A hole in one

Golf Pro, Robert Lister, traded the golf course for a Granite Transformations business nearly ten years ago and has since built up a successful franchise. The Franchise Magazine reports

It took an extremely attractive offer for Golf Pro Robert Lister to give up his glamorous lifestyle on the course for a radically different career. He simply could not dispute the excellence of the Granite Transformations franchise opportunity. Rob has been a Granite Transformations franchise owner for almost a decade and has even won a major title as the brand’s current Franchisee of the Year. He is, perhaps, better known amongst his colleagues as ‘the turnaround king’, after transforming declining local sales into a full order book and increased order values.

Rob was formerly a golf teaching professional in Durham and found the job enjoyable, although the hours were somewhat sporadic. He was looking for something more secure, with a pension fund at the end, and wanted to create a nice little business, where he could have time off and spend the odd day with his elderly parents.

“That was the plan anyway, although things didn’t quite work out like that,” comments Rob. “Still, I’m enjoying the life and I’ve built up a fantastic team around me, so at present everything’s great, absolutely great.”

Like so many Granite Transformations franchise owners, Rob became familiar with the brand and its highly distinctive USP – ‘the top that fits on top’ – when he and his then wife were considering a kitchen makeover. They visited the National Homebuilding & Renovating Show, where Granite Transformations was exhibiting.

“We immediately loved the product and asked a guy on the stand how we could get a quote,” recalls Rob. “This was the early days of the franchise and there wasn’t a showroom in the far North, so this enterprising chap suggested we might like to become franchise owners. This dovetailed with my own career plans and, since we could see the product concept was a real winner, we decided to take the plunge.”

Rather than base the business in his home town of Durham, Rob opted for two more densely-populated, adjacent franchise territories in Newcastle and Sunderland. He set up a showroom and adjacent workshop in Washington, Tyne & Wear, south of Newcastle and west of Sunderland, strategically sited just off the A1(M) Services, great for regional road links and with ample parking. The Granite Transformations franchise model requires a manned retail showroom and a nearby workshop where worktop overlays and other fittings are fabricated and stored. Although a well-stocked showroom and a newly-redeveloped consumer website provide initial points of contact for customer browsing, most sales are conducted in the home, where the contract is finally signed.

This is Rob’s main job – apart from keeping the books, planning local marketing and a hundred other tasks – and it often takes him out of the office, talking to prospects in their own homes and measuring up existing fittings for worktops and other makeover elements. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty either, preparing the templates, working in the factory and helping out with installations, as needs be. “We are a relatively small team, so if one member of staff is off sick, we lose a sizeable proportion of our manpower, so I’m happy to get stuck in,” he comments. “In worktop and installations terms I’m a bit of a general dogsbody, filling in as and when necessary.”

He employs what he describes as ‘a small but perfectly-formed team’, having had a general clear out of staff more than a year ago. He recruited ‘a proper joiner’ from the building trade, who is able to tackle a range of carpentry and minor construction work, another experienced kitchen fitter and a “couple of good guys, who really jump on jobs”, in the workshop. Their combined talents, coupled with the resources of a nearby cabinet carcase maker, enable Rob’s franchise to undertake a wider range of kitchen and bathroom fitting jobs, with higher contract values.

“If a customer wants a new fitted kitchen or needs a wall taken out to create more floorspace, we can do that,” says Rob.

Rob is particularly taken with the fact that the Granite Transformations corporate owners, the Italian-based Trend Group, ensure continuity of supply and a stream of new product ideas. He has already tricked out his Washington showroom with a Trend display and is exploring opportunities for ‘designer’ glass mosaic sales in the Northeast, although he acknowledges there is less scope than in more affluent Central London.

Rob regards the support he receives from the franchisor, and Chief Operating Officer Danny Hanlon, in particular, as “absolutely fabulous”. The marketing material and sales literature has given him a real competitive edge.

“Danny’s a real enthusiast and is always looking for the best of everything, whether it’s website design or in-store merchandising,” he says. “As the network has grown and sales revenue has accelerated, there have been more resources to plough back into the brand and you can certainly see where the money’s been spent.”

Rob and his team have contributed to professional brand merchandising, through the design and build of a customised replacement-door display unit. This has been picked up centrally and is currently being rolled out across the network.

As a result of franchise owner marketing support, Rob now appears on television more often than Tiger Woods, through monthly regional ITV advertising campaigns in partnership with neighbouring franchise owner, Terry Garraghan. Because franchisor, Rock Solid Group has funded tailored commercials and employs TV airtime experts, it allows the national network and regional franchise owners to take advantage of this red-hot advertising medium.

“TV definitely gives us an upmarket image and generates a regular flow of customer enquiries. Our local competitors can’t touch that, as they don’t have the finance for producing sophisticated TV commercials. It gives us definite one-upmanship in the marketplace,” concludes a contented Rob, who is clearly delighted with the difference Granite Transformations has made to his life.