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Rick Flay, Sheffield

Before I became a Belvoir franchisee I'd already had a taste of being my own boss with my own property business in Australia. When my family and I decided to move back to the UK in early 2006 I began to look for new business ventures that would utilise my experience and expertise.

I felt a recognised brand would help me to achieve rapid sustained growth that would be impossible as a sole trader, especially having lived abroad for a long time, so I researched franchising and came across lettings specialist Belvoir.

The company's national branding, franchisee support, website, systems, integrity and credibility appealed to me and five months after making my initial enquiry I launched my franchise in Sheffield. Belvoir offers a three-week comprehensive initial training course as part of its franchise package and I found the legal training particularly useful. I have a mentor providing excellent support and also use existing franchisees as a sounding board.

I outgrew my office within months and relocated to a shop front in the city centre with help from my wife Val, who is a marketing professional. After eight months I was announced as Belvoir's 'New Franchisee of the Year' and was also recently honoured with the Silver Award in the network's 2008 Franchisee of the Year awards. My business is flourishing with turnover up 74 per cent year on year and I have high hopes for the future with second and third branches in Chesterfield and suburban Sheffield already in the pipeline.

Running your own business is challenging and carries an element of risk as you make decisions on a daily basis that impact other people's livelihoods as well as your own. I enjoy making the decisions and although I do not have a lot of free time at the moment, it is through personal choice, as I want to put in the hours to reap the rewards. I know for a fact that if I had not invested in a franchise, my business would not be where it is today.