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Don’t let becoming a parent put you off being a franchisee

Posted: 06 Aug 2019
Estimated Read Time: in about 16 minutes

“Speak to your franchisor about the feasibility of involving your youngsters in the running of your business,” says Tracey Alexander, We Love Pets franchisee

Don’t let becoming a parent put you off being a franchisee

Finding out that you’re going to be a parent is an exciting time, but if you own a franchise, you may find yourself wondering how you’re going to juggle everything once your bundle of joy arrives. Tracey Alexander has been a franchisee of We Love Pets since August 2014, when she left a corporate role to seek a better life balance.

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The business provides award-winning petcare, including dog walking, boarding and daycare services, pet sitting services, along with small animal, reptile, lizard and horse and pony care. Here she tells us about her journey and proves you really can have it all.

WF: How did you get into franchising?
I left the pressures of a busy corporate environment behind to do some freelance PA work and then started doing some dog walking for the Reading West franchise of We Love Pets. I immediately saw the benefit of running a pet franchise and approached founder and franchise director Jo White about the potential for me to take on the Reading East franchise. She has two young children, so is very supportive of families and the business is very child-friendly.

WF: How is your business doing?
The business turns over approximately £5,000 a month - other We Love Pets franchises can achieve between £15,000-£17,000.

WF: How do you manage work around your family?
Franchising has provided a successful work-life balance, which was of particular benefit when both my mother and grandmother were seriously ill. I was a little nervous when we found out our son William was on the way, but the beauty of running a franchise, rather than being out on your own, is that you can rely on support from head office and other franchisees when you need it.

WF: Tell us what happened when your son was born?
My son was born in 2017 and since then I have successfully combined motherhood with the life of a franchisee. What could have been an anxious time, proved to work out well and my two lives now complement each other perfectly.

WF: How has your job changed?
Before having William, I walked lots of the dogs myself. I still do that, but also work with a wonderful team of walkers, who now also cover the walks I used to do.

WF: What sort of support have you had from other franchisees?
We’re very lucky at We Love Pets to have supportive fellow franchisees, so my lovely colleague Amy, who owns the neighbouring Reading West, covered my management role for a short while so I could recover, find my feet and get back into the swing of things. I return the favour when she wants to go on holiday, which works well for both of us.

WF: What are your plans for the business now?
Now we’re in the swing of things at home, I’m looking to grow the business again. I was able to hold off growth a bit while I got used to running a franchise with a new baby, but it’s very much ‘business as usual’ again.

WF: Do you get your family involved in the business?
Taking William on pet visits with the customer’s permission has been brilliant fun - he loves all the noises the animals make and he often giggles away at guinea pig squeaks or rabbits hopping around.

WF: How do you cope with stress?
The great thing about working with animals is that we are outside a lot of the time and that helps reduce the stress.

WF: How would you sum up returning to work as a franchisee?
Running my franchise and being the mother of a young child has been much more straightforward than I thought it would be and probably easier when compared with returning
to full-time employment.

WF: What advice would you give other women?
Our clients are lovely and were very supportive during pregnancy and running the business with a young baby, so my final piece of advice would be to make sure you enjoy
these precious moments of being a parent.

Tracy’s 12 hacks to get you through the early stages of motherhood in one piece

1. If you’re planning to start a family, choose a larger franchise that has several branches with a similar demographic of franchisees who will have a wealth of experience and have been through the same thing.

2. Let your franchisor know when you’re pregnant as soon as you’re comfortable - the earlier the better. It can put you in touch with other franchisees or provide much needed support from head office.

3. Explore different childcare options way before you need it (some nurseries are booked a year in advance) and have a plan in place.

4. Don’t forget to take advantage of the government’s tax free childcare scheme. 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from your colleagues and fellow franchisees.

6. Have a contingency plan in place. If you’ve had a rough night with the baby, make sure there’s a member of your team, neighbouring franchise or virtual assistant ready to help share the load by helping out with tasks like answering the phone and making bookings.

7. Have set work times and set baby times so you don’t feel like you’re spinning plates. Give 100 per cent attention to whichever area of your life you are working on at that moment, whether it’s work or family.

8. Look after yourself; sleep when you can.

9. Don’t try to grow too quickly. Growth has to be sustainable, so focus on your existing customers and then only bring new ones on board when you’re ready and it feels right.

10. Prioritise the essential tasks that are involved with the day to day running of the business, for example, the team’s schedules, customer enquiries, accounts and invoicing, and then catch up on the weekly and monthly tasks when it fits best.

11. Baby brain is a very real thing - pregnant women and new mothers really do experience forgetfulness and absent mindedness. It does come back though. Don’t worry about asking people to double check things and proofread for you.

12. Speak to your franchisor about the feasibility of involving your youngsters in the running of your business.

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