Meet five business owners who have discovered the joys of franchising for themselves, and find out how it can work for you too
A franchise really can turn your life around. Flexibility; following the career path you really want; the opportunity to take charge of your own work-life balance; the chance to build a good income, and the feeling that you can make a difference in people’s lives - are just some of the reasons why people decide to set up their own business with a franchise.
Meet four franchisees and one franchisor who ditched their employee status in order to set up on their own. Their ‘then and now’ experiences really do illustrate how making that initial enquiry can lead to a fresh and rewarding career in franchising, where the benefits outweigh the hard work and risks involved.
Giving back while getting my life back
Then: For 20 years Barney Davis had what many would consider a glamorous career in the wine trade.
“I loved the job, but it wasn’t all swanning around sunny vineyards tasting wine,” says Barney. “I also had to travel abroad five to six weeks a year. In my last job, as I lived in Warwick and worked in London, I would have to catch the train before 7.00 am to get into the office by 9.00 am most weekdays. Looking back on it, it was ridiculous – and I was missing out on seeing my two daughters grow up.”
In October 2019, Barney was made redundant. “I wasn’t grateful for that – but it gave me time to think. I had reached a crossroads in my career, and decided I wanted a business of my own.”
Now: Barney is managing director of the Caremark franchise in Warwick, with a care team of over 25. “This is adding value to the community and it’s personally rewarding. This week, a daughter told us that our care for her mum had changed the lives of the whole family immeasurably. That’s hugely motivating,” he says.
He acknowledges that care is not always an easy business, but says: “There’s the pressure of being a business owner, but I’m in charge of my own time, so I have a far healthier work and family life balance – plus in the end, I will have built an asset.
“I wish I’d started working for myself years ago.”
Mark achieves work-life balance
Then: Mark Heslop started his working life as an apprentice in industrial services before settling in the marketing industry for 21 years, where he met his wife, Emma. Mark began to feel stagnated, realising the time had come for something new – and found it in an unexpected place.
“My two girls, Katie and Phoebe, had been students at the local Stagecoach performing arts school since they were four. I knew the brand, but never realised it was a franchise. It struck me that I’d discovered a viable business opportunity, right under my nose!
“I jumped at the chance to run a franchise that put my business skills and musical talent to good use. It didn’t necessarily matter that I had no experience in running a performing arts school. My corporate background and six years as a Stagecoach parent were a great combination.”
Now: Mark is now the Stagecoach principal in Leeds Morley territory and he’s swapped the responsibilities of his past career for a far better work-life balance. “I now have every opportunity to see my girls all week, even at weekends when they come to my Stagecoach sessions. I can help out with them as much as possible.
“I spend lots of time with Emma, and the whole family plays a part in the business I’ve built. The position I’m in now, with the brilliant teachers I’ve recruited, also means we can take some great holidays; we’re about to head to Switzerland, then we’re flying to Malta to go on a Mediterranean cruise, which has been pushed back over and over.”
Now, five years into his life as a franchisee and principal, Mark has invested in an adjacent territory. “Leaving my old career to invest in a Stagecoach franchise was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I love the people and the whole environment we create. The fact is that everything you put into it, it gives back even more,” he says.
From behind the till to business owner
Then: Aged just 16, Subhan Munir took a job in a Piri Piri franchise outlet, between school and college. “On my first day, I was on the tills, and a customer asked if I was a future manager. I answered, ‘No, it’s just a temporary job.’ But, in fact, that’s exactly the way things turned out – I never anticipated going down the management route, let alone opening my own franchise outlets.”
Over the subsequent four years, working around college, Subhan learned everything about running the outlet, from customer service to managing orders, staff and inventory. Aged 20, he worked for a year as a manager in a family member’s doner kebab franchise outlet but left to take a commercial pilot’s course in Spain. He returned, in 2020, to find pilot jobs almost non-existent. Then a family member started a fast food franchise…
Now: At 26, Subhan recently became the first franchisee with Burger & Sauce, a franchise that specialises in burgers, freshly made daily on the premises and served with signature sauces. His first outlet, in Alum Rock, Birmingham, is already open and he has plans to open another in Nottingham by August, followed by two more over the next two years.
“I’m recruiting a management team now to facilitate future growth,” he says. “I want to open multiple outlets while I am still young and single and have the time to devote solely to growing my business.”
He advises others: “Always give your 100 per cent, even to what you think will be a temporary job. You never know where it will lead.”
As for his grounded career in flying, he says: “I hope one day to have a business big enough to allow me to fly my own plane.”
Franchise flexibility helps me work through illness
Then: Rachael Coyne and husband Colman knew that life in the police force wasn’t their long-term career plan as they prepared to enter their 50s.
