Northwood: Looking for business builders

Northwood Residential Lettings has put in place three businesses in one to provide a profit enhancing franchise. Gordon Patterson puts his questions to Northwood Founder Andy Goodson

Gordon Patterson: When did you begin trading with your first Northwood-owned pilot operation in Portsmouth, and how has the business developed over the years?

Andy Goodson: The business was launched in August 1995 and has continued to grow, especially since the launch of the estate agency in January 2006.

GP: When did you begin franchising and why?

AG: I first launched the franchise in September 1999. The most difficult thing about building a successful business is recruiting the right calibre staff, motivating them and then keeping them. Franchising seemed the logical step as it solved these difficulties.

GP: How many franchisees are in the network now?

AG: We currently have 39 franchised offices trading with a further 12 opening this year. In addition we have four company-owned offices.

GP: How are your franchisees trading?

AG: Generally speaking very well. Of course there will always be exceptions where a few offices are outperforming the rest of the group, but that just demonstrates what a great business concept it is.

GP: What is distinctive about the Northwood franchise offering?

AG: We virtually offer three franchises in one: with lettings, estate agency and financial services, our lettings business has a USP which places Northwood head and shoulders above the competition. Ours is also purely an office-based, turnkey franchise - that way we maintain the strong Northwood corporate branding.

GP: What changes have you made to your management structure as the business has developed?

AG: I have recruited several high calibre individuals who have brought with them a wealth of experience in varying fields of expertise. I believe our franchise management structure to be second to none.

GP: What kind of support services do you provide as franchisor?

AG: We offer three basic kinds of support: we have a dedicated telephone support team; remote support where we can log onto a computer anywhere in the country and solve any technical issues; and also field support where once again we have a dedicated team.

GP: What new developments have you undertaken recently to further finetune your business?

AG: We are always coming up with new initiatives to help our franchisees create more business, like the business card size DVDs, which explain the benefits of the unique services we offer.

GP: What kind of people are you looking to recruit as franchisees?

AG: I am not looking for people who particularly want to work in this industry but I am looking for people who want to build a significant business, people who understand what a business actually is and how to run one.

GP: You seem to have greatly enhanced your brand image throughout your business?

AG: I believe to have a successful business you need four key elements: The right product, the right location, the right people and the right brand image. We have heavily invested in creating the right brand image throughout everything used in the business.

GP: What is your five year goal-plan?

AG: To build Northwood to a 100 office network. I have no ambitions to become the biggest letting/estate agency business but I do have ambitions for Northwood to be the most profitable.