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5 franchisees share their experiences of working with tried and tested outdoor businesses

5 franchisees share their experiences of working with tried and tested outdoor businesses

If watching the sun rise is more important than gazing at a computer screen, consider a franchise that will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors

Working outside is an attractive option for many would-be franchisees: being outdoors boosts the immune system, is good for your health and there’s a sense of freedom that many outdoor workers share. Franchises involving gardening, deliveries, maintenance, pet care, sport, motoring and property are just some of the businesses that could appeal to individuals who are not keen on a purely office-based lifestyle.

David Truby, managing director of Greensleeves Lawn Care, says: “A natural enjoyment and preference to being outside is reason enough for some people to consider this path.

“But more often than not, people are driven by a combination of a love of the outdoors and a desire to make a significant change in their career or lifestyle. Perhaps they’ve grown tired of the corporate world or they never felt well suited to entering it in the first place, but people are genuinely drawn to working outdoors as a way to take control of their future.”

What Franchise spoke to five outdoor franchisees to get their stories:

Jenny Bond

We love pets

“I feel so much more fit and healthy”

Jenny Bond had a great job as a recruitment manager, with a good salary, excellent perks and solid career progression. But sometimes spending up to 16 hours a day at work and commuting, she often didn’t know when she would be home. So in August 2018, following a period of reflection triggered by her husband’s redundancy, she invested in a We Love Pets dog walking and pet sitting franchise.

Jenny says: “I thought, if I don’t do something radical, I’m going to be here forever. It’s liberating to see the daylight and get out from behind the desk. I feel so much more fit and healthy.”

Now a branch director of We Love Pets franchises in Wimbledon, New Malden and Esher, Jenny, who has a passion for animals, manages small teams of dog walkers, pet sitters and home dog boarders.

Like so many franchisees, Jenny had a desire to own her own business, but the idea of being a “one-woman band” didn’t appeal. She wanted to employ people, have a hand in developing them and make a positive impact on her local community.

“I wanted to break free from the shackles of the corporate 9-5,” Jenny says. “Before, I was just a little cog in a massive wheel. I used to think: what’s my purpose? What am I doing here? I wanted a business with procedures and processes in place where things were done to an excellent standard.”

The franchise business model offered the perfect balance of autonomy and security.

“I looked at loads of franchises, but it was We Love Pets that impressed me most,” she says. “I could tell it was an innovative franchise that stood out from its competitors.”

Jenny admits that running her own pet care business means she has a responsibility to staff, clients and the animals themselves, but she enjoys the arguably greater rewards.

Top tip:

“Doing some homework is key to transitioning from employee to franchisee,” Jenny advises. “Meet a few franchisors, because ultimately you’ll be investing a lot of money and time, not to mention yourself, into it. The fit must be right.”

Richard Hebden

Oscar pet foods

“My business is everything I want it to be - it’s a pleasure to go to work”

Richard Hebden came across the OSCAR Pet Foods franchise while considering his career options. The business provides a direct-to-the-door pet food and accessories delivery service to customers nationwide.

“Working in the drinks industry, there was always the risk of redundancy,” he says. “I spent 15 years - 10 of those in retail - under pressure to meet constant targets, which was very stressful.

“However, working in that environment gave me the strength of mind to transfer my energy into working for myself.

“My road to OSCAR was through the British Franchise Association and my Springer Spaniel, also called Oscar, who was in need of some good quality food.

“As an animal lover and with a passion for the outdoors, the opportunity was very appealing. I couldn’t be complacent when choosing my next career move, as I wanted it to be long-lasting for the sake of my young family. And although my wife is a primary school teacher, I had to be totally confident before making a final decision.”

Richard says OSCAR provided excellent initial and ongoing support during the start-up phase of his business.

“Despite doing lots of research, planning and speaking to financial and legal contacts, as well as franchisees, constant reassurance is what I need as my business continues to grow,” he says.

“I have given myself tough targets in terms of turnover and profitability and my business is everything I want it to be - flexible, with less stress and it’s a pleasure to go to work. I’m seeing the results of my hard work and recently I was delighted when a customer asked me back to see the difference in the condition of two Collies after only three days of changing their diet.”

“I’m here to please,” Richard adds. “My enthusiasm has helped me to grow my business quickly. The products are easy to talk about and by supporting a local pet rescue charity, I have found yet another avenue that produces follow-ups.”

Top tip:

“Be prepared,” Richard says. “As a family, we can all enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, while I continue to network and build my business.”

Jamie and Lesley Clark

Greensleeves Lawn Care

“Being able to shape your own future is a powerful motivator”

Having both spent years in corporate sales careers, Jamie and Lesley Clark decided they’d had enough of the daily grind and in 2011 chose to combine their professional skills with their shared love of the outdoors.

“After years in high pressured sales roles, we were both feeling the same stresses and strains of corporate life,” Lesley says. “We wanted to move away from the hardcore sales aspect and do something together that we could grow into a family business.

