Women in franchising | Part 3
The Franchise Magazine talks and listens to some of the most inspirational and successful women in the franchise industry
Merry Maids Fylde, Blackpool and Preston
After a successful career in business banking and insurance sales, Nicola Morris decided to turn her hand to the domestic cleaning market in 2002. After reading reviews of local cleaning services, Nicola realised that she could make a real success in this market with a more business-like approach to domestic cleaning.
Starting her Merry Maids business at the age of 36, Nicola built her empire from the ground up in Fylde and Blackpool.
“There were no existing licensees in the area so I had to start the business from scratch,” she said. “I had to get out and acquire customers so I could employ staff and then begin developing a local reputation for quality service at competitive prices. It was hard work but that’s what owning your own business is; hard work.”
In 2012, Nicola purchased a further license for neighbouring Preston and has seen great success since doing so. She sets the business targets each year; in 2012 the aim of raising GP to 38 per cent was achieved; in 2013 Nicola worked closely with franchisor ServiceMaster’s marketing team to improve her online traffic and achieved a 263 per cent increase in traffic going through her local webpages, which led to an increase in turnover on the previous year.
Nicola has always embraced the spirit of franchising and has always shared her success stories with the rest of the Merry Maids network so that her peers could be spurred on to take steps to increase their margins and become more profitable. In 2013, Nicola became a leader of a focused ‘Go for Growth’ group of Merry Maids owners, which meets regularly to discuss strategies and initiatives to grow their businesses and the network. So keen is Nicky to “give back” to her brand network that she’s recently committed to the new Merry Maids Mentoring Programme. Through this structured nurturing system, Nicky will provide “real life” experience, knowledge and recommendations on what has and hasn’t worked for her, with the ultimate goal of fostering sales growth to those owners she supports.
“The Merry Maids Mentoring Programme will prove extremely successful for business across the network,” she explains. “Smaller, younger companies can understand better what the older, larger firms have done successfully and in return, we pick up some fresh ideas ourselves.” Nicola is well recognised for her success. In 2010, she received the ServiceMaster Award of Excellence and earlier this year, she was a finalist in the NatWest Encouraging Women into Franchising (EWIF) Awards 2014 in the Woman Franchisee of the Year category. In 2011, Nicky received Merry Maid’s highest accolade, The Dallen Peterson Founders Award, and was flown to the US home of Merry Maids in Memphis as part of her prize.
Nicola has also embraced the ServiceMaster central charity partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support. Her team has raised over £1,200 by hosting their own coffee morning as part of the charity’s 'World’s Biggest Coffee Morning' event and agreeing to partake in the New Customer Pledge Programme, donating £10 per new customer in 2013 to Macmillan.
Motivating and rewarding her staff is an important aspect of Nicky’s business. As a service provider, the quality of the business is totally reliant on her staff’s performance on a day-to-day basis. Nicky’s was one of the first Merry Maids businesses to implement a health care benefit scheme for her staff and she’s focused on best practice when it comes to her team.
Cartridge World Aylesbury
What was it about the Cartridge World franchise that made you choose it over other franchises on the market? We bought the existing business on the evidence of the sales figures – it was a good prospect and we went for it! From first hearing about the store, I couldn’t stop thinking about what a great business model it could be. I was very excited about the green aspect and the possibilities of the business overall.
How have you benefited from the Cartridge World support system since you invested? Cartridge World themselves offer a good support structure, however by far the best support system is the other franchise owners. From speaking to them about the business I’ve built up a good group of friends and business colleagues.
How do you think the UK franchise industry could change, if at all, to encourage more women to take up franchise businesses? Franchising can work for anyone regardless of gender if it is a good business model. It is important there is a good solid support system from your franchisor and accountability from the bfa.
Home Instead Redditch & Bromsgrove
Annie Dixon-Dunn is the owner of the Home Instead Redditch & Bromsgrove franchise. Following a fantastic career working in many senior management roles in the healthcare industry, Annie decided to look for a new path and opened her Home Instead franchise in March 2013.
What made you choose Home Instead Senior Care over other franchise opportunities?
I'd always wanted to run my own business, but also wanted to do something that truly made a difference in a very positive way. Through personal experience, I understood the need for quality care and companionship in the community and, when I found Home Instead, they appeared to embody all the ethics and values I was looking for. There's a huge focus on quality and training, continuity of care and minimum client visits of an hour, all of which lead to greater client and staff satisfaction.
To what extent do you feel the support from Home Instead Senior Care has helped you build your business?
The first six months in particular are crucial and Home Instead were there for me every step of the way. The support is very structured and the response time is excellent whenever I have a question. I have a dedicated Business Performance Manager who works with me in my territory and a Quality Support Manager who I can call on for expert knowledge regarding the care operations.
How do you believe that the franchise industry could change, if at all, to encourage and enable even more women to invest in a franchise opportunity such as Home Instead Senior Care?
I think women sometimes feel more comfortable amongst other women, so I could see the benefit of having some informational events geared specifically for women. The industry needs to be as open, honest and realistic as possible, not only about the investment required and potential earnings, but also the resources required in time and effort.
The first phone call a potential franchise owner makes to the franchisor is crucial. There are a number of companies I didn’t follow up because of the hard sell over the phone. I always found Home Instead to be friendly and encouraging, yet still maintaining a high level of professionalism.