From the product to the customer service philosophy, through to the franchise model and agreement, Colourfence believes it offers something unique
Unique is a word often used by franchisors describing their business opportunities, but that uniqueness can often be just skin deep when you start to look at the detail.
The Colourfence franchise is different, however. From the product to the customer service philosophy, through to the franchise model and agreement, the Colourfence management team believe they can offer something truly unique.
As with all the best franchise businesses, the concept is simple enough. Colourfence franchisees supply and fit boundary fencing for domestic and commercial clients. There’s nothing new in that, you might say. However, the Colourfence product is manufactured from high tensile steel, so has none of the drawbacks often associated with timber alternatives such as rotting and warping. In fact, Colourfence customers are offered a 25-year guarantee and the product requires no annual treatments or routine maintenance, with the exception of the odd wash down with a garden hose.
Furthermore, Colourfence comes in a variety of colours to suit any garden environment and is constructed on site from lightweight components, making transportation and bespoke modifications to the height or width of the product simple.
With no heavy concrete posts to manoeuvre around, the work itself is not too physically demanding and anybody with basic DIY skills can easily cope. But what about the franchise model itself?
As Mark Stewart-Woods, managing director of Colourfence, explains: “When we test marketed the product in the UK about six years ago we experienced phenomenal customer feedback. We didn’t expect anything else really, as similar products have been on sale in Australia for the last 30 years and are almost universally accepted as the most sensible and cost-effective fencing solution.
“Establishing our manufacturing facility was pretty straightforward. Our challenge was how to service clients on a national basis to a standard commensurate with that of the product. We experimented with our own fitting teams and contractors, but eventually decided that franchising would be an ideal method of securing highly motivated business partners.
“We had a lot of good advice from our professional advisers, who are all well known experts affiliated to the British Franchise Association. With their support, we drew up our prospectus and franchise agreement and successfully piloted our business model. We now have 25 established franchisees in the UK and Ireland, so we like to think we have the basics right.”
To the best of Colourfence’s knowledge, no other fencing franchise exists, so the ‘unique’ tag still seems applicable, but why is that?
Colourfence thinks it is due to the fact that, until now, no one has been able to differentiate themselves sufficiently on product offering. Iain Colling, Colourfence’s franchise manager, says: “The fencing supply market has traditionally been very fragmented, with a lot of small companies operating on a localised basis and price being the main point of competition.
“Colourfence is priced in line with good quality timber, but of course our franchisees are the only source of supply so can’t be undercut on a like-for-like basis.Cheaper alternatives to Colourfence are always going to be available, but when prospective customers understand the benefits, price becomes less of an issue. Uniquely in the fencing industry, the franchise model gives customers a local presence, but with the reassurance of dealing with a much larger organisation with strict quality standards.
“We do demand very high standards from our franchisees when it comes to customer care. Our aim is to treat customers as we would like to be treated ourselves. Prices are consistent across the network and these are published on our website, which has a twofold benefit.
“Our customers have a reference point, which reassures them that they are not being overcharged, and it alleviates the pressure on the franchisees, as they don’t have to be expert sales people. We think the success of this approach speaks for itself, with established franchisees generating up to 40 per cent of new business from referrals.”
What is unique about the franchise agreement? Colourfence insists it doesn’t make money out of franchise fees. Its initial fee is £19,500 for an area of 200,000 homes, but states that the company reinvests all the upfront money received into helping to establish the franchisees’ businesses through local marketing support.
“It was a deliberate decision,” says Iain. “We only make money if the franchisee is successful in selling our fences. It is another thing that sets us apart and helps our relationship with the franchise network. It means we are united as a team with common goals and helps to drive the right behaviours on both sides.”