Why did you decide to take on a franchise?
I used to be a sole trader before I went to Australia for two years. After I got back I contacted my old customers to try and get some business, but I realised I wanted to go to the next level and get a bit busier, maybe take an employee on.
Sometimes you’re not sure what you’re looking for. A friend suggested franchises to me so I Googled it and Aspect came up, so I contacted them, went in to see them and it developed from there. Currently I’m doing carpentry jobs but I want to expand beyond doing just that.
What type of funds did you need?
I got a fairly small bank loan, under £25,000. I was surprised how easy the process was. You hear a lot of doom and gloom but from my own point of view I couldn’t fault it. I went to the business manager, filled in a few forms, and that was that.
From what I can gather if you want to borrow more than £25,000 they are a bit more thorough. I went in all geared up to show them the business model but with the information they got from Aspect they were happy to go ahead.
I think it’s easier to raise bank finance when you’re a franchisee because the banks are getting the security of a tried and testing model that’s proven to be profitable. I also put some of my own savings into it.
What did you spend the money on?
I had to get contracts looked at by solicitors, which was costly. A major business expense was my van, it had to be a good quality van with the company branding too. The franchisors haven’t stuck to the letter of the law, saying you have to standardise everything, they’ve been very flexible and we’ve met costs halfway for some things.
As the company’s first franchisee, were you apprehensive?
No, I went into it with full confidence in the franchise model. With any business venture there’s a certain sense of trepidation but I had a lot of trust in the company.
How much contact do you have with the franchisors?
I only go to the HQ as and when I need to. We operate on a PDA system which all their engineers use, I’ve got my own PDA and they’ve got a call centre so all the calls are transferred to the call centre and they feed the jobs through to me.
For you personally, how is running a franchise arm more beneficial than being a sole trader?
When I was working alone it was restrictive because I lacked expertise in terms of the marketing side. Now, I’m getting help with this. The networking environment isn’t something you’re used to in the building trade, but it’s an option that’s been made available to me as a franchisee. Meeting lots of people and making a speech about your company is intimidating, but it’s rewarding in the end.
I get assistance with my accounts too. I have a basic understanding of accounts but Aspect has a bookkeeper who helps with the VAT returns, which is handy.
How much money will it make?
In regards to turnover, the franchisors have got an idea of what they want to achieve financially, but with this being the first one it can’t be written in stone. We expect a turnover of around £70-90,000 for the first year.
What are your longer-term goals?
I think in the next two years, definitely to have a couple of employees in different trades. It would be nice to take an apprentice on, but sometimes with repair work, it’s hard to have an apprentice because you’ve got to be with them all the time whereas you can leave them for a bit on a building site.
Any advice for those thinking of taking on a franchise?
It sounds obvious but it needs to be something you’re comfortable doing. Don’t overcomplicate it; concentrate on one thing and from there you can assess and diversify if need be.