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My franchise story: From life low to career high

My franchise story: From life low to career high

Many entrepreneurial success stories grow from a low point – redundancy, a health scare, or a family crisis. Here’s how three people, caught out by unlucky circumstances, dug their way out of a hole with the aid of a franchise

Setting up a business with a franchise can be the answer in many of life’s dilemmas. However, seeing a franchise as a quick and easy solution to a problem is a mistake, because it ain’t. It may be a slow, challenging, and ultimately rewarding way out, however, provided you approach it the right way.

Before you dive into researching franchises, assess your motives. Why a franchise, and why now?

Sarah Cressall, founder and chief executive of children’s activity franchise The Creation Station, says: “It’s true that when people come to a crossroads, they tend to re-evaluate their lives. It’s a great opportunity to review what you really want to do with your life. If you think it’s working with children and providing craft activities, consider a franchise, as you will gain the business and practical support to help you achieve the success you want.

“Most of our 65 franchise partners were looking for a life that was more positive, fulfilling and enjoyable and running their own The Creative Station franchise has enabled this.”

However, she warns against rushing in too fast: “Think carefully. Not everyone is cut out to run a franchise. You may be a great employee, but running your own business is very different. Do your research, consider the pros and cons of self-employment, and think about whether you have the right ambitions and attitude. We can provide the tools and funding options you need to start and run your own rewarding and successful business.”

Not everyone is cut out for the risks of self-employment, but a franchise is likely to be much less risky than starting up alone.

Don’t see a franchise as a rescue service

Good franchises provide suitable franchisees with plenty of support to get the business going and to run it – but they should not be seen as rescue services.

Rik Hellewell, founder and managing director of oven cleaning franchise Ovenu, says: “You have to get out of whatever hole you are in, but the franchise can provide you with the tools to do it. One of them is the franchisor’s proven system. Duplication and replication are at the heart of franchising, so you must implement the operations system the franchisor provides but it’s up to you to decide where you want to be. Everyone’s goal is different, but we help franchisees get there.”

Desperation is not a qualification

Remember your degree of desperation is not something that qualifies you to be a franchisee and it’s certainly not on the list of things that franchisors look for. Research what your chosen franchise seeks in franchisees and check you meet its requirements as far as possible.

Sarah looks for people who are proactive, friendly, looking for flexibility and fulfilment, and whose values match those of the franchise. You don’t need previous experience in the children’s activity sector, and it’s a very attractive proposition for people looking for a way to run a business around a family. This is why competition for The Creation Station franchises is fierce.

“We get about 100 applications from prospective franchisees monthly, and accept only about two,” she says.

Don’t rush into a franchise

All reputable franchises have an in-depth recruitment process, so the franchisor can assess your suitability. They can spot desperation a mile off.

Ken Rostron, partner at franchise consultancy The Franchise Company, who has interviewed many prospective franchisees, says: “It’s easy to tell if people are desperate, even if they attempt to cover up the signs.”

Warning lights include the prospective franchisee not paying sufficient attention to the franchise agreement or the business plan, and doing too little research into the franchise territory or the competition because they are rushing to get started.

“Any of those signs rings alarm bells when I am recruiting for clients,” he says. “Good franchisors don’t want to recruit just anyone, in any circumstances, because it’s a false economy. Taking on the wrong people means they’ll need to spend too much time following up with the franchisee later and rescuing them from one issue or another.”

Before going ahead

Talk to people who know what’s involved, such as franchise consultants (who may offer free initial consultations), and speak to existing franchisees.

Finally, ask yourself: “Am I just doing this as a quick fix to get out of a hole? If you are, think twice. If not, the franchise route might be your way out.

Six problems that can be solved by a franchise

1. The slow torture of working in a career that you hate, but where you lack previous experience in your desired sector. Most franchisors don’t expect you to have experience in their sector – in fact, many prefer that you don’t, as they provide training.

2. The curse of nepotism. You could manage the company as well, if not better, than the founder/ MD – but you stand no chance because his son is already a shoo-in for the job. Management franchises enable you to use your skills to start up a business of your own.

3. You need work that you can fit around caring responsibilities, but no employer is likely to give you the flexibility to manage your own working hours. Some franchises are designed to be run around family or caring commitments.

4. You’re keen to work for yourself, but you don’t have all the skills you need. Franchises value your strongest skills, but provide the support you need in weaker areas.

5. You’ve been made redundant and don’t want to be an employee again. Franchisors will value your combination of business experience and ambition. Many franchisees started their businesses after redundancy.

6. Your employer is expecting you to work long hours, but you are not benefitting financially. A franchise means your hard work will benefit you, not someone else.

