Taking on the Bury St Edmunds territory for Optic-Kleer in September 2011, John Speare celebrated his 10-year anniversary with the professional windscreen repair franchise this year
John Speare found himself at a crossroads when his freelance work in B2B sales started to dwindle but he had reached a stage in life where he couldn’t envisage being an employee again. After finding out about Optic-Kleer through a family member, John realised his years of retail experience would be perfect for running a franchise where he would be interacting with the general public on a daily basis. Taking on the Bury St Edmunds territory for Optic-Kleer in September 2011, John celebrated his 10-year anniversary with the professional windscreen repair franchise this year.
After graduating from school with three distinctions in his A Levels, but knowing he didn’t want to go to university, John was unsure of what career path to take. After securing a job as a sales assistant at Sainsbury’s, John’s determination saw him work his way through the ranks, becoming training manager, before going on to become a store manager.
John was with Sainsbury’s for 23 years but, when he reached the milestone age of 40, he decided he was ready for a change. With his wealth of sales experience, John found himself naturally picking up work in B2B sales with a company, before taking the leap and going freelance. However, when his work as a freelancer started to slow down, John decided it was time to look for a truly fulfilling venture.
He said: “I had been left in limbo. I didn’t want to go back to working in retail, having long working hours dictated to me. I’d had a taste of working for myself and wanted to carry that forward. I was unsure of where to turn next until I had a conversation with my brother-in-law, who lives in Dorset, where he had his windscreen repaired by an Optic-Kleer franchisee.
“My brother-in-law and the franchisee had a discussion while his repair was being carried out about how an Optic-Kleer franchise was operated. My brother-in-law relayed this information to me, and it just sounded like a brilliant opportunity. It seemed like fate at the time. Before I knew it, I was enquiring about an Optic-Kleer franchise in my area and handing over my franchise fee. My retail and customer service experience were the perfect blend for the sales side of running a franchise – I just needed to be taught how to do the repairs and I was good to go!
“The original training when I joined Optic-Kleer was well set up and enjoyable. We learnt about the kit and the windscreen repair industry - I was eager to get started on something new. David Overton, now managing director, was operations manager at the time and was delivering the training. He was very knowledgeable and helpful as he started out as a franchisee himself.
“However, I will say that we didn’t have the framework in place that we do now. As time progressed, the training evolved, organically developing to a combination of in-class teaching and in-the-field mentoring. As David transitioned to become the UK franchisor, we continued to have a very good working relationship.”
As John’s experience grew over time with the brand, David asked him if he could help deliver the training to new Optic-Kleer recruits. He knew that John’s background as a training manager would suit the role. As John had always enjoyed that aspect in his previous work, he jumped at the chance. John and David have now grown the Optic-Kleer training process into what it is today - one that leads industry standards.
During the pandemic, John saw how franchisees within the network were able to continue working with just a few adaptations. John was also able to continue the Optic-Kleer training programme in a COVID-secure manner as the network grew.
He said: “The bread and butter of our relationships with customers and the basis of our trading is usually through our supermarket and retail site car parks. Having the flexibility to operate from DIY stores during the pandemic was excellent when other non-essential retail sites were light on visitors. DIY stores remained open as essential traders and were extremely busy, with customers renovating their homes or gardens throughout lockdowns.
“The option to prioritise these locations allowed franchisees to continue to trade successfully. There’s no doubt that it helped with sales because it gave us the opportunity to work from busy sites, filled with potential customers. Trading from DIY store locations gave us the visibility we needed to keep business at a steady pace.”
In his spare time, John describes himself as an avid ‘armchair-sportsman’ and loves watching any sports, from football to horse racing. John also enjoys playing boules for his local league and meeting with friends at his village pub. John has three grown-up children and lives with his wife.
“The difference in work-life balance from being an employee to being a franchisee is immeasurable,” he explained. “The difference in my personal and family life is amazing. When I was working in retail, I was extremely stressed and would often come home drained and exhausted with work constantly on my mind. I love the flexibility of being a franchisee. Head office are so efficient at administrating insurance claims and providing general admin support you truly can leave work at work. The change in my personal life is worth its weight in gold.
“Optic-Kleer is great because once you’re set up with the marketing materials, you really do attract a lot of customers and there’s no hard selling. People come straight up to you to enquire and the business is there to be had. Providing customers with solutions is what I’m genuinely passionate about. Although each day I go out to fix windscreens, every day is still varied because you’re out mixing with so many different people. I really enjoy that customer interaction.”
Looking to the future, John believes that with new supermarket deals in the pipeline for all Optic-Kleer franchisees, the brand has the opportunity to become a household name. Since David became MD, John has seen the brand go from strength to strength.
“I’m encouraged by what’s to come for Optic-Kleer and I would like to continue to expand the training programme,” John said. “We have gone from recruiting around two franchisees every six months, to almost two every month at the moment! Things are picking up quickly and, in the future, I’d like to be even more involved with supporting David and the team at head office. I’m approaching 56 and so my personal goal over the next five to 10 years is to grow my own franchise to maximise its value as well as do everything I can to help David and the team make Optic Kleer the household name and brand that it deserves to be. Then I can retire happy!
“One of the best things about being a franchisee is the sense of freedom it brings you. Compared to long shifts in retail, I now usually work a standard five day week, with completely flexible working hours to suit me and my family. It’s great because if my wife and I decide we want to have a long weekend then we can. I don’t have to fill in holiday forms or worry about finding another member of staff to cover for me. It’s been a great 10 years as an Optic-Kleer franchisee - who knows where we’ll be in another 10!”