Laurence Lagden has been a franchisee with Optic-Kleer since 2015. He operates his franchise around the areas of Swindon, Newbury, Marlborough and Oxford. Previously, Laurence worked for many years as a parts manager for a well-known German car manufacturer
How did you first hear about Optic-Kleer?
I first heard about Optic-Kleer when I bumped into an ex-manager of mine who I used to work with years ago. He was actually working in a car park at a store just down the road from where I was working. Someone told me he was down there, so I went down there and had a little chat, hung around with him for a few hours and found out about the Optic-Kleer brand. It wasn’t until things progressed where I was working, I thought to myself its time for a change. I then went back and had another chat with my ex-manager. Things escalated quite quickly.
How did Optic-Kleer get you up and running?
Basically, I made initial contact through the website. David Overton then got in contact with me. We had a few chats, and I chatted to my ex-manager some more. I came and did a visit and spent a few hours with David, going through how the brand works, how we get up and running. Going self-employed was a big step and he explained how being self-employed with Optic-Kleer works and the freedom you get with it.
Did you come and visit?
We came up for our first visit with David on a Sunday and spent three or four hours with him. He showed us what he did, what the operators do and how it all works. He told us about the potential money you could earn from doing it and the freedom you get with it.
How was your training?
The training was very enjoyable. I came up and spent four days here. We went over the aspects of the paperwork and the actual training, where we cracked lots of screens and repaired them. The whole team made me feel very welcome and it was very easy.
How did you find setting up your business for the first time?
Setting up my own business was actually quite straightforward. I found it fairly easy and I had the backing of Optic-Kleer. The accountants that Optic-Kleer recommended to me came down and did a visit. We went through everything. The accountant talked me through my whole financial situation and how it was going to work. He went through a step-by-step process of how to set up, what to expect and what are the stages of setting up the VAT side of it. It was all quite straightforward and very easy.
Did you earn from day one?
On my first day out, I was actually quite surprised. I actually phoned David on my way home and asked him, ‘what have you done to me?’. I remember those words clearly. It was supposed to be a relaxed, easy job and I had an absolute ballistic day. Non-stop enquiries, did repairs galore and came away and couldn’t believe the amount of money I had earned on my first day. It really was a case of jumping in at the deep end, but I just enjoyed the day, out there. It was nice to be my own free man. You turn up at the site, set up your canopy, chat with people and be friendly. And it was nice not to have to be stuck to a clock.
Are your family involved?
My wife is also a director of the company. She does some of the emailing for me. She works in the background and does a little bit of the admin work for me. My kids are quite involved, they want to get more involved but obviously, I can’t let them. My eldest children will sometimes come out with me during the day and do a bit of paperwork for me, which is nice.
Have you had a return on your investment?
The initial investment I made by buying into the Optic-Kleer franchise, I have already had that money back within my first year, which I didn’t actually expect so I am very happy about that. Optic-Kleer as a franchise gives you a lot of backup. They are very friendly and are always on the end of a phone.
Do you have to hold a high value of stock?
The stock I have to hold is next to nothing. The stock that I need, I can order and have within a few days from Optic-Kleer. It’s a nice easy ordering process. If there are any issues, I get contacted and told if there are any issues with stock at the time. We get good backup and feedback from that. What I actually hold is only a few bottles of resin and tools. You don’t actually need a lot to go out and do a repair on a windscreen. You can put the bits and pieces and tools you need in your pocket.
Is every day different?
A typical day in my week with Optic-Kleer: I arrive on-site, not too early, between 9.00 am and 9:30 am in the morning. I get my canopy out, get my signs out, get myself ready with my toolbox ready to go. I have come from a customer service background, where everything was about customer service which I have brought over to Optic-Kleer. When I deal with customers, I try and bring that customer service background, that has been drilled into me for the last 25 years. When I talk to customers I talk to them properly. I think I come across quite well. I get good feedback from my customers and am told I do a very professional job with friendly service.
It’s amazing the diverse people you can meet in a car park. A lot of people ask me about the franchise, the branding and how long I have been doing it. In turn, I talk to customers about what they do for a living. And it’s just amazing, the number of people you meet out there and their backgrounds. There are some amazing, interesting people out there and you get to meet them just sitting in a car park earning money. And it is good fun.
Are people interested in what you do?
A lot of people will stand and watch you while you repair their windscreen. They are very interested in how you actually go about doing it. It’s like you perform magic on their windscreen. The repair you do, they can’t believe it! Most of them will hang around rather than go shopping. A lot of people are interested in you, I suppose it’s because you look right, you come across right and you are friendly.
How was it making the move to being self-employed?
Being self-employed for the first time was scary. A lot of people said to me before I left my previous employment, ‘you are taking a big step’, ‘good luck, all the best’, ‘do you know what you’re doing?’, ‘do you realise what you’re doing?’, ‘if you are not working, you don’t earn’. All these big scary phrases were being thrown at me. It’s been easy and straightforward. I think it’s the best move I’ve made. I like the freedom, okay, if I don’t work I don’t get paid. But when I do work, I get paid a decent amount of money. It’s fantastic. I don’t have to worry about who else is on holiday, I can take time off when I like and I can work when I like. If you put the time and the effort in, you get rewarded.
What is the invoicing process like?
With Optic-Kleer the invoicing is easy, you literally write out an invoice and the customer signs it. We send it off to Optic-Kleer and they do the rest. They basically make it easy for us to be self-employed.
Does Optic-Kleer bring work to you?
I am finding with the Optic-Kleer franchise, I do not have to go around knocking on people’s doors, making cold calls, or placing newspaper adverts. I do not have to do the hard sell. We’re set up and we are known. People get to know you are established in your area. People come and find us. We get loads of repeat customers because of the way we deal with customers and the repairs we do. The quality of the repair is way above anybody else. We don’t have to go out there and advertise like mad, people drive into the car park, and the branding that we have stands out. People see us. We don’t scare people away, the branding draws people in and when they start talking to us, they see how it works. It’s just money in the bank.
What do you need to be an Optic-Kleer franchisee?
To be an Optic-Kleer franchisee, I think you’ve got to come across well. You have got to be friendly and approachable as you are dealing with people’s insurance companies. They have got to put their trust in you. You gain all that trust because the branding is right, the way you look is right, everything is right. It draws people in and they will put their trust in you and they are going to be quite happy for you to contact their insurance company on their behalf. You don’t need a huge skill set, you don’t need to be a salesman, all you need is to just be able to talk to people because people are quite friendly out there and the repairs look after themselves.
Do you need any qualifications?
To be an Optic-Kleer franchisee, you don’t really need to be that skilled and have loads of qualifications. You just need to know how to talk to people and deal with people. At the training, they show you how to repair a windscreen. It is fairly straightforward. Every chip is different. You have to think about every chip and what the outcome of it may end up being.
You do need to be fairly disciplined. You need to get up in the morning even when it’s cold, wet and horrible. You do need to get yourself up and jump into your van and get to your site and set all your stuff up and be there with a friendly face.