The smart entrepreneur

Granite Transformations franchise owner, Tim Hegarty, has developed smart ways for building his business

How do you build on a successful franchise business? You build a bigger, even more successful franchise business. Well you do if you are Granite Transformations franchise owner and smart entrepreneur, Tim Hegarty.

Registering a 50 per cent year-on-year increase in sales at his Bristol showroom and passing the £1 million turnover milestone, he has now opened additional ‘designer’ premises in Bath, tapping into yet more of the lucrative South West consumer market. He has also recruited an exclusive interior designer, targeting commissions from the commercial sector, and relocated his kitchen worktops factory, in the process doubling production capacity and installing an exclusive showroom for architects and builders.

What’s next? He is already considering another retail site in Cardiff.

It’s fair to say that Tim was a prosperous young entrepreneur, even before investing in a Granite Transformations home improvements franchise. A Civil Engineer by training, he started his first business at the age of 22 and had banked £500,000 at 28, through his earnings from importing machinery and property investment, before jointly inventing a plastic packaging concept, from which he continues to draw royalties.

After cladding a patio table in stainless steel, liking the result and contemplating yet another way of making money, Tim considered starting up a worktop conversions business, before realising that Granite Transformations had got there first.

“It was around 2005 and I searched for ‘worktop conversions’ on the web and found that Granite Transformations had come up with a better idea, in the form of slim, lightweight granite, quartz or glass composite surfaces that can be installed on top of existing worktops,” explains Tim. “So I bought into a franchise with my business partner Ralph Deens. It’s a very, very clean product and customers absolutely love the quality and technical performance, plus there’s the bonus of a global brand.”

Although most of the sales are concluded in the customers’ homes, Tim feels that high street premises act like a beehive for retail business, attracting callers and generating interest from passers-by. That’s the reason he opened a new outlet in Bath because, although the original premises are on the eastern side of Bristol, it was still difficult to attract custom across from the spa city.

“I thought if we opened a showroom there, we’d get a lot more business and that has proved to be the case,” adds Tim.

“It’s on a main road into the city, with a high volume of slow moving traffic, and a prominent retail presence provides that little bit more justification to call in or visit our website. Even if people have just seen the showroom in passing, it acts as powerful brand endorsement, putting us on their mental checklist when considering a kitchen makeover.”

The showroom, a Grade II-listed building in a conservation area, exemplifies Tim’s eye for design and willingness to try new ideas. He enlisted the input of Granite Transformations’ newly-appointed showroom designer, Stuart Clarkson, and gave him relatively free rein to create a more ‘funky boutique’ atmosphere, employing the product itself creatively and incorporating high-end Italian glass mosaics from Granite Transformations’ sister company, Trend. Working within the constraints of the local planning authority, the exterior is also more restrained and upmarket in style, creating an aspirational image that appeals to his core customers.

The opportunity to acquire exclusive new postcode territories and open an additional showroom emerged from a joint financing scheme, called Granite Transformations Partnership Programme, which Tim himself conceived and presented to the franchisor. It’s his legacy to the UK franchise network and has already enabled fellow franchise owners to build their businesses in a highly cost-effective manner. He was also the first to trial TV advertising on a regional basis, a marketing strategy now adopted across the network and accounting for 17.5 per cent of all customer enquiries. More recently, he invested in a series of illuminated billboards at Bristol airport to increase awareness in the region, again leading the way by investing in brand development, rather than solely response advertising.

In tandem with the new retail premises in Bath and capitalising on increased brand recognition, Tim has also recruited a talented interior designer, Liz Dennys, to work with larger commercial clients like property developers, self-builders and contractors. She will focus on specifying Granite Transformations agglomerates and Trend mosaics for upscale installations, creating a substantial shared revenue stream.

“A lot of people who come into our showrooms have other projects going on, so it seems a shame to sell them just worktops when, with a little persuasion, we can also secure an interior design commission and tiles sales too,” explains Tim. “It also adds a lot of credibility to our company, when clients meet Liz in one of our showrooms, especially as we are moving toward larger contracts with builders and architects.”

With this in mind, Tim is developing a professional ‘laboratory style’ showroom at his enlarged factory premises, which will be dedicated to commercial specifiers. The fabrication facility is now geared up for 60 installations a month and a maximum capacity of 120, so with Operations Director Ralph running a team of nine workshop staff and five fitters, there is certainly scope for undertaking sizeable projects.

To explore commercial project opportunities in the region, Tim is next planning to host a series of certificated CPD (Continuing Professional Development) seminars for architects and specifiers, on the applications, technical properties and sustainability of agglomerate surfaces. Heavyweight stuff indeed – quite unlike the lightweight product at the core of Tim Hegarty’s thriving business.

Type of franchise: Retail management/home installation
Industry sector: Home improvement
Retail products: Kitchen worktops and doors, interior finishes
Ideal franchise owner: Self-motivated, management and sales experience, team leader
Company history: Established 1996, first UK franchise 2004
Investment required: From £31,000 + VAT, including additional capital
Recruitment locations: Selected postcode territories nationwide

Reported by David Gent