before the Post Office, he was intrigued by some of the claims ChipsAway made for its services. 'I remember thinking, 'You can't do that!'' he recalls. 'At that time SMART repair technology was virtually unheard of and I certainly had no idea such techniques were available.'
With a mixture of scepticism and curiosity Norman went along to one of ChipsAway's Open Days, a no-strings-attached opportunity to take a closer look at the franchise, see demonstrations of the technology and speak to existing franchisees. It was, he says, a revelation.
'When I saw for myself that ChipsAway really could make fantastic quality repairs to car paintwork within a matter of hours I was stunned,' he admits. 'I said to myself, 'Blinkin' Heck, I'll have some of that!' I went home that night really excited. Within no time I'd raised the money, signed on the dotted line and become a franchisee!'
Looking back Norman estimates that within three months he'd established a viable business, and he's never been short of work since. 'I'm virtually a fixture at certain dealerships,' he jokes. 'I turn up every week and they always have plenty of work for me. Although they have their own body shops, I can make minor repairs much more quickly and I'm more cost effective.'
In fact, Norman's local Jaguar dealer is setting up a standard service to assess requirements for car paintwork repairs for all vehicles booked in for service. Norman will provide a price list and will also provide the repairs as required. He is confident the new service will generate still more work for his business.
'I'm always busy,' he adds. 'I actually have to turn work away some days. I never advertise, all my work comes in from existing regular customers or from people they've recommended me to.'
Norman's son, 20 year old Sam, is set to train with ChipsAway. At present he's not sure whether he will initially work for his Dad's business or invest in a franchise of his own, but either way he has seen the benefits Norman has enjoyed and is determined to follow in his footsteps.
Norman has never wanted to build a large organisation or to take on employees, although many of his fellow franchisees do so very successfully. Instead he has operated on his own from his fully equipped mobile workshop, supporting and being supported by his neighbouring franchisee Liam Kelly.
The man about to step into Norman's shoes is Bruce Johnson, whom Norman met through his Jaguar dealership customer. Bruce provided valeting services and was interested in moving into SMART repairs. When he saw the calibre of Norman's work and heard that the ChipsAway franchise was up for sale, he quickly made a handsome offer for the business.
Bruce is currently working alongside Norman as a sub-contractor, learning the ropes and meeting the customers. Bruce will take over full-time in a few months time when Norman and his family move out to their favourite spot at La Manga in sunny Spain. The family has had a holiday home in La Manga for some years - one of the many lifestyle benefits Norman's successful ChipsAway franchise has delivered. They love the area and dreamed of a retirement there in the sun. Now those dreams are about to come true and Norman can hardly wait. 'I've had an excellent living from my franchise. It's been a fantastic business for me and my family and now, thanks to ChipsAway, I'm looking forward to enjoying my retirement!'
Reported by ChipsAway's Megan Dunmore