Ex-Forces target franchising

As the British Army, Navy and RAF prepare to decommission thousands of servicemen and women, franchiors will be considering whether any of them can help them grow their brands.

Ex-Forces franchise owners are among the most successful in the UK. Franchise Development Service’s own Managing Director Prof Roy Seaman was in the Royal Air Force and Belvoir Lettings founder Mike Goddard was a Wing Commander. The disciplined lifestyle personnel lead while in the Forces could be one reason why ex-servicemen and women are attracted to franchising’s turnkey guidance for starting and maintaining a successful business.

Whatever the reasons for their success, savvy franchisors will be eagerly awaiting the crop of ex-Forces personnel returning to life on Civvy Street. For one ex-soldier, the arrival back in England was much more than a typical return from a tour of duty. At just 25, Stephan had to cope with the trauma of almost completely losing his legs, after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan. The father-of-one is still in rehabilitation three years after the injury, but this has not hampered his determination to build a successful family business, enabling him to provide for his wife and two-year-old daughter. To that end he is currently putting his efforts into refurbishing a property, which he will market in the way set out by his franchisor Platinum Property Partners. By following the franchisor’s guidelines, he is confident he will create a multi-million pound property portfolio within his Taunton territory.

Stephan said his disability is having an impact upon his bid to go it alone. He is very much looking forward to being able to dedicate himself to his business. “Getting set up is spurring me on to get through the recovery process,” comments Stephan. “I want to be able to get 100 per cent stuck into my business.” Despite his serious disability, nothing is going to stop Stephan. Currently, he is putting the finishing touches to his first property investment. Last year former Helicopter Technician David Steele joined Civvy Street with a burning ambition to be his own boss. After serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Ireland, he wanted nothing more than a safe, secure working life he could build around his family. He chose mobile body repair franchise Car Medic.
“Ideally, I wanted a practical, hands-on business that would enable me to have the flexibility to spend more quality time with my family, after being away so much with the Army over the years,” says the former soldier.

“I knew franchising would be a more secure route to success and cars have always been a passion of mine and so SMART repairs and Car Medic instantly appealed to me. The franchise was affordable and I liked the fact that as the owner/operator I would be able to control my own working hours, rather than being answerable to other people. “As an outdoor person I didn’t want to be tied to a desk, so a mobile repair service where I’d be out and about was perfect. “Unlike some of my comrades, I’m one of those fortunate enough to be able to build a business for my future - so I wanted to give something back. Car Medic head office provided fantastic support on the launch day as well as matching the funds raised pound for pound. “Everything is really starting to go well now,” David confirms. “I’m getting regular new customer leads from the national website and I’m seeing more and more word of mouth recommendations coming in as well as repeat business from satisfied customers – which is great! I really enjoy what I do and get great job satisfaction as a Car Medic franchise owner. Best of all, I’m having plenty of time at home with my wife and three boys, so I’m a happy man.” Former Logistics Officer Gary Norman spent more than 20 years and two-thirds of his career in the RAF, picking up useful skills and experience – particularly in terms of management experience and leadership.

The invaluable skills that servicemen and women develop in the Army is the trade-off for their life not being entirely their own. For Gary, it was the need to establish a stable life for his family that formed the impetus behind his bid for self-employment.

In his own words, being ex-Forces gave the married father-of-two “the confidence to step out and go it alone”. However, on account of the fact that he is taking on a franchise, Gary not have to go entirely on his own. Help is always be available from the franchise network, which has been built around the Northwood lettings brand. “I stepped out of the military with confidence and a sure idea of where I wanted to go, but importantly, I also developed the core values of honesty, integrity and respect, while serving for my country. These are things that I think I share with Northwood and are very important to any business venture,” he comments.

As The Franchise Magazine went to press, Gary was putting the finishing touches to his new premises in Southport, Merseyside, which will be ceremonially opened by the local mayor. Father-of-two Chris Campbell saw a lot of action during his 18 years as an RAF Pilot and he even underwent a bone marrow transplant in 1984. Around a decade later, he set up a Minster Cleaning franchise in Southampton. Chris remembers carrying four bags of franchise prospectuses and leaflets around, while he deliberated the opportunities available and thought through his options. “In the end it struck me that cleaning was a solid, almost recession-proof business,” recalls Chris. “It has proven to be pretty much like that. The last few years have been like a rush of blood to the head.” To clarify, Chris says his business has grown by 20 per cent during the recent recession, something he describes as “pretty good really”. One of Chris’ daughters, Jenny, runs a branch in Dorset, which has also grown at the same rate in the last couple of years. Chris now employs 300 cleaners and runs 14 vehicles. His turnover is in the region of £100,000 per month. His success must largely be down to his willingness to muck in to get a job done. Chris says: “On the first day in the business I turned up at a client’s office but my cleaner hadn’t arrived so I ended up cleaning toilets in my suit.” Simon Webb, 42, spent 18 years in the RAF and left as a Squadron Leader last year. Amazingly, Simon also managed to get a Masters in Business Administration under his belt so when the time came for him to decide what to do with the remainder of his career days he was firmly fixed on a white collar option.

He attended a franchise exhibition in Manchester and there he learned that aside from fast food and care of the elderly, a good franchise option would be business-to-business (B2B) consulting. After deliberating on available franchises in the B2B sector, he chose Expense Reduction Analysts (ERA). Simon comments: “I love the fact that I’m responsible and accountable for my own efforts. You do have to be self-motivated, but there’s so much scope to work flexibly and be your own master. “You need a plan, flexibility and determination but I’m relishing the challenge and am already reaping the rewards. I am pleased that I decided to invest in myself by joining ERA. I am delighted with the support and results I have achieved so far,” he concludes.