"Owning a franchise changed my life"

Following redundancy from a heating business, the last thing on 45-year old Phil Davidson’s mind was to set up his own business, as he was more than happy as an employee

Phil’s change in lifestyle was expedited when the heating company lost its main contracts with the police, forcing it to go under; redundancy loomed. At first he considered moving into retail and looked at premises in Prestatyn, but Britain’s high streets were also starting to suffer as more retail parks were being developed and Phil felt uneasy about taking such a huge risk.

There was then a ‘lightbulb moment’. An article on Sky News illustrated how the high street was failing, compared to the success of franchise operations. A friend suggested to Phil that he seriously consider franchising and he had seen an advert for a franchise business called Ovenu. Phil’s mind started to work overtime; he saw this as a great franchise opportunity as he had become fed up of being office-based and wanted to be more frontline with regard to customers. The other pro was the fact that he could work from home, offering a much better work/life balance.

Further investigation showed to Phil that Ovenu as probably the best business of its type. This was further confirmed for Phil after chatting with an existing Ovenu franchisee, based in Stockport. He offered advice but suggested Phil look at other franchises before making that life-changing decision.

Phil picks up the story: “I have always had a real empathy with people as well as a respect for quality products and service. This came from my training at Auto Windscreens where the same quality of workmanship would be given to both a Rolls Royce or an old Mark II Escort, for example”.

Also interesting to Phil was the fact that Ovenu used only environmentally-friendly products for valeting, with caustic soda being a thing of the past and anything used in animal testing is a no-no. In early 2014 Phil took the plunge and became an Ovenu franchisee, covering North Wales. Ovenu’s managing director, Rik Hellewell, mentored Phil for the first few months, with technical support from the ‘man on the ground’, Adam. “This was very useful”, Phil goes on to say, “as there are a lot of technical elements to the job - we don’t just turn up and scrub! I had to learn about oven-care, how to keep the work area clean and tidy and how to use the new dip-tank in my van, which Rik and his team had developed specifically for the job”.

Within a few weeks of buying his franchise, still wet-behind-the-ears Phil attended Ovenu’s AGM; two days of meeting some of the other 100 plus franchisees, socialising, training and bringing the teams up-to-date with product and service developments. “Rik spent 5 years ‘on the tools’ full time from 1994 to 1999 proving the concept before bringing Ovenu to market as a franchise. It’s extremely rare to find a managing director who is also the founder of a business and there are certainly none in our sector with Rik’s 21 years of experience to draw upon” says Phil. “The community feel of the Ovenu franchise is, I would suggest, unique.”

So what advice does Phil have for others considering taking up franchising? “One of the first things is to very carefully check out the geographic area where you are going to be working: how big is the population and what percentage will want to use the product or service? A good franchisor will have these answers for you”. He also highlights the fact that if the franchise you will be running involves physical work, you need to be fit, as time off means no income.

Offering further advice, Phil adds; “Never forget you are the boss and the buck stops with you, you only reap the seeds you sow. Finding new business is key and the marketing team at Ovenu support us in using lots of different methods. Yes, you will always have repeat customers if you offer a good service, but remember people move on so you need to bring in new ones, too”.

Already, less than a year into the business, Phil is earning more than in his previous job and importantly he now has something money cannot buy - time.