From redundancy to a job for life!
As unemployment continues to rise, many people who have lost their jobs or are facing redundancy are looking at franchising as a way to secure their future livelihoods. Fraser McKay talks to some of those who have taken the franchise route to a better life
With more than 1,300 different franchise brands now available throughout the UK and the 2011 NatWest/bfa UK Franchise Survey confirming that more than 90 per cent of all franchise owners report a profit, franchising offers an excellent as well as relatively safe option. The franchise industry has opportunities for almost everyone's skills and funding level that can provide an income far greater than the average salary.
Fresh startWhen Woolworths closed in 2009, Steve Gladwin was among the high street retailer's 27,000 employees who found themselves facing an uncertain future.
"I spent a couple of years working for my friend's business," he explains. "I'd not previously considered starting my own business, but having seen all the advantages of a franchise first hand, I became convinced that this could be the way forward for me."
As a result, Steve decided to combine his passion for cars with business by becoming a franchise owner for mobile valeting specialists Autosheen.
Employment insecurity in Andy Cornell's job as a company Director at a printing firm and his previous experience being made redundant were the triggers he needed to become a ChipsAway franchise owner.
He adds: "I'd always had a dream of running my own business, and the increasingly tough times in the print industry persuaded me to take the leap into franchising rather than seek another job and possibly face redundancy again."
AdvantagesWhen you choose to own and operate a franchised business you will be starting a new career as your own boss, but with one major advantage – you will not be on your own.
Rohan franchise owner Jeff Carter, who was made redundant from his previous job as a Project Manager at a telecommunications company, explains: "I wanted to be my own boss and, as I had little business experience, I knew that investing in a franchise would be the best bet for me. I would not only have control over my business but would also have the support of an experienced franchisor."
It is not just back-up you will receive when investing in a franchise – you will be buying the years of experience that the franchisor has gained. What they offer today is the sum total of all of their successes and overcoming challenges.
Former Beef Stockman and now Cleaning Doctor franchise owner Trevor Corrigan discovered just that. "Founder William Little and his team at head office are the mentors to my business," he explains. "If I call to ask about a problem, they know the answer. Nothing is a problem to them. To me, the support is invaluable – you just don't get that if you start out on your own."
The initial and ongoing training provided by the franchisor is key to the success of any franchise owner. The training provided by the franchisor should be sufficient to comprehensively prepare a novice in all areas of owning, operating and succeeding with the business. What you learn from the franchisor during initial training and your first year of trading should give you a head start that is equal to at least five years of experience in the business.
Julia Bradbury had no previous knowledge of carrying out investigations, but discovered there were many skills she could call upon from her previous career as an accountant when she became a London House International franchise owner.
"I had always said to myself that if I was made redundant, I would stop being an accountant," she explains. "When it was announced that the development agency I worked at was going to be one of those to have its funding cut, I knew there was no future for me in the public sector. Being a London House franchise owner allows me to use the analytical skills I acquired as an accountant, while leaving out the boring number work."
Launch padArmed with comprehensive training and support, a franchise owner should be able to achieve projected turnover and profitability within the first few months of launching their business.
Trevor Corrigan adds: "The training I received from Cleaning Doctor was spot on – simple enough for me to take on board but more than adequate for taking care of the needs of the business. I launched my franchise in August 2008, and thanks to the marketing systems provided, I had business as soon as I started. Now, I am booked up weeks in advance."
As part of its launch programme for new franchise owners, Autosheen sets up a series of demonstrations to attract potential customers.
"This gets the ball rolling straight away," says Steve Gladwin. "Once you've demonstrated the quality of the valet, the results speak for themselves – I've gained a lot of work simply by demonstrating in the first instance."
As a brand's franchise owners become established and the network expands, one of the few concerns for those who have swapped redundancy for franchising is how to develop their business.
"I've been busy since my first day and I haven't stopped since," Andy Cornell confirms. "I earned very good money as a company Director and I calculate that within 12 months I will be making at least the same money, with potential to earn considerably more. Now all I need to decide is what will be the best way forward for me – whether to expand through the mobile route and invest in more vehicles and a team of staff, or instead open a ChipsAway CarCare Centre (fixed base workshop)."
Reap the rewardsInvesting in a franchise may offer security and better prospects of success but, as with any business or job, you will only reap the amount of success from the effort you put in.
"I try to be as proactive as possible," explains Steve Gladwin. "After all, it's up to you to build your business, you can't just sit back and wait for the phone to ring. I love the freedom and flexibility of being my own boss.
"I've cut the long hours that come with a career in the retail sector, but for the hours I put in now, the rewards come directly to me – so effectively, I've cut out the 'middle man' too!"
What nextIf you are considering a move into franchising, you will find that many including NatWest, Lloyds TSB and HSBC are more willing to provide backing for established franchises rather than new business start-ups. This is often because franchises are seen to be more secure investments, as they are based on business models that have already been proven to be successful.
Should you require extra help with funding, there are even a number of initiatives for those budding franchise owners who are facing a career hiatus. Two of the most recent are the FranchisingWorks Licence Fund and The Royal British Legion's Be The Boss programme, for which FranchisingWorks is a delivery partner.
The Licence Fund is offered as a loan for unemployed people without sufficient financial resources to acquire their franchise licences from a reputable franchisor approved for the FranchisingWorks programme. The Licence Fund has recently received a £1 million investment from the Big Society Capital.
Be the Boss offers funds to those departing the Armed Forces, who wish to invest in a franchise, and has already attracted interest from more than 2,000 Services leavers since it was established in June 2010.
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