Tired and disillusioned by corporate life, Matt and Jen Snell decided they were ready to start their own business and take control of their careers. They wanted a better work-life balance, and took time to determine their future, considering how bet to achieve it.
Exhaustive research led them to leave corporate comfort behind to start up a Trophy Pet Foods operation in 2013.
The franchise began winning awards within the industry immediately, and in 2016, Matt and Jen were nominated in the micro business category for the BFA HSBC Franchisee of the Year award – arguably UK franchising’s biggest prize.
Matt and Jen talked to Business Advice about swapping the office for pet care and the vital support of the Trophy network, while Matt described what it’s like being sacked by your wife.
(1) What made you decide that self-employment was the right move?
We wanted to be a part of a principled business. Our experiences working in the corporate world left us feeling that core values such as ‘putting the customer first’, ‘customer satisfaction’, ‘improving the customer experience’ and ‘delivering value’ had become superficial phrases. We wanted to prove to ourselves, and those that doubted us, that these principles still rang true.
Based on this desire, we needed to identify which new employment option would marry our personalities, whilst replacing lost income from previous employment. After much consideration we came to the conclusion that the only way to truly work with our values was to have full control of the business we worked for. Thanks to the availability of some initial capital, we began searching for the best self-employment options.
(2) Why franchising, and why Trophy in particular?
We were ready to take control and make positive changes, but were unsure of the options. Should we start a business? Buy a business? Join a franchise?
The short version of what was a very long process is that all three options were considered, in detail, and arguments were made for and against each one. However, the perceived benefits of franchising kept topping the list of positives. Low initial investment, proven business systems, full support but no interference – it sounded too good to be true.
Trophy Pet Foods boasted 25 years in business, 21 years of making pet food, 18 years as full members of the BFA, and over 85 franchisees nationwide. With only four active customers, Swindon and North Wiltshire was virgin territory, and appealed to us as a fresh start.
We trialled Trophy pet food for months to ensure the food worked for our dogs, giving us a real insight into what we could achieve. A “blank canvas” opportunity was very appealing, as it felt like it was all on us – we wanted to prove something.
(3) How do you find working together in a husband and wife team?
Working from home as a husband and wife team certainly has its ups and downs. We complement each other very well as a team, but we have to remain disciplined and not let the business creep into our quality family time.
Apparently you can’t sack your wife but I’ve been sacked at least eight times in four years by her. Working together has made a great relationship even stronger and that will continue – as long as I don’t call myself the boss.
(4) What kind of support have you enjoyed from Trophy head office?
The support from Trophy Pet Foods has been what we hoped it would be before we joined the network. We were very close to joining another similar business, but I’m very relieved to say we picked the right option. The key deciding factor was the back-up and availability of quality support from the Trophy team. Thanks to this, we’ve never looked back on our choice, as our business continues to grow and amaze us.
(5) How does it feel to be named among the country’s elite?
The feeling of being named as one of 20 top franchisees, and one of three in our micro business category, is fantastic.
The process has been very rewarding and energising for us and our business. While we are in it to win it, we recognise that getting to this stage is a near impossibility and we are delighted to our core with this achievement.
(6) Do you find it useful having other franchisees to share experiences with?
Probably the single biggest factor contributing to our success is being part of a quality national brand that is responsible for bringing an original concept to market. The knowledge that Sue and the team are only a phone call, email or visit away is always reassuring.
In our early days the motivational boosts, technical knowhow and access to life experience and advice was critical to a profitable start-up. We have access to over 80 members of the Trophy network whom we share our experiences with and learn from. There is always something new to learn, and having access to this experience is a massive asset to us.
(7) What does the future hold for you – is there room to grow?
At this rate, the future looks to be full of healthier dogs and happy owners. The demand for our products and service grows daily, and we can see a point where our current resource could be over-stretched to meet ever-increasing demand.
We are now considering an additional van and a driver, as well as additional support for the office. Trophy have given us a large territory, and there’s lots of room for us to become more visible.
(8) What would you say to someone who has long-dreamed of running their own business, but is a little daunted by the prospect?
Be prepared to work hard and stay focused. Starting up is difficult for lots of reasons, but through franchising, and with a quality brand behind you, you will have all the support you need and ask for.
Be clear on what you want to achieve and don’t be distracted by non-core business activities. You will be taking on new and different risks when starting a businesses, so take time and advice on assessing these against the gains you aim to make.
(9) And your top three tips to finding the right franchise opportunity?
- Know thyself! I learnt about myself through an Insights personality profile. I was then able to talk in real terms with prospective franchisors about the extra support I’d need from them in certain areas of running a business.
- Research options that relate to your interests. This will help, as your passion for the topic will shine through in your f choice of business. Once you’ve finished researching, research again and then (most importantly) again – leave no stone unturned.
- Finally, don’t accept anything less than the best or be fooled by expensive or cheap imitations. Set your standards high and stay true to your core values.
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