Now’s a great time to start an Autosmart franchise, says franchisee Frank Sutherland
Frank Sutherland, the British Franchise Association Scottish Franchisee of the Year winner, is proof that redundancy can lead to a career you might never have considered and the start of something great.
He explains: “I worked as a Regional Manager for the Co-op. When I was made redundant in 2006, I knew that it was time to ditch the boss. I looked at a number of different opportunities before I decided to buy an Autosmart franchise.
“It seemed a safe choice, which is important when you have a family to think of. They’ve been going over 30 years and it’s a tried and tested formula. From the first contact, the support was fantastic.
“Autosmart packages save customers money, so the current market conditions actually help me win more customers, as everyone wants to reduce expenditure. I trebled my sales in less than two years and am still growing at more than 10 per cent every year.”
Network nears completion
Frank isn’t alone in recognising that the current market offers great opportunities for Autosmart franchisees. There are now 145 franchisees in the network and it is fast approaching full capacity.
Franchise Recruitment Manager Michelle Williams puts the interest down to several factors: “Around 60 per cent of the people we interview have either been made redundant or are concerned about their job security. They want to find a way of seizing control of their working life, while minimising risk and gaining freedom. Franchising provides the perfect compromise.
“Just like Frank, potential franchisees are definitely attracted by the fact that we are a very established, award winning franchise. We have won three franchising awards in the last four years and are the current holders of the bfa HSBC award for Best Franchisee Support. This reassures applicants that owning an Autosmart franchise is a great business opportunity.”
No previous experience required
“Our franchisees come from all sorts of different backgrounds,” continues Michelle. “In the last year a civil servant, a head teacher, a haulier, an engineer, a valeter and a business manager joined our network.
“Most have never sold before and they are often concerned about how easy it is to sell. We’re able to reassure them, as we have 30 years of solid experience teaching new franchisees to sell. Also, our franchisees take a fully stocked mobile supermarket to the customer. This is much easier than trying to sell via a catalogue and offers significant advantages and cost savings to the customer. They also build up regular monthly repeat business, which helps make it less demanding than some businesses.
“The main things that we look for in a potential franchisee are self motivation and a commitment to work hard to develop their business. They also need to like to be hands-on. This is not a management franchise - our franchisees don’t need to worry about recruiting and managing staff. Instead they operate as owner-operator businesses, each with their own exclusive territory.”
Smart planning for retirement
“Before becoming a franchisee, I was a parts manager for an automotive company,” says recently retired franchisee, Peter Young. “The company was struggling and had made some redundancies. I had the pressures of running a department, with fewer staff, who were demotivated as pay was frozen.
“I was approaching 40 and really wanted to get away from the pressures of the rat race and work for myself. I decided that a franchise would give me the freedom and profits of running my own business, with the added security of a large company behind me. I looked at several options and chose Autosmart as it offered the best support to help me get the business off the ground and the greatest earnings potential. I knew that the products are great and enjoy an excellent reputation.
“My business gave me a fantastic standard of living - both in terms of income and lifestyle. Thanks to my 16 years as an Autosmart franchisee, I am financially secure and now enjoy an early semi-retirement. I would never have been able to afford to do this if I had not decided to buy my Autosmart franchise.”
Limited opportunities available
With a network that is approaching capacity in the UK, Autosmart franchise opportunities are becoming limited. “Our franchisees tend to stay with us for a long time,” says Michelle. “Over 50 per cent of our network has been with us for more than five years and 20 per cent has been with us for more than 15 years.
“The territories available are all resales, with some established repeat customers. New franchisees don’t have to start from scratch. They have the benefit of buying some existing turnover, while still having plenty of scope to grow the business further.”
FRANCHISEE INTERVIEW: JOHN WRIGHT, SLOUGH
### Why did you decide to buy a franchise? ###
I had worked for myself before and really enjoyed the freedom of being my own boss. However, with family responsibilities I loved the idea of having the support of a large franchise behind me.
### Why did you choose Autosmart? ###
I had no experience in the automotive sector. However, Autosmart insists potential franchisees spend time with existing ones as part of the interview process. After four days spent with different franchisees, I could see that the mobile supermarket concept really works and helps make selling easy. I jumped at the chance to buy my local Autosmart franchise business. After all, they don’t come up very often.
### How is the training and support? ###
First class. It’s made a big difference to me. I’ve been going for two years now and still get field support, as well as the chance to attend regular training courses to top up my knowledge.
### Who do you sell to? ###
All sorts of customers use our products, not just automotive ones. My customer base is really varied and includes scaffolding companies, funeral directors, equestrian centres and boat companies, in addition to my automotive customers.
### How are you finding life as a franchisee? ###
I love it. I look forward to going to work every day and the weeks fly by. I’ve got the independence I wanted, but all the support I need to succeed. It’s great not having a boss and being able to choose my own work hours. I indulge my passion for mountain biking at the weekends and even manage to get to see the kids in school plays now. I just start earlier or do a couple of extra hours later on. I also have the added bonus of going behind the scenes at my customers’ premises. I’ve seen cars and boats that I never dreamed I would get a chance to be up close to.