Franchising begins at 50

For some, 50 is the new 40. A time to take stock, review what you want from life and perhaps make a few daring decisions that give you a second chance to achieve all those things you’ve always thought about, but never had either the confidence, experience or capital to do. Megan Dunmore reports

For many, 50 represents a milestone; time to leave behind the stresses and demands of a lifetime in employment and look for an opportunity to take life at a slower pace and plan towards retirement. Whether you’re looking for a fresh challenge, a new direction or simply a change of lifestyle, a franchise provides a perfect opportunity to make the most of life, post 50.

For franchise owner Peter Jacques and his partner Susan Griffiths, investing in an Ovenclean franchise has proved a great pension plan. Ovenclean is one longest established of the domestic oven cleaning franchises in the UK. They provide specialist oven cleaning and refurbishment services to domestic customers, as well as schools, lettings agencies and hotels. As a van based franchise, owner operators have a great deal of flexibility and control over their working diaries. Of course, the most ambitious franchisees are able to work at full tilt and build multi-vehicle management franchises. But for those like Peter and Susan, the format also enables franchisees to downshift from working long or unsociable hours. The couple initially chose their Ovenclean franchise on the basis that it seemed straightforward to operate, affordable and hassle free, with great market potential. Prior to joining Ovenclean, Peter worked in security and Susan was a nurse at a care home. Both had endured enough of long hours for low pay and felt that self-employment with a franchise would enable them to have more control over their lives and their future.

Their instincts proved right. Although Peter says that it was daunting at first to take on a new business in their 50’s, they quickly built a loyal customer base and full order books. Currently, they have around 5,000 customers, with well over three quarters using Ovenclean on a regular basis, a fact that Peter puts down to what he calls the ‘wow!’ factor: “Once we’ve cleaned someone’s oven, they usually want us to come back again,” he grins.

Perfect retirement plan

After seven successful years with Ovenclean, the pair decided on a rather unusual retirement plan. They are substantially expanding their business to create a management franchise, which will enable them to hang up their Ovenclean aprons, take much more of a hands-off role and enjoy an excellent income from the thriving business they’ve worked hard to build. “To be honest, our pensions are pretty poor,” Peter confesses. “At 63 years old, I thought about selling our business and retiring entirely, but the truth is we both enjoy what we do, we earn better money now than we ever have, we have excellent relationships with our customers and frankly we would miss the fun of running the business. Although I know we could make a nice profit on the sale of our thriving business, we think a better long term plan will be to continue to own and manage it, but recruit a team of people to actually do the cleaning work.”

Ovenclean has provided Peter and Susan with an excellent living over the years and their relatively low original outlay has grown into a business with a substantially enhanced resale value. However, Peter is delighted with his new plan to make Ovenclean his route to comfortable retirement and is looking forward to the next challenge of managing a larger operation.

New career

Businessman Ali Hoy had a completely different perspective on investing in a franchise at 50. Ali’s previous background was in sales and marketing; he had held senior roles in companies operating in the US and Asia and was never interested in downsizing. On the other hand, neither was he in a position to invest up to £200,000 in one of the major franchise brands. So his plan was to identify a franchise that would allow him to start small, but with the potential to grow into a sizeable business. ChipsAway emerged as the clear choice, he says, offering a scaleable business model with a growing presence in the market.

ChipsAway is one of the best known automotive paintwork repair brands, with a nationwide network of over 300 technicians providing high quality mobile repair services to minor damages, such as paintwork scratches, bumper scuffs and kerbed alloy wheels.

“Owners of fast food franchises don’t invest in order to flip burgers or cook pizzas, they invest to develop a business and make profit, but first they roll their sleeves up and learn what their employees will be required to do. I’ve taken the same approach to my ChipsAway business,” Ali explains. It’s an approach that has worked for him. Ali opened a ChipsAway CarCare Centre (a fixed-base workshop) only six months after his initial business launch as a ‘man and a van’ operation. Soon after, he took on his first employee to help cope with escalating demand. When he hit £10,000 per month turnover, Ali decided to take on a second employee – all before reaching the end of his first year in business.