“We understood that any successful business would involve ongoing sales, but this time we’d be reaping the rewards of our own hard work. That realisation makes all the difference.”

“We’re both active and naturally quite outdoorsy people and that was a large part of the appeal of the Greensleeves brand - being outdoors and keeping fit, while doing your work,” Jamie says.

“As anticipated, there was a sales element to the business, but in the early years particularly we spent most of our days outside working on lawns ourselves. Back then, we were outside most of the day and then working in the office in the evenings. They were long days, but they were rewarding.”

Nine years on and the ambitious couple have grown their business to an impressive size.

“We employ a fantastic team of staff, who do most of the day-to-day work alongside Jamie and I’m predominantly office-based,” Lesley says. “Of course, we’re often still out and about canvassing and working on new client acquisition and development - that side of the business never stops.

“It’s been hard work getting to this point, but being able to shape your own future is a powerful motivator.”

Top tip:

“When you’re coming to this sort of business from the corporate world, you’re going to be outside most of the time in the early years,” Lesley says. “No matter the time of year or the weather, you’ve got to get out there and do it. If you’re realistic about that, you have the opportunity to build something special.”

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Gemma Vettraino

Agency Express

“I no longer sit behind a desk all day and I manage my own time”

Gemma Vettraino launched her Agency Express franchise in November 2017. The company is the UK’s largest provider of professional estate agency board services and has 115 franchisees.

Previously a human resources manager for 15 years, she felt it was time for a career change. Gemma says she was drawn to the idea of owning a business and the benefits of being her own boss, but security and flexibility were high on her list of prerequisites. So when an established Agency Express franchise came up for sale within Gemma’s area, she seized the opportunity.

“I liked the flexibility the franchise provides,” Gemma explains. “I have three young children, so working hours that fitted with family life was important. I wanted a franchise with a strong brand name and reputation and Agency Express is the leader in the marketplace.”

After completing a comprehensive training course, Gemma was assisted with the launch of her business by Agency Express’ experienced head office team. The support provided was a combination of hands-on training and a programme of visits to new and existing customers, enabling her to build relationships with the people she was going to be working with.

“The ongoing support from head office and other franchisees was fantastic,” Gemma says. “I felt supported every step of the way and that’s the advantage of being part of a franchise.”

Of her role as a franchisee, Gemma says: “I no longer sit behind a desk all day and I manage my own time. I’m more physically active and I feel healthier for that. Also, every day is different, which I enjoy. You have to work hard of course, but it’s well worth it.”

Top tip:

“Talking to other franchisees gives a real indication of what’s expected,” Gemma says. “It was invaluable spending time out on the road with different people to see how they tackled different challenges and it provided an insight into the job.”

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£40,000

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David Taylor

GutterPRO

“It’s about being able to build something for yourself”

In his late fifties, there were plenty of reasons for David Taylor to remain in the engineering profession he knew so well. Leading a sizeable team for a well-known company, he was at the top of his game.

A decade earlier, David had equated being self-employed with “a kind of franchise” and held onto the memory of false promises and contrived sales projections. However, all the reasons to stay put were offset by a latent desire to be his own boss, do his own thing and work hard, but enjoy the flexibility that only a business owner truly has.

They say serendipity is a chance meeting - and so it proved for David during a period when he was researching the franchising sector. While waiting at traffic lights one day, the answer to his franchise dilemma suddenly appeared before his eyes in the form of a distinctive orange and blue GutterPRO vehicle. The company’s franchisees provide an expert gutter clearing and cleaning service.

As soon as he arrived home, David downloaded the GutterPRO franchise prospectus and went through his checklist.

Was the company a British Franchise Association member? Yes - that was essential. Indeed, GutterPRO was founded by a former director of the bfa. Did it offer a £5,000 fast-start guarantee? Yes - and this showed the commitment of the franchisor.

What also caught David’s eye was GutterPRO’s management franchise, which allows you to start with two territories, but a single vehicle, plus the company’s way of funding the business via the government’s start-up loans scheme.

Having met with the GutterPRO team, David got in touch with the neighbouring franchisee, whose vehicle he had stopped behind a few weeks earlier. They told David that, now in their second year, they were seeing their business grow and momentum build.

As a result of the conversation, David invested in a GutterPRO franchise in the summer of 2019, beginning with four days’ training followed by on-site support with his first few jobs.

Fast forward to today and David’s business is on target, as well as ahead on budget. Approaching his first-year anniversary, he’s now planning to invest in a second GutterPRO vehicle.

What’s the best thing about being a franchisee? “Being able to build something for yourself, but having that central support for the tricky tasks like technology, apps and marketing,” David says.

Top tip:

“Speak to other franchisees and make sure their story matches up with what’s in the franchise prospectus,” David advises.

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The author

Catherine Eade is assistant editor of What Franchise

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