X-Press Legal Services is developing a successful network and building support for franchisees
The Lister family, founders of X-Press Legal Services, know there’s much more to creating a successful franchise network than just working hard. They know how important it is to have a first class plan and recruit the right people as franchisees, because their individual input is vital to the overall performance of the network.
X-Press subscribes to the view that a franchise is just like a marriage, where development and harmony are achieved through mutual success and respect, with both parties working as one towards a common goal.
Of course, in a franchise and in a marriage, the foundations must be firm to provide the best possible start. Both franchisor and franchisee must have confidence in each other and get along well.
X-Press began in 2000 and expanded fast until 2005 when the franchise was launched. The business is headed by Lynne Lister, a former editor of a national franchise magazine, together with husband Dave, who has extensive experience in the financial services sector, and their three children, Christian, Russell and Hannah.
Their clients include solicitors, licenced conveyancers and property developers. X-Press offers a wide and growing range of property related searches and risk reports that are a large and important part of the domestic and commercial property buying process in the UK.
Over the years, X-Press has invested large amounts of money and resources in new technology, imaginative marketing programmes and personal development opportunities to ensure the franchise could offer franchisees the best possible support to provide optimum customer service to their clients.
As well as state of the art software and bespoke conveyancing platforms, X-Press has created a free legal information website for consumers nationwide. Called www.lawplainandsimple.com, it explains in plain and easy to understand English the fundamentals of the law and its terminology and is promoted via Sky Sports Media.
It has proved to be an effective and popular marketing tool for franchisees, whose clients enjoy valuable exposure on the site at no cost to themselves. Dave Lister says: “Law Plain and Simple has enhanced awareness of our brand with our professional audience and produced excellent results for us all - the board, franchisees and clients.
“We have a high profile social media presence, which enables us to communicate with many different audiences at the same time. We can reach so many people instantaneously, share news and views, keep up with trends in our sector and handle enquiries from prospects.”
Franchisees are the interface between the franchise and their clients and do a great job as ambassadors for the X-Press brand. Recognising their valuable role, X-Press encourages personal development and supports their individual efforts through a dedicated business and management college, accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management. X-Press has its own in-house tutors.
“We are very proud of the X-Press Academy with our ILM accreditation,” Dave says. “It provides opportunities in a wide range of courses in many different disciplines, offering professional and vocational qualifications, and is open to all our franchisees and their employees.
“The most popular and successful courses are directly business related, notably presentation skills and public speaking. Participants have been very enthusiastic and commented they had gained a huge amount of confidence in perfecting their communication skills, which are so important in today’s fast moving commercial culture.
“The figures speak for themselves - more than half our network has taken advantage of the academy’s opportunities and interest is continuing to grow.”
X-Press has a dedicated in-house franchising mentor, who provides ongoing advice and guidance to franchisees - another example of the continuing care and support package the franchise operates.
The mentor, an experienced franchise professional, routinely visits all franchisees. For some, it’s a social call or to check progress, while others may need more attention, when as much time as necessary is given to address particular worries or problems.
Involving franchisees is ongoing and their ideas are carefully listened to. There is almost no hierarchy in X-Press, so franchisees can contact directly anyone at head office if they wish to. There are also formal ‘panels’ for franchisee feedback and, importantly, the initiative called The X-Cellence Club, whose members are the most successful and aspiring franchisees in the network.
They work with the board on a range of issues affecting the franchise, from new marketing plans to investment in computer software or trialling new products. If everyone is in agreement, especially on major issues, ideas are then presented to the network and discussed before they are implemented.
“Our investment of money, resources and time over the last decade demonstrates our commitment to the franchise,” Dave says. “The results have been the creation of a strong and united network of loyal franchisees, with their continuing enthusiastic and dedicated commitment.
“We strive for excellence and receive a large proportion of new business directly from word of mouth recommendations. We are a bespoke provider with a reputation for giving fast, reliable, efficient and friendly service and for delivering accurate reports. Setting and maintaining high standards of customer service are essential and have proved to be the cornerstone of our growth and success to date.
“We also have a reputation for fairness. For example, support for our franchisees does not stop when someone decides to leave the franchise, for whatever reason, business or personal, and we continue to regard them as partners.
“We work closely with any leaving franchisee to make their exit route as smooth as possible, both for their benefit and their clients’, and to ensure the continuity and profitability of the business during the transition.
“It’s very important for a franchisee to maximise their original investment. We help them to find a buyer, both to ensure the franchise is sold at the right price in the interests of the franchisee and also to the right person to maintain the integrity of the network.
“We are maintaining an upward trend. The recent past has been exceptionally busy and we are on course for more record growth. Franchisees are well focused and gaining more clients. As their turnovers increase, so does their desire for more success.”