“As I have taken on more employees, I do less and less painting, focusing instead on business development,” Ali says. “By year two, I spent 40 per cent of my time on marketing and business development, with the other 60 per cent hands-on doing repairs. In year three that balance is changing again – in order to achieve turnover of £1,000 per day, you have to be marketing your business strongly and consistently, so that has to be my priority going forward.”

Experience counts

Ali had big plans for his ChipsAway business from the start. As an older franchisee, he was able to draw on his extensive life experience, as well as having the energy and vision to build a new business. He confirms that his decision to join ChipsAway and launch a second career as a business owner was definitely the right move: “A successful business doesn’t just happen when you buy a franchise. You have to have passion for what you do, be prepared to work at it and believe in yourself,” he says. “The ChipsAway management team has provided great support; they understand what you need to succeed in this sector – and that makes a real difference.”

LighterLife franchisee Gwen Owen agrees: “I work long hours because I love what I do. I could never ‘wind down’ towards retirement. When I joined LighterLife, I was in my early 50’s – I’m now 61 and still have the same energy and commitment as I did at the start. I can see myself easily carrying on into my 70’s. I have no children, I don’t like housework or gardening, my work is my passion – it’s what gets me out of bed in the mornings.” LighterLife is a successful weight management brand, supporting clients in their quest to lose weight and maintain lower weight with a low calorie diet pack combined with group therapy.

“Of course, the counselling means that you form strong relationships with your clients, and that’s what’s so rewarding,” Gwen explains. “The regime is highly successful and generates a great deal of business through personal referral. One of my ladies recently lost seven stone; obviously she was delighted and recommended me to friends, five of whom have now become clients too.”

Like Ali, Gwen recognises the role played by her franchisor in helping her get her business started, but she points out that ultimately the success of your franchise is down to you: “LighterLife has been great,” she says. “They support you in building brand awareness through advertising and provide professionally produced marketing material. They also put you through professional training as part of the franchise package, so you are fully qualified in a range of counselling techniques, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), because changing clients’ attitudes to food and eating habits is key to long term successful weight loss.”

Rewards and fulfilment

Ali continues: “No matter how much support you receive, at the end of the day, it’s your business. You have to work hard to build up your customer base and be prepared to take a few risks. I’ve recently invested in a second territory adjacent to my existing area, despite the current economic climate. It’s a measure of my faith in the business and my determination to continue to develop and grow. I work harder now than I did in employment, but it’s absolutely worth it. My income is significantly higher and, more importantly as far as I’m concerned, I have the freedom to do things my own way and the satisfaction of a fulfilling working life.”

One of the fastest growing market opportunities in franchising is the care sector, which also proves a particularly attractive option for people looking to ‘put something back’ into their community, while operating a highly profitable business,” says Steve Welsh, Managing Director of nursing and domiciliary care franchise, Kare Plus.

‘Putting something back’

“The way care is delivered is changing radically,” he explains. “The new Health & Social Care Act, introduced last year, has opened the door for independent care agencies to provide staff not only to private hospitals and nursing homes, but also to the NHS. Our ageing population, combined with a health service barely able to cope with the demands placed on it, has resulted in lucrative contracts available for tender nationwide. As one of only a few franchises providing trained nurses and other medical professionals, as well as domiciliary carers, we have found ourselves well placed to benefit. Previous experience in the sector is not necessary, but we have found health professionals with many years in the NHS recognise the new opportunity to build long-term, profitable businesses, while continuing to provide care.” “The ideal franchisee”, says Steve, is not necessarily over 50, but certainly a track-record in business or management experience of some kind is a definite advantage.”

Mona Gujral, one of the newest recruits to the Kare Plus franchise network, is a case in point. Having been made redundant aged 48, she decided the time had come to take back control of her life. Although she took time to consider different directions, eventually she opted to stay within the industry she knew best, which was care. She launched her Kare Plus business earlier this year and has already recruited over 20 nurses and healthcare workers, which means she’s poised to take advantage of some of the major contracts recently secured by head office.

“I spent 18 years working in social care, but running my own Kare Plus franchise is an entirely different way of life,” she says. “The harder you work, the more you earn – which is not at all like working in the NHS. I’m glad to be able to continue my career in an area where I have so much experience, but I’m so much busier and more satisfied now that I run my own business – I’m really enjoying it and am looking forward to my future with real confidence.”