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Lessons from top franchise performers

Lessons from top franchise performers

These standout franchisees explain how they grew their businesses and offer advice on how you can do the same

Are you planning to start a business with growth in mind or grow an existing business? Some of the best advice comes from people who have already done it.

Starting a business by investing in a franchise should make growth easier than starting up alone. That’s because the individual franchisee’s business growth contributes towards that of the franchise as a whole.

As a result, franchisors are keen to encourage franchisee growth and provide support packages to help achieve it.

However, regardless of franchisor help, franchisees need to be proactive about growth for themselves. This is important to understand, whether you’re a prospective franchisee comparing various franchises or already have a franchise that you want to grow.

We asked six top performing franchisees how they achieved successful growth and what advice they would give to others about how they did it.

Oliver Wood: growing well with Greensleeves

“The past couple of years have been amazing for me,” says Oliver Wood, the first franchisee with lawn care franchise Greensleeves to achieve a turnover of £1 million.

His business has customers across Huddersfield, north Sheffield and Wakefield and in 2020 broke the million-pound turnover barrier.

“We’re up 10 per cent on last year with three months still to go,” Oliver says. “In terms of customer growth, we serviced 910 new accounts in the first nine months of 2021, which is more than the last five years combined.”

He attributes his growth to outstanding customer service and the support and guidance from Greensleeves’ head office.

“The head office team is fantastic at sourcing products at competitive prices and providing us with great kit, which enables us to focus on growing our business and delivering the best possible service to our customers,” Oliver says.

“This is emphasised by 70 per cent of our business coming through customer referrals.”

Oliver, who has owned the franchise for 15 years, adds: “I started with Greensleeves at the age of 19 and soon realised the business’ potential if you put the work in.

“My plans now are to scale the business up over the next few years. I’m also looking to recruit the right staff to ensure we can continue to provide exceptional customer service across our three territories.”

Berkeley Harris: I used ‘freemium marketing’ to generate growth

Berkeley Harris, managing director of the Sandler consultancy franchise in the Bristol area, grew his business revenues by 32 per cent in 2020 and expanded his number of accounts – partly by giving his services away free.

Berkeley says: “When the pandemic hit, I had to take action.”

He created four new training and development programmes, which he offered to existing customers free of charge. They included training for emerging talent, management coaching, individual executive coaching and remote selling skills.

“It retained existing clients and the resulting recommendations meant new clients signed up,” Berkeley says.

When it comes to growing a business, he makes 10 cold calls to carefully selected prospects twice a week; has twice-weekly chats with different existing clients with the aim of gaining referrals; talks to clients quarterly to check their satisfaction with his services, which may lead to a chance to expand the account; and uses LinkedIn for 15 minutes daily to engage with potential clients.

“I also try to line myself up for delivering keynote talks at exhibitions and conferences once a month,” Berkeley says.

Nick Menage: combining traditional and modern marketing

Nick Menage invested in a Wilkins Chimney Sweep franchise in Banbury in 2013.

Expansion means he now covers two large areas and employs three people to sweep up to 500 chimneys a month.

Nick says: “When it comes to growing my business, I like using leaflets – but in their thousands. I had 40,000 leaflets delivered in July 2021 and plan for another 10,000 soon.

“It works particularly well when you’re expanding into new areas. I find that if you use too few, they don’t work as well as blanket coverage.”

He has them delivered by Royal Mail for about 5p each.

“The posties go to properties many people would never know about, especially in the countryside, where there are often large properties with multiple fireplaces that offer good prospects for us,” Nick says. He also uses Google Ads.

“It means we come out on top in search lists, which I find well worth paying for,” Nick says, who also advises: “Don’t be afraid to spend money on marketing, but analyse what works for your particular business.

“If you spend nothing on marketing, what happens? Nothing.”

Ian Thompson: cold calling helps Walfinch franchisee take flight

Ian Thompson launched his Walfinch care services franchise in December 2020, with no clients. Now he has 30 – a figure that’s growing.

Ian says: “At first we tried advertising our services in many ways to find out what worked best.

“We advertised in a care brochure distributed in a local hospital, but while it reached the target audience we were one of so many others our voice was drowned out.

“Local village newsletters generated calls, but local papers didn’t.”

His great success, however, was cold calls to hospital discharge managers and social work departments.

“I hated the cold calling, but it worked,” Ian says.

“We were lucky enough to be able to provide services in an area where there was a shortage and we accepted all requests – even if it meant going out providing care myself in the short term.

“Now they call us routinely, so we get more work from them. Now I see that cold calling works, I’m more confident about it.”

Nigel Bayliss: new initiatives mean growth for Poppies

Nigel Bayliss, the Sheffield franchisee with Poppies cleaning service, grew his business by 160 per cent following the height of the pandemic.

Nigel says: “We had to move fast because we were closed over the first national lockdown in 2020 and once we reopened there were a lot of customers who relied on us like an essential service.”

He used the lockdown period to rewrite cleaning procedures to fit government guidelines, source the necessary PPE, retrain staff and make necessary website changes.

“We restarted in May at just 45 per cent of our previous business levels, but by October we were back to growth, at 110 per cent, and now we’re up to 160 per cent,” Nigel says.

“A large percentage of this increased demand was down to the clean and sanitise training procedures we implemented across the business.”

Working with head office, he also adopted an enhanced digital marketing strategy to rebuild the business for all franchisees.

“We reviewed the effectiveness of our digital marketing, changed the emphasis from SEO to Google Ads and increased our spending on AdWords,” Nigel says. All franchisees were also given free social media marketing training on Zoom.

“We’ve seen a surge in demand from both new and existing customers and we aim to continue to grow over the coming months into next year and beyond,” he says.

Nigel advises prospective franchisees to check the ability of franchises to adapt quickly: “Look at their agility. Is the franchise a juggernaut that’s slow to change course or a gazelle that can move fast?

“A good franchise has a proactive attitude to growth and the ability to change quickly in order to achieve it.”

The author

Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications

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