“I’m always working with people I like”

The Alternative Board (TAB) has provided many professionals with the means to enjoy a second career as their own boss. Tom Morton gives an insight into his first two years as a TAB franchisee

I had been a senior partner at a national accountancy firm prior to owning the Harrogate franchise for The Alternative Board (TAB) – the peer support and business advisory organisation.

As a newly formed one-man band, I had to get used to not having any support staff. It was – and still is – all down to me. A friend of mine jokes that, when I started the new venture, a letter put into the out tray at the beginning of the week would still be there at the end!

As with any job, there are pluses and minuses and, for me, the emotional highs and lows have been far higher – and occasionally lower – than expected. However, on the plus side, I no longer have to endure internal meetings, so I can get on with the job in hand. Also, TAB exists to help owner-managers, so the people I deal with are those who can take decisions. Most importantly, I’m always working with people who I like.

As a TAB franchisee, I have to organise and act as a Chairman at monthly peer board meetings of business owners and Managing Directors of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).

Sometimes, it can be very lonely running your own business, which is one of the main reasons why people join TAB in the first place. A partnership is a collegiate operation and I no longer have the luxury of being able to pop into a colleague’s office to discuss an issue.

As an owner-manager, I have had to develop my own support network and, of course, I also get a lot of support and practical advice from the UK Master Franchisee and fellow franchisees around the country.

Furthermore, while it is very stimulating running your own business, the fact is you are not going to be an expert in every boardroom discipline. In my case, I quickly discovered that I knew the square root of not very much about sales and marketing. You have to learn on the job.

To anyone thinking of buying a franchise, my advice would be to talk to some of the existing franchisees to get a clear picture of what you will need to do to get started and what life as a franchisee will be like. I found that it took me far longer to start making progress than I had anticipated. This was probably because I focussed initially on trying to recruit the Chief Executives of larger businesses rather than the owners of smaller businesses, who comprise the traditional TAB market.

Leaving the security of a large organisation to take up a new career is always going to be daunting, but if you believe you have the ability to run your own business, franchising is a great way to be independent while maintaining some security and lots of support.

So, having done your due diligence and research, go for it. It is essential that you believe in yourself and stay optimistic.