Four problems that a franchise won’t solve

1. Buying a job

Franchise recruitment managers are alert to this and will turn you down. Becoming a franchisee is setting up your own business, regardless of how much help you get from the franchisor. It needs a different mindset from that of an employee.

2. Forcing someone into work

Desperate parents trying to force a grown-up child to work may pressure the child into applying for a franchise. Franchise recruiters can spot this and will say no. The first requirement of a franchisee is that they be fully committed to the idea.

3. Needing money now

A franchise requires an initial and ongoing investment, and most don’t start to pay off for at least 18 months.

4. A problem relationship

Throwing a business into the mix will only complicate things.

1. Subhan Munir, Burger & Sauce

Soaring to success after career disappointment

Subhan Munir’s ambition to be an airline pilot was dashed by the pandemic.

“For four years, I studied maths and physics A’ levels at college, in preparation for pilot training. Meanwhile, I worked in a Piri Piri fast food outlet at weekends and then worked for a year as a manager in a family member’s German Doner Kebab franchise outlet. Finally, I left the job to get started on my commercial pilot’s training,” says Subhan.

He took 18 months out travelling to the USA and Spain and returned in 2020 fully qualified to fly passenger jets, with interviews lined up. Then COVID hit. Airlines were cutting staff, and pilot jobs were almost non-existent.

“I needed to look for a different way forward,” he says. “It was then that I discovered Burger & Sauce – and became its first franchisee, aged 26.”

Burger & Sauce specialises in burgers freshly made daily on the premises, served with signature sauces. “I bought my first franchised store in Birmingham in 2020. Pretty soon, we were flying! Within a year I had turned over £1.5m, and I agreed to open four more stores,” says Subhan.

His first outlet in Alum Rock, Birmingham, is already open, with plans to open another in Nottingham followed by two more over the next two years.

“I want to open multiple outlets while I’m still young and single and have the time to devote solely to growing my business. Burger & Sauce’s goal is to have 300 stores in the UK and my aim is to be the biggest franchisee,” he states.

As for flying, he now says: “I hope one day to have a business big enough to allow me to fly my own plane.”

2. Rob Cunningham, Ovenu

“COVID forced me to re-evaluate my life”

Rob Cunningham was inspired to quit his former career as a development baker after being hospitalised with COVID.

Rob, who developed sweet bakery treats for high street names such as Starbucks, Pret a Manger, Waitrose, and Costa, required five days of oxygen therapy last April after his condition worsened.

Rob, from Hampshire, says: “Thankfully, I’ve made a full recovery, but lying in a hospital bed was the impetus I needed to take stock of my life and to think about what is important for myself and my family.

“I’d been a baker for 37 years and always had the ambition to be my own boss, but never seemed to have time to take things further.”

The COVID experience prompted him to take action. He took voluntary redundancy and began planning his new career – this time working to restore ovens to pristine condition, as a franchisee with oven cleaning franchise Ovenu in Petersfield, Hampshire.

He started the business during lockdown, and says: “It was a little daunting to be launching a business at that time, but I was determined to succeed.”

He adds: “I founded this business on delivering excellent customer service, and I am particularly pleased that Ovenu Petersfield has received over 145 maximum five-star ratings on customer review platform Trustist.”

The cat owner’s love of animals is also endearing him to many clients after he launched a ‘pet of the day’ feature on his Facebook page.

“I noticed some oven cleaning businesses take a before and after photo of their handiwork, but I like to include a family pet, if possible, whether it’s a dog or a goldfish. It’s a bit of fun and I’ve received lots of positive feedback from clients!”

3. Gary Riches, Driver Hire

“A franchise rescued me from a life of stress”

Gary Riches, a former HGV driver and transport manager, says: “I was working 11-hour days, extra at weekends, and was a retained firefighter too. I was making good money doing 70-hour weeks, but something had to give.

“I’d take my kids to the cinema and sleep through the film. I was grouchy and snappy. Eventually, the stress made me feel like I was having a breakdown. My GP sent me to a counsellor and when she heard about my lifestyle, she just said: ‘You’re not getting enough sleep; it’s killing you.’”

Gary knew he had to do something. Keen to work for himself, in 2012 he bought the Colchester Driver Hire recruitment franchise, a resale with three staff. “I had the transport experience, and the franchise provided the recruitment training,” he says. Turnover is now over £1m a year.

“Now I work 8.30 am to 5.00 pm and I’m in charge of my own workload. It’s hard work, but I love it. Family life is better, my wife is happier, and I can go to midweek Norwich City games.”

Last year Gary had a three-week holiday for the first time ever and this year he is taking two-day holidays every month. Favourites include Germany, Spain, and plenty of more local trips using his caravan.

“I could cut my staff numbers and make more profit, but it would mean longer hours, for me and them,” says Gary. “If more workplaces adopted this attitude there would be fewer mental health problems.”

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