Sarah Bell, EnviroVent franchisee for the Nottingham and Derby area has built a successful business by putting her customers first
When busy mother of four, Sarah Bell, launched her EnviroVent franchise in 2010, her motives were simple – bring home a supplementary income that would cover the odd treat for her children and fill the hours whilst they were at school. Now, she is thought of as the number one domestic ventilation system provider in the Nottingham and Derby area and a very successful business woman in her own right. Ten years on, her motives may have evolved but her priorities remain the same; put the customer first and the rest will follow.
She says: “I’ve built and maintained a thriving business which gives me so much professional and personal satisfaction. What started as a way to give my kids a few more treats and holidays has developed into a long-term career without limits. How have I achieved that? It’s simple really – I put my customers first. Now that I’ve been running my franchise for a decade, I can reflect on my experiences and recognise that my ability to build relationships is what has made me a good business owner. Thanks to EnviroVent, and my own commitment to the growth of my franchise, I’ve discovered a great sense of achievement and something I love doing. An EnviroVent franchise really is what you make it and I’m very proud of what I’ve made of my career.”
Until 1998, Sarah worked as a hospital play specialist, before taking 11 years out of the workforce to raise her children. In 2009, she felt compelled to get back to work and researched income-generating opportunities with the scope for growth.
“I knew I needed to do something for myself again - return to life as ‘Sarah’ and not just a mum,” she says. “My first venture was a year-long stint hosting Virgin Vie parties, which I found so rewarding. Essentially, I sold make-up and hair products to friends at parties that I would host. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the fun products or the social aspect that I enjoyed; it was making the sales. I’ve always been quite shy, so no one was more surprised than I was that I had this natural flair for customer service! It ignited something in me that I felt compelled to explore, which is when I discovered the EnviroVent franchise model.”
Through her husband’s business contacts, Sarah was made aware of the franchise opportunity and standing as the market-leaders in domestic ventilation systems. Here, she thought, was a chance to put her new skills to the test, whilst generating a level of income she couldn’t have dreamt of as a part-time party host.
“In a nutshell, it was perfect. My husband had such faith in the quality of the product as he’d been a loyal client for years, so I felt the return on my investment was assured. Initially, I approached it as an opportunity to earn an income that would give my kids a better life. The money I made during my Virgin Vie days would pay for the odd cinema trip, whereas an EnviroVent franchise might pay for a family holiday. In essence, I was scaling up my life. Little was I to know quite the effect it would have on my income, wellbeing and self-confidence,” she explains.
Sarah built her territory from scratch, establishing her customer network by drawing on her experiences of selling to friends and family. Within months, she had truly found her entrepreneurial groove, benefiting from the additional income by treating the whole family - herself included - to some of the finer things in life. The secret to her success is no secret; her entire business is built around offering a quality service.
“I treat my clients with humility and respect, approaching all consultations as a problem-solving exercise, not a money-making opportunity,” says Sarah. “I like to foster a relationship right from that very first phone call, asking open-ended questions so a client feels they can trust me with their issue. No one likes to admit they’ve got a damp problem in their home, and in many cases, clients misunderstand the root cause of it. Without fail, my approach leads to a solution and, if I don’t know, someone will. That’s the best thing about being part of a franchise network, especially one as well established as EnviroVent – the unlimited knowledge of having the best in the business at your disposal.”
Sarah’s newly found passion for sales and marketing saw her take her franchise to great heights in a matter of mere months. What had started as an outlet for her aspiration of rejoining the workforce and perhaps funding the odd foreign holiday soon morphed into a long-term and rewarding career.
“Ultimately, I started the business in hope that I might pay for family outings by working a few hours a day but I soon found myself packing out my schedule, going above and beyond for my customers,” she continues. “I get a real sense of accomplishment from knowing I’m offering an impeccable standard of service. To this day, it’s what gets me out of bed in the mornings. I also found a new sense of pride in being a busy, working mum with my own reputable business.
“My confidence in my own abilities had come on leaps and bounds but I felt I needed to really push myself out of my comfort zone to take my business to the next level. I joined my local BNI chapter, forming professional relationships and friendships along the way, whilst also getting my brand name out to a wider pool of domestic clients. Networking with other local business owners has increased my confidence levels no end and made me feel like an integral member of my local business community.”
Sarah now regularly meets with the wider community of business owners in her area, utilising the support of their varied backgrounds for the benefit of her business. This, coupled with the expert guidance of EnviroVent’s support team, has seen her establish her franchise as one of the most well-respected domestic service providers in the East Midlands. Sarah admits that the major advantage of running a franchise model is the unlimited network support.
“The guidance isn’t limited to the head office team, although I do find that resource invaluable,” she explains. “I also feel reassured by the support I get from my fellow franchisees. Even after 10 years, I still find myself calling on the insight of other franchisees, picking up the phone every few weeks to sound ideas off with someone else who, quite literally, knows exactly where I’m coming from. I like to think I offer this service to others too, making myself available to other franchisees in their time of need. We work together for the greater good of the brand because, at the end of the day, we’re all working towards a common goal of maintaining our standing as the UK’s leading manufacturer and installer.”
Now in her early 50s, Sarah proudly says that EnviroVent has offered her a career without limits and the chance to fulfil a work-life balance that others can only dream of.
“Despite the success I’ve experienced, I’ve never felt that running my franchise has encroached on my role as a mum,” says Sarah. “My kids are aged between 18 and 25 now, but three still live with me, so even after all these years I still have the time to spend with them. In the back of my mind, I’m investing my heart and soul into my franchise so as to get it to a point where I can sell it on, for a healthy profit. But, for right now, this business suits me down to the ground and something I’ll be proud to do for another 10 years.”