Women in Franchising - Securing the future

Security, more flexible working conditions and freedom from office and employment politics was the driving force for Gillian Gibbon when she left her high-paid job in telecoms three years ago. Rachel Spaul interviews

Having spent 15 years building businesses for others and following two redundancies, Gillian Gibbon decided to develop a business of her own and secure her future through self-employment. At 46, married with two children aged six and nine, she says travelling with her family, preparing for their future education and securing her family's financial security were priority. 'I spent around six months investigating setting up my own business, but decided in the end that it was important to my family that I continue to earn a good income,' Gillian explains. 'I was worried about failing in a business that wasn't proven so franchising was the safer option for me.'

In conducting her due diligence, Gillian discovered that not all franchisors are honest and trustworthy. She clarifies: 'I talked to several franchisors and in some cases they wouldn't or couldn't answer some of my questions or only gave me a limited number of franchisees to contact, which made me sceptical.'
With her skill set focused on developing client relationships and project management, Gillian felt that an Auditel cost and purchase management consultancy franchise was her ideal opportunity:

'Auditel were very professional from day one. I think it was the most difficult business that I researched, but it fitted with my long-term goals.' Gillian went into the business with her 'eyes wide open' expecting it to be hard work and tough financially in the early stages of business development, and believing that re-mortgaging the house and borrowing money was a small price to pay for the long-term benefits the business would bring. 'Franchising is not an easy ticket to being self-employed, you still have to work hard, but it's a great feeling when clients are happy,' she cautions. 'On a personal front I'm in control and no-one can take my business away from me.'

Working from a purpose-built home-office and paying for childcare has enabled Gillian to keep business and home life separate. 'I enjoy the flexibility of being able to take time off if I need to and being able to take holidays when it's convenient for me, although I'm always in touch with clients and colleagues.'

Gillian says the greatest advantage of being part of a franchise is the support she receives from other Auditel franchisees. Unlike most franchises, Auditel franchisees work together on client projects bringing specialist skills to the mix. Gillian for instance has experience in telecoms and financial services, and particular skills managing major client projects. However, she admits that she's not so good at number crunching and building complex financial models, so prefers to outsource to other franchisees. 'I currently have around 35 active clients, some are small so I can work by myself on those projects, others are larger so I share them with other franchisees,' she adds. 'This is a varied business that can apply to most businesses with overheads and I have clients from manufacturing, charity, retail, import/export and so on.'

Gillian's commitment to the business and ability to always aim higher has contributed to her success. Three years after taking on the franchise, she reports: 'I set out wanting to build a big income so I knew that it would be hard work. Now I'm through the initial stages and have just about replaced my salary I'm enjoying the business more. I don't have to attend boring internal meetings, I don't have to commute to work and there are no bosses and no office politics.'