Get a pay rise every day

After 26 years as an employee Phil Marshall decided to strike out on his own with a franchise business. Now the Netstationers franchise owner is set to achieve sales of over £1 million

"Despite the recession, we at Netstationers are doing really well with my own business being up 30 per cent!" says franchise owner Phil Marshall. "Our unique selling point is our company-owned technology which enables our customers to maintain complete control and visibility over their stationery and other commodity procurement. This is especially invaluable for companies with multiple sites, which means we are picking up a lot of large contracts."

By taking advantage of the Netstationers business model, Phil and his customers benefit from the collective purchasing power of a larger entity and streamlined business model. Netstationers franchise owners are, therefore, able to offer lower overall product prices and administration overheads than traditional contract office suppliers, dealers and mail order specialists.

After two years of operating his Devon and Cornwall based Netstationers franchise, Phil loves the fact that he is in control of his own destiny. "The potential to get a pay rise every day adds to the excitement and is a great motivator," he reflects. "A principal goal of mine is to create and own a £1 million business within three year, while having fun doing it. I am happy to report that I am ahead of schedule and should achieve, if not exceed this target, by the middle of next year."

Phil was introduced to Netstationers by another of the company's franchise owners. "I had been in a number of different roles in the sector over the course of 26 years, and had been made redundant twice in that time," he relates. "At 44 I felt that it was time to fill my own swimming pool instead of other people's and began looking for business opportunities in the South West. Netstationers appealed because of its proven business model and, talking to other franchise owners, what came across strongly was the support you get from senior management."

Phil took the Netstationers franchise owner training programme in preparation for launching his business in January 2007. With no background in sales, he saw developing his skills in this area as his main challenge. "The sales training process as provided by Netstationers is very structured and is helping me to consistently win new business," he reflects. "Initially I found the prospect of contacting potential customers a little daunting but after my training, I realised that it is less about selling and more about understanding the customer's problems and then filling a requirement. I never 'cold call' from a long list of contacts but instead prepare a more targeted list of companies that I have researched and qualified as those that we are most likely to be able to help. By taking this sort of approach I can more readily engage with the decision maker to understand their challenges and establish how we can help to solve their business problem."

"While the initial training gave me a very good grounding in the basics, Netstationers' training is ongoing, with structured sales programmes supplied either in classroom sessions, or smaller groups. As a company we're always evolving our skills - personal development is a strong focus within the Netstationers network."

With the office supplies market worth £6 billion in the UK, there is no shortage of opportunity for Netstationers franchise owners to prosper. "I would recommend the franchise to anyone from a business background who has developed good acumen," says Phil. "Becoming a Netstationers franchise owner was truly a life changing decision for me but what is clear is that you only get out of it what you put in. In a relatively short period of time I have managed to build and own a valuable business asset."

Interview by Stuart Anderson