Steve Roberts, O2, Bolton
I worked for O2 for 13 years, first as a as store manager, then an area manager. The industry has always been varied and interesting, and one of my last projects for the company was setting up the franchising operation as the Franchise Development Manager.
From the early stages I was attracted to the idea of setting a business of my own, and after seeing the franchise grow and the support O2 is putting into it, I decided the time was just right to throw the dice and go for it myself. I carried on working for O2 while I set up my own store, and left employment the day I completed on the lease - 17th November 2006.
The store is located in the Middlebrook retail park outside Bolton, which already has a number of big retail names including Marks & Spencer, HMV, Curries, JJB and Boots. Location is important and I found somewhere that inspired me.
We had a soft launch in November, followed by an official launch in December, and I'm really pleased with the way people have responded. The strength of the brand is showing in the way that customers walk right in the door, and the shop has performed better that expected. O2 is currently the number one network in the country, and we want to stay there. O2's vision is for a franchisee to deliver the right customer experience.
To be honest I've never put so many hours in! I'm working seven days a week, but in terms of freedom I'm able to take quite a relaxed approach, as opposed to my former day job where I'd be at a million miles per hour. I do feel as thought the time was right to move away from where I was, given all my years of experience at various different levels, and I'm now able to balance a self employed view against a corporate view. Hopefully that combination will ensure I've made the right decision, and that I can deliver my own objectives and those of O2.