As keen travellers, the couple from Huddersfield decided to join the Not Just Travel franchise and set up their own part-time travel agency Jetset Not Just Travel in 2013, aiming to take it full-time as soon as possible and retire from the police.
But with their new business barely underway, Rachael was diagnosed with cancer. “Colman and I were terrified,” said Rachael. “We didn’t know what was ahead and felt scared for my life.” Despite the news, they kept building their business part-time while Rachael underwent chemotherapy, helping Colman whenever she could.
After a year, Rachael got the all-clear. Soon, their franchise was booming. Colman retired from the police six years early, as he was earning more than his previous salary faster than they expected. Over the past nine years, their business has become a multi-million-pound operation.
Now: In 2020 Rachael discovered that her cancer had returned. She explains: “I tried to stay positive because that was all I could do.”
Rachael is thankful that she shares her franchise business with her husband Colman, and that they can work flexibly. “I didn’t have to go off sick. Colman reminded me work was so much more flexible, and he could support me whenever I felt too unwell.”
The business is a strong anchor in Rachael’s life. “It can be tiring working while I have cancer, but travel is something I’m passionate about. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, so I’m willing to put in the work.” She refuses to lose her positive outlook and resilient attitude.
“Now things have opened up after COVID, we’ve got some trips planned to the Maldives and Tenerife. There are dark days, but I’m keeping a positive mindset and I’m not going to let my cancer beat me.”
The franchise that aims to deliver transformation
Then: Jenine Butroid had been a nurse and a psychotherapist, but a series of setbacks led her to set up her own business.
After bouts of depression led to a failure in her pursuit of an art degree and prompted a change of direction, she recognised that helping people was a big part of her motivation and trained as a nurse, but while helping a patient to bed, Jenine suffered a spinal cord injury, and soon could no longer walk.
After a painful two-year recovery, Jenine worked as a nurse in an all-male high-security prison, while studying for an advanced diploma counselling qualification. “After leaving the prison nursing job, I began delivering lectures, worked as a self-employed psychotherapist and was the lead counsellor at a local Lincolnshire college for a couple of years,” Jenine says. But then she was turned down for promotion.
“I felt it was time that I took control of my own life, where I wasn’t reliant on anyone. I went home that day and started writing a business plan. I wanted to form a not-for-profit organisation to make therapy affordable and available to everyone.”
Now: Jenine launched Supporting Minds in 2014, and has trained over 450 counsellors and supported over 4,000 clients, Supporting Minds is now expanding into franchising. “We will be launching six franchise pilot locations, including Bradford, Cardiff, Croydon, Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, with franchisees delivering therapies for individual and group clients, accredited training to trainee therapists and school workshops,” says Jenine.
“We would like to grow the network to 25 franchises by 2023 and 130 franchises within six years.”
Are you ready to take the plunge?
There’s a hidden hurdle that all wannabe franchisees have to overcome: themselves.
Almost everyone moans about their job sometimes. But many of these moaners (even serial moaners) don’t want a solution; they just want to complain. Presented with a possible solution, they find an excuse for doing nothing in response.
So how do you know that you’re really ready?
Simon Mills, at franchise consultancy Franchise Focus, has extensive experience in recruiting and interviewing prospective franchisees. He advises that you ask yourself a few questions first:
• Have you taken practical steps to analyse what’s wrong with your present life? “If it’s your job, what’s making you unhappy? Is it your boss, the hours, the pay, the lack of career progress – or are you just bored and frustrated by being an employee? If it’s the latter, maybe you are ready,” says Simon.
• Have you considered what self-employment will mean for you? This includes raising the money, talking to friends and family about it, and researching your options.
• Have you spoken to people who are self-employed (such as franchisees) about their experiences, both good and bad?
• Have you examined your risk profile? Fear of risk-taking is one of the major reasons that the employed remain employees – even if they hate their jobs. “Reflect on past times when you were presented with an opportunity that involved a bit of risk. What did you do?” asks Simon. “Investing in a franchise is unlikely to be as risky as setting up in business alone because you are following a proven business model. This is one of the reasons that many people choose to start a business with a franchise – but even the best franchise is not totally risk-free.”
How to know you’re NOT ready – at least for now
Take heed of Simon’s pointers before handing in your notice and collecting your P45…
• If you’re daydreaming about what your life could be like, but doing nothing concrete to change it, you may not be ready to change yet – or maybe, ever.
• Have you evaluated what factors make your life unsatisfactory and thought about how you could change them?
• Have you thought about how you will fund any new venture you are considering? Until you do, it’s unlikely to happen.
• Have you explained your idea to family and friends? “If not, consider whether you are in fact serious about it,” says Simon. “Maybe you think they won’t take you seriously, or wouldn’t support you. This could be a problem because when you are starting any business, you’ll benefit from people’s understanding and support.”
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications.