Why it’s never too late to set up a franchise operation

Rik Hellewell, franchising expert and founder of Ovenu, talks about the advantages of setting up a franchise in your 50s or even later.

You’ve all heard the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. Well, I believe it’s time to turn that outdated line on its head. The number of businesses being set up by older people is increasing all the time. Many of these ‘olderpreneurs’ are turning to franchising as a way of becoming their own boss in areas where they don’t have an existing skillset.

At our company, we have franchisees of all ages and backgrounds and there are numerous case studies that support the maxim that ‘age is no barrier’ to running a successful business. With the over-55s due to account for a third of the UK’s population by 2025, older workers are well placed to take advantage of this fast-growing marketplace through shared experience and understanding.

Years of experience and expertise mean that this group of start-up entrepreneurs is more likely to succeed, with over 70 per cent lasting more than five years, compared with 28 per cent of younger entrepreneurs, according to the latest research by over-50 business starter support charity PRIME.

Nearly half the self-employment population is aged over 50, and one in six new businesses started in the UK are set up by those who have reached at least their fifth decade.

Many older people have come to us with no prior experience of the oven valeting industry. They have taken the firm decision to make the most of our established brand and excellent support network to set up their own franchise. We provide the training, the tools, the marketing and networking support that has really paid off for our growing band of Ovenu ‘lads’ (we do have one or two women now!)

Despite launching at the start of the credit crunch five years ago, Clive Wallace, aged 51, has built up a solid and successful operation that now operates across the Cotswolds. A former business banking manager, Clive applied his financial expertise to the established Ovenu franchise model to develop his business.

Clive says, ‘I wanted to be my own boss, so I decided to seize the opportunity and to set up on my own but with the support and strong brand identity that only an established franchise could provide.

‘Even in these difficult economic times the business, which was established in 2007, is going from strength to strength. Providing services that can save people money by extending the lives of their ovens has meant that orders have remained strong throughout economic turmoil.’

Ray Gaydon, who is in his fifties, set up his franchise operation after a career in IT and a decade working as a mechanic. Ray had always dreamed of being his own boss. He researched the market to find opportunities that could work in a difficult economic climate, and found the right company to provide the support and strong network that he needed.

Ray explains, ‘I decided that a strong franchise, rather than starting a new business from scratch, would be the best, and most straightforward, option. I had always wanted to be my own boss, so I decided to seize the opportunity to set up on my own, but with the support and strong brand identity that only an established franchise could provide.’

Ray underwent training to become a fully trained ISO 9001:2008 accredited technician. He says that the support package provided, which includes everything from training and on-going support to corporate branding and marketing, was invaluable.

Ray adds, ‘The tried and tested support and strength of the network of franchisees is vitally important for anyone starting out in business, whatever their age or background.

‘I enjoyed the comprehensive training and, while it’s still early days yet, I’m really enjoying running my own business. It’s a fantastic feeling to know that I’m in charge at long last!’

While it’s a big step to strike out on your own, particularly if you’re used to the stability of a regular salary, our franchises – both young and old(er) – report overwhelmingly positive experiences. Our recent conference, which brought together many of our 105-strong network, showed that they are mostly doing it right.

Many of the franchisees – average age about 42 – are considering expansion by taking on a new sub-contractor, getting an additional liveried van or even buying a neighbouring franchise. Age has been no barrier to their success with the most successful having taken completely different career paths until they started their franchise. We have everyone from a former bank manager, a casino boss, a policeman and a flight sergeant. Franchising is their second career, if you like, and a chance to become their own bosses!

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