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Jay Belam left the army to realise his dream of starting his own business with Revive!

"I ask myself that question every time I pay my franchise fee! But then I look at everything Revive! has done for me, and continues to do, and I’m thankful," says Jay Belam

British Franchise Association award-winning company Revive! is the premium provider of cosmetic paint repairs to the automotive sector. With a rapidly growing national network of SMART repair technicians providing professional repairs, Revive! prides itself on the support it offers to its franchisees and the high-quality service it provides to the company’s growing national account customer base.

We speak to Jay Belam, Revive! franchisee for Guilford, about his experience with the company. Jay, 31, joined the army as a vehicle mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, where he spent nearly seven years, before joining the Army Physical Training Corps.

He spent his last six years in the army as a remedial instructor, rehabilitating injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, before deciding to leave the forces and realise a long-held dream to open his own business. He set up his SMART repair business, Revive! Guildford, repairing scuffs and scrapes to vehicle bodywork and alloy wheels, in October 2010.

Why did you want to work for yourself?

After 12 years in the army, where I’d been housed, clothed and essentially protected from the commercial world, I was ready for a new challenge. I also felt that moving every two years was not fair on my young family. My eldest son, Oliver, starts school next year and I wanted to be able to put down some roots. My goals had always been to join the army, become a mechanic and to work for myself, so I’m delighted that I now have the opportunity to achieve that dream.

Why did you choose a franchise?

I ask myself that question every time I pay my franchise fee! But then I look at everything Revive! has done for me, and continues to do, and I’m thankful. They give me so much support, from doing my book-keeping and invoicing, to giving me sales and marketing advice, and there’s work from the national accounts too.

Above all, the training is worth its weight in gold. It was so thorough and progressive, and it didn’t stop once I’d completed my initial five weeks of training. I must have called my trainer twice a day for the first two weeks, and he was always helpful and supportive, which was great while I was finding my feet.

Why did you choose Revive!?

I decided I wanted to work with vehicles because it’s an area I’m familiar with, but I’d never done any bodywork or spraying before. I was used to superb training in the army, so one of my first priorities was finding an organisation that could train me properly. As soon as I visited Revive! and saw their training facilities I was impressed. The team were very friendly and professional, and I had a good feeling immediately.”

Have you managed to obtain customers, bearing in mind we are just emerging from recession?

Absolutely. As part of my start-up Revive! provided me with warm leads at car dealerships and set up an online marketing campaign. Work from these sources, as well as leads from Revive!’s national account programme, has kept me very busy and given me a good base to grow from. I think I have chosen an industry that is fairly recession-proof, as people are looking around for a bargain at present and SMART repairs offer a cost-effective alternative to an expensive body shop repair.

How are you finding the transition from being in the army to running a Revive! franchise?

It’s a challenge coming from such a cosseted environment, where you get a paycheque regardless of how hard you work, to having to hunt for every penny. But that’s why I left because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to grow a business of my own and build a team. The buck stops with me now, and although it can be scary I’m providing for my family and I’m proud of what I’m doing. I have no regrets at all about leaving the army. The only thing I miss is the banter. My customers like hearing my army stories, though.

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