British Franchise Association award winner Hayley Limpkin talks about her achievements and challenges during the initial stages of being a Razzamataz Theatre Schools franchisee
I opened my first franchise in September 2010 and the 12 months that proceeded was a whirlwind of hard work, delight, reward, challenge and a huge amount of learning.
I’m quite indecisive, so franchising appealed to me, as the product was tried and tested.
I was expecting my main concern in the first 12 months to be cash fl ow and not having the security of a full-time corporate salary. I had bills to pay, so knew I needed to break even as quickly as possible and franchising seemed to be the most logical route to achieving that.
I was excited by the proven results of a Razzamataz Theatre School. I still worked for a global marketing company in the first year of opening my franchise and this helped greatly, but what I didn’t expect was the rapid first year growth of my business.
I exceeded the franchisor’s and my own expectations and forecast within the first 12 weeks of opening. While this was greatly rewarding, it brought challenges around ensuring I could service my customers and classes with the high level of customer service and delivery I wanted to achieve.
I had to balance my corporate job with running, servicing and growing my business. In the first year it’s a fine line between managing the work and making a profit. The franchisor and support team are there to advise and support you through all of this.
‘Super brand’ thinking
My aim in my first 12 months was all around ‘super brand’ thinking, but at a local level. Having an existing brand helped me achieve this quicker. The Dragons’ Den link achieved the credibility factor straight away.
With support from the franchisor at the initial training week, I built a marketing plan that allowed me to achieve and exceed my forecasts.
But what that brought was a high volume of behind the scenes admin and paperwork, responding to enquiries, ‘selling’ your school to potential customers, converting them to trial sessions, then converting them to paying customers, keeping on top of payments, recruiting and training members of staff , planning and preparing for classes and seeking opportunities.
The great thing is I was able to complete this work of an evening, fitting it around my job and family and friends. It did mean that most evenings I was working, but it also meant that at the end of my first year I was ready to leave the corporate world and sign on the dotted line for my second franchise.
A year after opening my first franchise I was launching a second. I genuinely believe I was able to do this because having a reputable brand behind me with clear systems and processes meant I could grow quicker than if I had done this on my own.
When I started out, I knew from day one I wanted to build a strong team around me. Every single member of my team was instrumental to our early success in those first 12 months - they believed in what I was doing as much as I did and they were open to solutions when we were met with challenges.
The first 12 months was a huge learning curve. It’s important to add here that I didn’t get everything right in that first year, but I genuinely believe that without great people surrounding me - both within my team and other franchisees - and without the infrastructure of a franchise network I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I did in my first year.
I think I could easily have got ‘lost’ and spent time on the ‘wrong’ things. I was supported and kept on track in that first year. That’s what I love about franchising.
I have had this support threefold: from those I have recruited within my team and work with daily and then, secondly, those in our wider network - other franchisees who all share mutual goals and vision - and then our franchisor, Denise Gosney, who wants me to succeed and is championing me to succeed just as much as I want to.
Where else do you have these layers of support, but still have control of your own business?
Growing my knowledge
One of the most important areas in my first year was finding the time to tap into all the additional training on offer within the network. It’s easy to underestimate the value of putting this time in to continually grow my knowledge of the franchise and the business model.
Razzamataz is committed to supporting and encouraging its franchisees to grow their businesses through a comprehensive range of training and mentoring. At these events we can share ideas, advice and guidance.
Having started from scratch with no customers, our franchise now teaches part-time performing arts classes to over 600 children in Medway across 60 hours of tuition
The first year involved the hardest work and it’s definitely not a get rich quick scheme. But over the last eight years, with hard work and time, I’m now in a place where I own half of my franchise with a business partner and we’re ready to leap into the future and expand our franchise and business.
I now have a four-and-a-halfyear- old and the flexibility I have is the biggest gain from working for yourself and owning a franchise. I feel very lucky to be able to do something I love and lucky to choose the people I work with, all around my family.