London House: Join the Professional Investigators

London House is looking for franchisees with enthusiasm to build a business, professionalism, an interest in meeting a variety of people (both potential clients and the subjects of inquiries), good communication skills, an enquiring mind and a desire for variety. Stuart Anderson reports

Specialists in financial and commercial investigation, London House was established 11 years ago and now spans a network of 34 franchised offices nationwide. Franchisees provide a wide range of specialist services including asset tracing, company searches, witness statements and pre-employment screening for drugs and alcohol to blue chip clients such as Barclays Bank, HSBC Group and Dixons Stores Group.

'We discover and provide information, and help solve business problems,' explains London House Managing Director Godfrey Lancashire. 'Ours is a growing market - businesses of all types are increasingly experiencing cash flow and credit management issues, and finding that it is more cost-effective to put them out to a professional.'

London House franchisees are provided with a comprehensive training, support and backup package. 'While you have total freedom to run the business as you want, you also have the support of the whole network who are happy to share knowledge and experience with their London House colleagues,' says Godfrey.

'Franchisees can tap into each other's skill sets to take on extra work, and the head office also fields requests from clients to put project teams of franchisees together. The fact that our franchisees come from different and varied backgrounds is very helpful in providing a complete service.'

In order to prepare for the variety of services provided by London House, new franchisees are provided with a minimum of two weeks' training prior to launch, as well as further training as needed at no extra cost. 'Most of the training is practical,' Godfrey reveals. 'We still operate the Milton Keynes territory from head office, so we are able to train franchisees on very real cases right away. It provides sufficient know how for them to start their businesses, and is also good fun!

'We provide a help desk for franchisees during office hours, and they have our mobile numbers for queries at any time of the day. In the first few months we also check through reports before they go to the clients and generally hold their hands. We also allocate national contract work to the franchisee network, so it is important that franchisees can provide the entire range of services, although many tend to specialise in their local work depending on what the local market dictates.'

The head office also operates a marketing department, which provides franchisees with a full marketing launch programme including press releases, magazine features, local market research, mailshots, introductions to known clients and recommendations on joining local networking events. 'We provide a marketing toolkit, and our marketing specialist is on call when ever a franchisee wants to launch a new special initiative,' says Godfrey.

'Further support comes from the franchisee network itself. Our franchisees offer advice and assistance on larger projects. A practical advantage is that when a franchisee wants to take a holiday, the neighbouring franchisees will cover the territory to maintain a service to their clients.

'The franchisee network has also organised a 'Franchisees' Franchisee of the Year' award, which is voted for by the franchisees rather than the franchisor. This is presented at one of our twice-annual franchisee conferences, which encourage networking between franchisees and allows us to put on formal presentations, share ideas and best practices, and put on a great social event.'

London House is seeking franchisees in a number of priority areas, including London. 'Because our training and support are more than adequate in preparing new franchisees to operate the business, we are concentrating on identifying candidates with suitable personal qualities,' says Godfrey, whose recent appointment as President of the Credit Services Association has highlighted the standing of London House in its industry. 'This is not a nine to five job, it's a business that provides something different to do every day.'