Impressive Support

With head office taking care of invoicing and administration, Look Local franchise owners can focus on growing their businesses

Following the introduction of its new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Accountancy system, Look Local franchise owners now have more time to focus on building up their businesses and maintaining relationships with their clients. The new improved Look Local franchise package includes a variety of tools to help franchise owners run their businesses effectively. As well as comprehensive training, ongoing support, a copy of the operations manual and their own personal login area on the Look Local website, Look Local franchise owners also benefit from marketing materials and a new Customer Relationship Management and Accountancy system.

Look Local Managing Director Ray Slater explains: 'The new CRM System was created in response to our franchise network's request for help in finding a way to minimise the burden of administration and accounting. The system holds and monitors all of the franchise owners' customer data allowing easy access to manage their sales activity and campaigns. This, together with an invoicing and integrated accounting package, relieves the individual franchise owner from creating and recording sales invoices, and automatically updates the bookeeping.'

After transferring to the new management system, existing franchise owners Ray Bessell and his son Greg have been able to focus their attention on expanding their business. Ray joined Look Local in 2007 when he purchased the Alcester territory, since then he and his son Greg have taken on an additional territory in Bromsgrove, with Greg now taking charge and managing the day-to-day running of the business.

'I decided to invest in Look Local not long after my 50th birthday,' recalls Ray. 'It suddenly dawned on me that if I continued working in corporate logistics I would have spent my entire life working for somebody else. I was keen to be my own boss and got talking to my friend Clive Wheeldon who is a director at Look Local. He suggested the franchise opportunity and I was immediately impressed. I liked the idea of a low-cost business with minimal overheads and the backing of an established brand so decided to invest.

'This summer, Greg and I plan to start up local directories for both the Redditch and Droitwich areas. With Look Local head office taking care of the invoicing and some of the administration through the new CRM system, we now feel we have the time to be able to manage four local directories. By doing this, we anticipate doubling our current turnover of £60,000.

'We think the new support system is great - it has definitely made our lives easier. Before we had to create our own database using software like Excel. Now, with the new centralised database, once all of the information is transferred across there is a sense of uniformity as all of the franchise owners record their clients' data in the same way.

'Business is going really well at the moment and we think this is because the recession has led a lot of local traders to reduce their advertising expense. Therefore, they cannot justify the cost of advertising in a glossy publication. Instead, more companies are coming to us, because we are more cost effective and have a similar circulation figure.'

New franchise owner Dean Marshall is also enjoying the benefits of the management system. After taking over the Shirley-based Look Local franchise in April, Dean (pictured, right) has big plans for his business. 'I had a Look Local directory delivered to me in my hometown and spotted the advert for the Shirley territory and was intrigued,' he explains. 'I liked the concept and felt it would complement my existing business well so decided to invest. This summer I plan to take on the two Rugby-based territories and get two more directories up and running. By the end of this year I hope to have at least six directories in circulation.

'I have been impressed with the support and training. With the invoicing taken care of I have more time to focus on getting to grips with running the business and increasing the revenue. Initially I spent 10 days with the existing franchise owners learning the ropes, and since then have had full support from head office. Look Local has also found a printer which the whole franchise network can use and by bulk printing our directories we save a lot on the costs of printing!'

Interview by Jess Sturman