Terry Mullen, managing director finance and operations at SMART repair specialist Revive!, provides some expert advice on the benefits of investing in a mobile franchise and making sure self-employment is right for you
I have been involved in franchising for over 10 years, but prior to that spent almost 20 years on the other side of the fence as a banker involved in supporting businesses and helping new companies start up. These experiences have given me a good understanding of what makes a successful business.
My own career mirrors that of many people who are considering investing in a franchise - moving from a steady job to what could be perceived as the uncertainty of self-employment can be a big step.
Make sure you understand what self-employment means
Taking the step away from the security of a high street bank with a regular salary, particularly when I had two young children, was not straightforward and so I can empathise with people starting their own businesses. Indeed, the prospect was quite daunting, but I had known my business partner, Mark Llewellyn, for some time, liked the business ethos and values and had seen the company grow considerably since I first met Mark.
At the end of the day, I knew I needed a new challenge and with what I saw at Revive! I believed I would fit in and could make a difference to both my own career and Revive!’s progress.
One of the things I like about self-employment is the ability to take control of your decisions and create your own future. This, of course, can work both ways - if you wait for the phone to ring, you are probably not going to be as successful as if you were proactive. But I like the challenge and variety every day brings and enjoy the fact I can make decisions that control my destiny.
Be prepared to sell
One of the great things about running a mobile operation is that you can always go to the customer. In a time of recession, this is particularly important, as we have seen that premises-based businesses that rely on passing trade or people coming to them can struggle.
A key attraction for me about a van-based business is the opportunity to go out and sell. If you are self-employed and want to run your own business, then to be successful you need to have the confidence and skills to sell yourself and your service.
Understand your commitment
While a mobile business has lower costs than many franchises, it doesn’t mean you can be less committed to it. Working for yourself puts you at the sharp end of emotions - if things go well, you will be delighted, but if things go badly, you will feel them equally. Running and managing a business has constant ups and downs and the emotions and stress around being a business owner are quite different from being an employee.
Do your homework
There are two different types of research I would advise potential franchisees to undertake.
Firstly, learn as much as you can about the franchise you are considering investing in. The best way to do this is by talking to franchisees who are already part of the network. Try to work out if you would enjoy the day-to-day tasks the business involves and if you would fit with the company’s ethos. Understand your role within the organisation, because while franchising provides a tried-and-tested method of operation and you will be self-employed, there will probably also be clear guidelines in terms of what you can and cannot do.
Secondly, conduct extensive market research on your business and local territory. It is important with this type of research to follow the franchisor’s guidelines, as you don’t want to have a negative impact on your launch or initial sales. Understanding your territory and local market is a big part of the control you can have as a self-employed person.
Be prepared to work hard
It may sound strange that ‘working hard’ should be a tip, but being your own boss is hard work. While the rewards can be significantly greater than working in a 9-5 job, there is a certain mindset required when you run your own business.
If you have a destination to go to, you have two options in terms of the time you set off to arrive there. You can get up early and leave before the rush hour or wait until the rush hour is over and leave later. It will be no surprise to you that the more successful businessmen and franchisees are the ones who get up early.
I have tried to outline the key areas I think people should consider when they are taking steps to become successful franchisees. Having gone through this transition myself, I know there can be some uncertainty and it’s a big step. Having said that, ensuring the right fit is hugely important, both in terms of the business and the people you are going to be working with.
When you combine these factors and add hard work and a clear sales plan to the mix, you can build a business that can go places and at the same time have a lot of fun. For me, it has been the best decision I have made and I love my business and the control and variety I have. Following the tips above will hopefully give you the chance to be in the same place when you start your business.