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My franchise story: Launching a business in the COVID economy

My franchise story: Launching a business in the COVID economy

"The Agency Express franchise is a low overhead business to run and in a fairly robust sector, so for me it has been a good choice," says franchisee Paul Dymond

Following a diverse career ranging from a business analyst for an FTSE 250 company to a local courier driver, Paul Dymond was ready for a new challenge and set his sights on becoming his own boss. Like many others, Paul had begun his journey into franchising when the COVID-19 lockdown began, but confident in his decision to buy a franchise business and undeterred he continued on his path. He launched his North Devon Agency Express franchise in June 2020.

What drew you to the franchise industry?

PD: The prospect and reward of being self-employed is something I strived for, but it is the support and guidance you get when working with a franchise that gave me the courage to proceed. Starting a business even in the best financial climate comes with uncertainty. This is why a franchise opportunity appealed to me because of the high levels of support and increased success rates.

How did you hear about Agency Express and what attracted you to becoming an Agency Express franchisee?

PD: I first saw Agency Express on the bfa website and it ticked all the boxes. I liked the idea of a van-based, repeat customer business that had reasonably low overheads. I expanded my research from there. After a thorough investigation and reaffirming my initial thoughts on what I wanted from a business, I contacted Agency Express directly to find out if an appropriate territory was available.

To ensure that Paul’s transition ran smoothly through the turbulent period, a team of franchise specialists were carefully selected to assist him throughout the process. With sound financial assistance from Hitachi Capital Franchise Finance and continual guidance and support from Agency Express, Paul’s ambition of becoming self-employed soon became reality.

Considering COVID-19 and social distancing measures, from initial enquiry to signing your franchise agreement, how did you find the Agency Express recruitment process?

PD: Very straight forward and logical, all my questions and concerns were addressed as we went along. All information relating to the franchise was explained thoroughly at each step and someone was always at the end of the phone. Even though we didn’t have face-to-face meetings, I don’t feel like the process lacked in anything. I was confident from start to finish.

How did you raise the finance and did COVID-19 have an impact on funding availability or the application process?

PD: We initially approached the major banks but due to COVID-19 their focus was on existing customers, which although understandable did restrict my options until Agency Express introduced Hitachi Capital Franchise Finance.

Considering COVID-19 did you expect the funding application process to be challenging?

PD: Initially, I was not expecting it to be too difficult but I had not allowed for the full impact of the virus. There was a lot of uncertainty on what could and could not be offered. That’s where Hitachi Capital Franchise Finance came in. Their ability to cut through that and deliver what would actually work for me was invaluable.

Once Paul’s franchise funding was in place, he became one of Agency Express’ first few franchisees to complete its COVID-adapted virtual training course and remote business launch. This included a comprehensive three-day education programme coupled with extensive e-marketing and telemarketing campaigns.

Considering social distancing measures, what are your thoughts on the Agency Express virtual training programme, business launch and how did you find the online elements?

PD: I have had some experience with remote working and video calling previously so I didn’t find it daunting to be online. The online training actually allowed me to focus on the materials comfortably in my own environment, which helped me to absorb the information. As the training modules are recorded, I also know that I can visit them again at any point. I have worked closely with Agency Express’ business development and marketing teams throughout the launch process which is very involved even when done remotely. It has been a great success, we even signed clients before the official launch date.

In under a month, Paul gained nine client accounts and his enthusiasm and unfaltering determination will continue to bring him a bright and busy future.

How would you describe your experience of becoming a franchisee and what advice would you give to others looking to buy a franchise in a COVID or similar economy?

PD: Overall, the experience has been very enjoyable with all questions and concerns being weighed and discussed as we went along. Buying a franchise in the COVID economy was daunting but allows you to have better insight into what is happening and take more control. I make the decisions about my business, rather than as an employee where the events tend to happen to you. The Agency Express franchise is a low overhead business to run and in a fairly robust sector, so for me it has been a good choice.

Ben Brookes, managing director, Agency Express shared his thoughts on their new process and partnership: “The market is currently very challenging; it requires lateral thinking and application to achieve the right end result for a franchisee looking to forge their new career. Creating comprehensive virtual programmes and selecting the right partners to enable franchisees to continue on in their journeys has been vital. Utilising Hitachi Capital Franchise Finance means I can trust that my new franchisees are well cared for during the financial process, and will receive not only the right package for them but together with Agency Express the ongoing support that all new business owners need.”

Paul Hansen QFP, head of sales and marketing, Hitachi Capital Franchise Finance, said: “We were delighted to be able to support Paul with his funding requirements. The lending landscape has changed significantly in the past couple of months and continues to evolve. I am proud of the team for staying on top of this ever-changing environment and consequently providing a great solution for Paul. The beauty of working with us is our ability to lend and broker deals to our specialist panel, meaning we can provide a viable solution to meet the requirements of our valued partners like Paul.”

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