Franchising · 21 April 2016

Franchise Profile: Property report producer X-Press Legal Services

Lynne and Dave Lister 3[3] copy
X-Press Legal Services co-founders Lynne and Dave Lister
Founded in 2000 by former national franchise magazine editor Lynne Lister, X-Press Legal Services supplies solicitors, licensed conveyancers and property developers with a wide range of property-related searches and risk reports that are an essential part of the domestic and commercial property buying process in the UK.

The business has been shortlisted for an innovation award this year by the British Franchise Association after creating a new website and associated social media campaign that has almost doubled the combined turnover of its franchisees in under three years. If you’ve ever followed #TheLegalHour on Twitter or seen “Law Plain and Simple” advertised on your favourite sports events, then here’s a chance to meet the people that created it.

Q&A Factfile: Xpress-Legal Services’ Lynne Lister

Factfile

  • Franchised since: 2005
  • Network size: 26 franchised offices, plus a company-owned operation
  • Network turnover: £7,967,000 (2015)
  • Typical start-up cost: £29,750 plus VAT and working capital

(1) Yours is very much a family-run business; what’s the structure?

The structure of the business is: Lynne Lister, managing director of X-Press, a former magazine editor, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of franchising after working for some 25 years in the sector. Lynne’s husband Dave, a director, has a wealth of financial services experience and expertise and their three children each has a pivotal role in driving the business forward.

Our son Christian heads our data and legislation department and predominately works from Westminster and Brussels. Son Russell and daughter Hannah concentrate on our search operations department, ensuring data accuracy and service standards.

(2) Does that translate well to a franchise operation? Does it give you any advantages when it comes to running the business?

Yes, we think the family feel does translate well to a franchise operation because, primarily, it makes prospective franchisees feel comfortable when they meet us and see “real” people with “normal” lives. It has been said that it makes us entirely credible. This carries on when prospective franchisees join the network: they know we always have time for them, just as it should be in a caring family.

Again, yes, we think that it does give us certain advantages when it comes to running the business, because we are a very close family and that makes us a strong and cohesive team. We each have our own areas of responsibility so there’s no rivalry, just a keen focus to meet our goals.

(3) Your forward-thinking approach to innovation has been brilliantly demonstrated in recent years with the success of a new website you set up – can you tell us about that?

We are very progressive and recognise that to provide the best possible and most efficient service to our clients that we must operate the most sophisticated and comprehensive system. We are constantly investing in our systems, always looking for new ways to improve what we do, how we can help our franchisees to offer their clients more, and to enhance our own reputation. It was with this in mind that the idea was conceived for a legal information site, and Law Plain and Simple was born.

(4) That’s now become a very popular website offering free legal advice. What was the thinking behind it?

To enable our franchisees to offer their clients more but without any extra cost. Lawyers and conveyancing professionals who are clients of X-Press Legal Services are automatically included on Law Plain and Simple, with their contact information. They may enhance their listing by writing as many informative articles about any legal topics they choose, which are then posted on the website. Consumers can access the site to gather information on a wide variety of topics with no charge at all – and with no obligation to give their contact details or to proceed further.

(5) How has it helped your franchisees grow their businesses?

Law Plain and Simple has proved to be a popular and very effective marketing tool for X-Press Legal Services’ clients, improving awareness about them and their specialisms. The way the website is promoted nationally brings local law firms to the attention of people across the UK, a form of advertising that would otherwise cost them unaffordable amounts of money. Franchisees’ clients realise this is a generous and efficient way to reach potential clients and all they have to do is buy their searches from X-Press – which they do anyway at rates which are competitive in the sector.

(6) What’s been the reaction?

It’s been fantastic. Law Plain and Simple has been very warmly received by our clients and our franchisees, who have all benefited from this innovation. It has directly increased group turnover by approaching £3.6 million in the past three years. And of course members of the public have derived big benefits too by being able to access free impartial information without payment or any obligation to go on to pay for legal advice.

The enthusiasm for our win:win:win innovation prompted us to enter for the franchise awards run by the British Franchise Association and HSBC in the Innovation category. We are thrilled to be a finalist and hope we will be the winners of this prestigious award: we won’t know the result until mid-June.

(7) What attributes do you look for in your franchisees, who is the business opportunity well-suited to?

We welcome applicants who have some previous business experience, so we have franchisees whose former jobs were at a senior or managerial level in a wide range of industries. A relevant background is less important than the right attitude and aptitude. We want people who are passionate about wanting their own business and are determined to succeed. They must enjoy meeting people at all levels, have a positive “can-do” attitude, and be prepared to work hard. At the same time, they must be good team players and want to contribute to the success of the network as a whole.

(8) Why should someone join X-Press, what can you provide that they can’t get on their own?

We have worked hard to build a successful business which is well-known and respected with a strong and identifiable brand, which is an immediate benefit to new franchisees. Being part of our franchise involves learning how to be a successful business person as well as learning how to do the job in hand. We provide thorough and intensive training, teaching new franchisees our tried and tested procedures.

We have grown our business from scratch over several years, refining the process as we grew, introducing new systems and methodology to suit each stage of our development. New franchisees don’t have to learn through their mistakes – we have already experienced any problems and resolved them. The key and most important lesson for any new franchisee is to always follow the franchisor’s thoroughly proven system.

The essence of the advantage of joining a franchise is that we offer a shorter and less risky route to success than setting up alone – following the system.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Paul Stafford is the British Franchise Association’s PR manager, which allows him ample opportunity to indulge in two of his passions: writing and business. A background in various SMEs led Stafford to the franchise sector in 2012 and a role which sees him work closely with businesses of all sizes and sectors, from international giants to kitchen table startups.

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