Alfred Eccles, London House, Wolverhampton
The instability in the Middle East forced me to make an unplanned return to the UK after 15 years working in the hotel and catering industry in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran.
I was 57 and looking for a job, but I couldn't get any interviews. In fact, it was practically a full time job to fill in the applications!
As an alternative I started looking at franchises. I looked at about 20 opportunities, but didn't find any that I wanted to take on. I'd almost written off the idea when I went to the library to check The Franchise Magazine to see if there was anything new, and found that somehow I'd missed London House. I sent off for some information, then went to visit the head office and was very impressed by the outfit. As soon as I saw the paperwork I realised that these were people working to proper ethical standards. It is a company that deals with you on a personal level and is very straightforward.
My preference was to invest in the Wolverhampton territory. The area was already owned by a franchisee, but London House informed him of my interest and found he was ready to sell. I met with him and half an hour into the meeting I decided to buy the business. I'm a very cautious person so that shows how appealing the business is. The franchisee was able to show me a log book audited by the head office which listed all the work he was doing, and a history of the fees he'd earned.
I wanted a franchise where you're provided with assignments in the early days to get you going - while I was on the training course London House was winning business for me and I started in August with nine assignments booked. The challenge then is to cope with the work. Some of the procedures have to be totally accurate - there can be no mistakes. That is where the support of the head office comes in: I made a couple of blunders in the first few weeks and they sorted it all out, and provided additional training to make sure I understood the business. They continue to visit to go over any difficulties I have.
In my first month I won 57 assignments and received a cheque very quickly for £1,500. It's early days yet but I'm already taking a salary. I want to develop the private sector side of the business, and have already sent out five targeted mailings to promote the business and offer my services.
If you work for someone else, they chuck you out at 65. With this franchise I can keep going as long as I want to. I have the scope to organise the business around my own personal objectives, and in the future I can employ somebody to keep the business running - from that point of view it's got a lot of potential. London House has given me an opportunity that I couldn't have taken myself, and that has value.