At just 27 years old, Chris Connelly became Sliderobes' youngest ever franchisee. But right from the beginning his enthusiasm and ambition impressed and convinced everyone around him that he would succeed. Vivienne Maunder reports on his first eight months in his Edinburgh showroom.
Chris Connelly is the kind of person you meet and you wonder how he fits so much into his life. He overflows with energy, takes problems in his stride and bowls you over with his sheer enthusiasm. He puts a lot into life and expects to get a lot out. Indeed within just a month of opening his Sliderobes showroom late last year, he tied the knot with fiancée Michelle, and became a dad for the first time.
'I am ambitious and I expect to work hard for the things I want,' he explained. 'My showroom, at 7,500 square feet is actually the biggest in the whole Sliderobes network. But that doesn't worry me particularly, because Edinburgh is an affluent area, and my catchment area covers well over half a million people. Besides, I get a lot of support from Sliderobes.'
Five years ago Chris' life was quite different. He was one half of a small joinery business, and simply biding his time until he struck out on his own. At 26 he decided the time was right. Initially, he was thinking of a coffee shop, having visited various franchise exhibitions around the country. But then he came across Sliderobes and was almost an instant convert.
Before he made any commitment, Chris carried out his own investigations, visiting Sliderobes showrooms in Dublin and in the small Irish town of Navan. Then he spoke to Paul Martin, who only months before had opened his showroom in Glasgow.
'That was very encouraging for me,' Chris explains. 'Paul was terrific, helping me out with my business plan and pointing me in the right direction for a business loan. But even without that financial support, I felt comfortable with what I was doing, especially with all the support and training I was receiving from Sliderobes' head office. Of course it helped that I had been in business before, but I don't think lack of experience would be a barrier to success with a Sliderobes franchise.
The managers from head office are frequent visitors, and are always at the end of the phone line.' Indeed, Chris' confidence has not been misplaced. Eight months into running the showroom, trading figures are looking good and he has a very respectable order book.
'We're all encouraged to share ideas, successes and failures, so that we learn from each other all the time,' he says. 'And then we get together formally twice a year at a conference where we get to bounce around ideas with the guys from head office.
'It takes time to get used to any new situation, obviously. But I'm more than happy with the way that things are going, I've got support when I need it, but the rest of the time I'm just happy to work hard and see the rewards.'