As soon as they both graduated with degrees in business and marketing, they went straight into starting their own business with Subway at the age of 23.
“We’d always talked about going into business together, but had no experience,” said Jeremy. “We knew there could be a lot of start-up costs involved and didn’t want to make costly mistakes. So we decided to follow a proven path that gave us a support system and structure by going down the franchising route."
Within three years of becoming Subway franchisees, Torban and Jeremy had five stores across Reading. Despite the recession in 2008, they persevered and traded their way through a couple of tough years.
But one thing they learnt was not to put all of their eggs in one basket, so to speak. “It was about diversifying but also challenging ourselves,” added Torban. “And as franchising had worked so well for us to date, we wanted to see what other franchises were available.”
Impressed by gym franchise, Fit4less, the friends decided to sell one Subway store to embark on a new business venture in 2012. For three years, they continued to run both franchises before growing the Fi4less business to such a size that they decided to leave Subway to focus on that.
A Franchise with a Difference
It was actually by chance that Jeremy came across Platinum Property Partners (PPP) when he saw Founder and Chairman, Steve Bolton, quoted on more than one occasion in the Sunday Times. After doing some online research and finding out that PPP was a franchise, he decided to go on a Discovery Day.
“I went along on my own and could see immediately that there was a certain quality to the existing franchise partners. PPP also seemed to offer a step up in terms of resources that would be available to us. It was also reassuring that this was a business that could withstand an economic downturn so it felt as safe as an investment as you could wish for, while producing healthy returns.”
After discussing the prospect of building a PPP buy-to-let property business with Torban, they decided to join and put pen to paper in July 2015.
Long-Term Investment Opportunity
Torban added: “We saw this franchise opportunity as a way of providing a secondary income over and above the other businesses, but also boosting our pension for the future. We could see that, compared to the gyms, it wouldn’t take up a huge amount of time either.”
Torban and Jeremy now have two fully tenanted Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in High Wycombe achieving a 20% average return on investment. A third property is currently undergoing refurbishment.
Having worked together for more than a decade, they were able to fall into a working partnership quite smoothly. With Torban living closer to the gyms, he spends more time there while Jeremy takes the lead on their property business, but they have the security of being able to bounce ideas off each other and cover workload when the other takes some time out.
And with extensive experience dealing with customers, the friends had no problems dealing with tenants. The purchasing and refurbishment has been the biggest learning curve so far.
Jeremy commented: “We learnt a lot in a very short period of time. From knowing what types of properties to look for in terms of space and potential to extend, to negotiating with estate agents and understanding the refurbishment process. The costs we saved just by contracting a builder known to the network and having a refurbishment mentor quickly justified the franchise fee.”
So How Does PPP Compare to Other Franchises?
While both the Subway and Fit4less franchises involve more man hours and staff management, which suits Jeremy and Torban for this time in their life, their PPP business gives them long-term financial security and flexibility.
“Generally, we do very little in the property franchise day-to-day,” added Torban. “It can be fitted in around our other work, and more importantly, allows Jeremy to spend more time at home with his young daughter. The main difference with the PPP franchise is that it’s an investment in our future.”
“The gym franchise is great and profitable. We also have a great group of people working with us, but it can also be a bit stressful. In comparison, PPP gives us a strong business model to follow but organises a lot of training and social activities, like Ascot. That injection of fun was part of the attraction for us.”