Becoming a franchisee could be the answer, but do your homework first, Linda Whitney says
It can be hard to change career. If you’re a nursery nurse who wants to be a bookkeeper or a physics teacher who yearns to own a coffee shop, how can you do that without training or experience in those sectors?
A franchise can be the answer. Most franchisors don’t require franchisees to have previous experience in their business sector.
Lisa Law, national franchise manager at Snap-On Tools, whose franchisees sell tools to automotive technicians, says: “Our franchisees don’t need experience in the trade. Some of our most successful owners have no experience in the automotive or tool trade at all. Our training and support programme can help you to succeed, whatever your background.”
Sounds simple. But before investing in a franchise in a sector that’s new to you, think carefully.
If you hate your boss, colleagues or the company, changing jobs may suffice. If the problem is endemic to the whole industry (such as unsocial hours) or you just don’t love your sector any more, consider a change of career.
John Baldacchino, a hospitality manager who had worked for Marston’s, Punch Taverns and Starbucks, gave it up to be a Wilkins Chimney Sweep franchisee.
He says: “Understand what you want from this life change. For me, it was a better work-life balance - I was driving 800 miles a week - and the chance to direct my own future and work to my own standards.”
Starting any business, including a franchise, involves a lot of hard work and ups and downs. Buying a franchise in a sector about which you’re lukewarm means you’re more likely to give up when things get tough, so choose a sector you love.
What attracts you to it? If it’s just the glamour, think again. In-depth research will show not just the upsides, but also the challenges.
A pub franchise, for instance, may be great for interaction with people, but the hours can be antisocial. Franchises that involve property maintenance may mean turning out in the small hours to deal with emergencies.
John says: “After years in hospitality management, I no longer felt motivated by my career. I researched franchising and the Wilkins franchise just kept jumping out at me.
“Everyone expected me to choose a coffee shop or pub franchise and even I thought: ‘Well, you want a big change, but chimney sweeping? That’s a massive change.’”
He took the plunge and applied and five years later runs a successful chimney sweeping business.
Hospitality and retail are famously ‘Marmite’ sectors - you either love or hate working in them. Work experience can help you decide.
Just because you’re skilled in, for instance, teaching maths, don’t assume you lack the skills to run a pub. Managing the Pig and Whistle doesn’t require the ability to teach quadratic equations.
What franchisors look for are the kind of ‘soft’ skills you tend to learn through experience. These include people skills, communication, sales skills, organisational ability, teamwork and management.
These are used daily in numerous different sectors and jobs. A maths teacher is likely to have communication and organisational skills, plus numeracy, teamwork and management abilities - all of which lend themselves well to running a pub.
Lisa says: “Many skills from different careers can be transferred into the Snap-On business, from personal traits such as self motivation and resilience, to more business oriented attributes like time management and organisation.”
You can also pick up transferable skills outside work. If you organise community events, captain your village football team or are secretary of the gardening club, you’ll have picked up transferable skills.
Check franchise websites to see what kind of transferable skills individual franchises look for.
Almost all franchisors look for people with sales ability. That doesn’t mean they only want people who have held sales jobs.
If you have ever convinced an employer to adopt an idea you’re proposing or persuaded a celebrity to open your local fete, you have sales skills.
Lisa says: “For Snap-On, sales experience may be an advantage, but building great relationships is key. People buy from people, so the most important thing for our franchisees is to be passionate about what they do and offer the best customer experience to keep people coming back.”
John adds: “Whereas I used to sell beer, coffee and hotel rooms, I now sell a home safety service. My communications, organisation, customer service, business admin and finance skills have also transferred well.”
Don’t let the sales element deter you, as many franchisors provide sales training.
After 10 years as a dispensing optician with Specsavers, Carolyn Dailey switched to the care sector with a Bluebird Care franchise.
She says: “After working in the same career for so many years, I knew it was going to be difficult to change. Optics was pretty much everything I knew, but optics and retail are a Monday to Sunday operation and I wanted to improve my work-life balance.
“I had seen the impact of the recession on retail and wanted a more sustainable business that offered the same kind of hands-on role I had at Specsavers and where I could make a difference.”
Carolyn’s retail background gave her transferable skills in customer service. She says: “We offer a bespoke service, rather than a product as in retail, but the customer aspect is similar.”
However, she also recognised that the care sector brought new challenges.
“The industry is regulated, so I had a lot to learn about the regulation process, but the franchisor helps with that,” Carolyn says.
“I work long hours, but I have more control than I had at Specsavers over when I work and I can work from home.”
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