Taking on a franchise opportunity is a popular choice for would-be business owners. Operating a franchise, business owners can be assured of a tried and tested business model with demonstrable results, and start-up costs need not be astronomical. According to the BFA, the franchise sector in rude health and continues to prosper; the contribution of franchising to the UK economy is now reckoned to be £15.1 billion, an increase of 46 per cent over the past ten years and up 10 per cent since the last survey in 2013.
The total number of people employed in franchising in the UK is 621,000, of which 321,000 are in full-time employment, equating to an increase of 70 per cent over the past ten years.
Paul Clark is owner of oven valeting firm Ovenu Warrington, but before becoming a franchisee had been working as a residential social worker for more than 15 years. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the job but had always liked the idea of being my own boss and was looking for a change of direction,’ he says.
So, as fate would have it, when Clark was flicking through a regional lifestyle magazine he was drawn to an advert, which was offering just that, and he put in a call to discuss the opportunity the next day.
Getting to grips with the franchise opportunity
Clark’s first step was to get to know the company. During his initial call Clark spoke to Ovenu about the support, training and the expectations of a franchisee, which gave him a better feel for the opportunity.
‘The company was extremely transparent and honest and invited me to attend an open-day that allowed me to ask as many questions as I wanted, shadow an existing franchisee on a job and meet with its founder,’ he explains.
Clark was given the contact details of 30 or so franchisees from up and down the country and was welcome to call every single one to learn more about the business and its operations.
Before you leave a secure full-time job it is essential to be certain a franchise opportunity is a good fit, so Clark thought carefully about his options. ‘There was no pressure on me to make a decision and about a month later, after assessing the franchise opportunity and looking over the agreement, I signed on the dotted line,’ he says.
The next step was to complete Ovenu’s ISO 9001 accredited intensive week-long training programme, which not only delivered professional oven valeting instruction, but also to helped Clark to understand the business model, how to market it, was provided with accounting training and also how taught to maintain and exceed expected levels of customer service.
‘After securing a bank loan I purchased a van, which was kitted out by Ovenu and fitted with its brand livery, provided with the company’s approved, environmentally-friendly cleaning products and I was ready to knuckle down.’
Marketing made easier with the franchise model
Effective marketing on a budget is often a struggle for small company owners, but help is often available for franchisees in the form of an existing marketing structure; Ovenu engages a public relations and marketing company that serves all of its franchisees. ‘It regularly generates media opportunities and places editorial in each franchisee’s local media, which is a great way to raise your profile,’ he says.
Clark also mention that the livery on the vans is also an excellent differentiator and a good marketing tool. ‘They are immediately recognisable and feature contact details that have helped me secure a large number of jobs from members of the public that have seen me on the road,’ he says.
Turnover is influenced strongly by repeat trade. ‘Nine years after establishing Ovenu Warrington my main source of income is from repeat customers. Getting the job right first time has helped me to steadily increase turnover because I have built a loyal customer base that I can rely on for a constant stream of cleaning jobs. I now frequently book clients in for their next appointment while on the job,’ Clark says.
Asking customers to leave a review of the service on the Ovenu Warrington website has resulted in more than 3,000 positive testimonials, which promotes confidence in potential customers that visit the website.
As with all small businesses, the first year is always going to be a challenge, particularly if your launch coincides with the start of a recession, as Clark’s did. ‘However, (franchisor) Rik and the team at head office were brilliant and helped a lot in positioning my business in my area with marketing and advertising support. Putting in the ground work and getting the systems in place at the start was very time consuming and a lot of hard work, but it has paid dividends.’
By way of advice to others looking at a franchise opportunity, Clark says it’s important to do your homework before making the leap. ‘Make sure you consult the British Franchise Association and find out as much as you can about the franchisor.
‘Once you are confident you’ve found the right company, you can’t go far wrong – you’re adopting a proven business model. The best advice I could give to anyone about to start their journey would be to embrace the training, utilise the network you work with by talking to more experienced colleagues and partake in as many media opportunities as possible.’