Chris Wootton shares what he would tell his younger self if he had the chance – things he wished he was aware of when starting his own journey into business ownership
As domestic cleaning franchise, Poppies, celebrates its 40th anniversary of opening its first office in 2020, the network looks back at the time spent in their respective businesses. Although some might find the thought of self-critique daunting, managing director and long-standing franchisee, Chris Wootton, reflects on his time in his Ormskirk-based business – especially since taking over as franchisor in 2018. He shares his insight into the golden nuggets of advice he’d tell his younger self after spending over two decades as a business owner, franchisee and, latterly, franchisor.
Create a robust plan…
…and follow it! It’s usually a requirement from most franchisors and funding establishments during your start-up process, but it’s crucial to keep referring back to it. I’d suggest always having three years planned in advance and frequently checking in to assess how you’re performing in relation to your goals. You’ll be able to clearly see where you’re heading, as well as knowing when to change course according to your performance. With your business plan firmly in place, you can use those figures to align your goals – for example, tracking your sales conversions and profit margins.
Find a mentor
In franchising, when you invest in a brand, you are automatically mentored by the franchisor, their team and the established franchisees from the network. By getting the right guide, you can tap into their experience to further your own skills. I did it when investing in Poppies – I adored the founding franchisor, Sue, and she became not only a mentor but a friend. Now I’ve taken over the reins, I can pass that knowledge, passion and enthusiasm through to future franchisees.
Psychology is more useful than business
The art of understanding people, how they react and why is a lot harder to learn than business skills. Of course, the more business knowledge you have when you start a business the better, but the skills of communication, listening and understanding are a fundamental part of not just business but everyday life.
Every day is a school day
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never know everything so it’s good to think about business as a journey. What can you do to improve your skills and make yourself a better business owner in the long run? Expose yourself to new ways of thinking that will not only help you develop but your team too.
Work hard and play hard
Just because you’re investing in a franchise, it doesn’t mean that your business won’t require hard work to make it a success. What you should find, however, is the potential to accelerate your progress compared to starting a business by yourself. It’s almost too easy to get caught up and forget to give yourself the much-needed time to recoup and rejuvenate. Even if you’re getting away on holiday or just taking a breather to unwind, make sure you take some time out for a well-deserved break.
Two Poppies franchisees would take up Chris’ advice as their younger selves, whilst adding their own for good measure.
“Don’t wait to be older and more experienced to be confident in your own abilities – now is the time to try! Make your own opportunities by being observant and connected. Whilst you need to work hard a lot can be achieved by working smart. Don’t be afraid to pay for good advice, it can be priceless!” said Andrew Wishart, franchisee at Poppies Bay & Lakes.
Wendy James, franchisee at Poppies Leeds Northwest added: “Interrogate yourself – what are your existing skills, what do you want your business to achieve and how far can you take it? Try to have these questions answered before you start because, once you’re going, it’s difficult to find the time to answer them.”
Self-critique might not be very appealing, but hindsight really is a wonderful thing. And it doesn’t mean that any decisions were made wrongly, it’s about being able to look back on your journey to learn from the past and make yourself a better business owner going forward. What would you tell your younger self? It might just be the inspiration needed to propel you in the future.