London House

After a decade of established operations, risk control services franchise London House is closing in on network completion with a selection of important areas still available for business builders. Stuart Anderson reports

Expanding the franchise territory by investing in a second area has proven an invaluable option for ambitious business builders within the London House franchisee network such as Karen Barnes and David Degiorgio. Both have seized upon opportunities to expand their franchise territories into established neighbouring regions, accessing immediate established customer bases as well as boosting the potential turnovers of their businesses.

'The new area is by far the busier,' reflects ex-policewoman Karen, who launched her Brighton franchise in May 2003 before buying the Surrey & North Sussex territory when it became available for re-sale in 2004. 'The previous franchisee had been very successful, and when he reached retirement I took over a very good client base. I've now got more than enough work to handle as a sole trader, and there is enough potential business now to grow significantly when my husband Tony becomes involved full-time after completing his career with the police force.'

For Ipswich & Colchester franchisee David, the opportunity to take over the more established Norwich area just three months after his launch has provided an opportunity for his business to accelerate its progress after much of his early work was spent assisting in other areas.

'I've been assisting the Norwich manager in the build up to its transfer in ownership, and also working on some projects in the Essex area which is not yet covered by a franchisee,' he explains. 'While this has provided me with as much work in three months as I would have expected to have done in six and enabled me to gain a lot of experience and confidence in a short amount of time, I haven't spent as much time marketing my business in my own area as I otherwise could have. The opportunity to invest in the Norwich territory when it becomes available for re-sale in October will provide an established block of customers for my business.'

London House is a professional white collar organisation that provides a portfolio of financial investigations and risk control services to solicitors, banks, retail groups and other creditors, including such national names as Barclays Bank, HSBC Group, Black Horse Finance and Dixons Stores Group. Franchisees are trained and supported in conducting routine surveillance, lifestyle reports, repossessions, process serving, expert witnesses, CV checking, company searches, counter-money laundering, witness statements, internal theft and fraud checks, and pre-employment screening for drugs and alcohol.

'London House stood out from the other management-type franchise opportunities I examined,' reveals David. 'I was looking for a business I could operate from home, with no staff requirement and an element of control over what I do. I visited a number of professional brands, but none stood out until I met the London House team. It is a change from being stuck in an office. I enjoy most the investigation side of the business - being given the basic information and then going out and finding a person.'

Karen is pleased her expansion has provided her with the opportunity to build a business with a serious income, but is still enjoying some lifestyle benefits from becoming her own boss.

'The most obvious change in my life is that I now have one,' she remarks. 'As a police officer you work very unsociable shifts, and while I'm now very busy and often work weekends, if there's a family event I can organise to work round it.'

London House recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and the company's Founders Godfrey Lancashire and Brian Hughes are aiming to establish franchisees in the remaining available territories to reach national network completion within two years. 'Among the territories still available are a number of opportunities suitable for a business builder interested in launching with an option of expanding into a neighbouring territory as Karen and David have done,' Godfrey points out. 'In addition, we have held back a number of prime areas across London which are now being made available for the right individuals to exploit. No previous relevant experience is necessary, rather we are seeking professionals with the drive and motivation to develop a substantial white collar business in an exciting and interesting industry.'