Franchising · 16 October 2015

Franchise profile: Renewable energy provider Green Square

Richard Hiblen thinks now is a great time to get into the renewables sector
Richard Hiblen thinks now is a great time to get into the renewables sector

As part of Business Advice’s ongoing series of franchise profiles, showcasing the variety of options that are out there for prospective franchisees, we hear from Green Square.

Green Square provides renewable energy solutions to a wide variety of sectors, from homeowners to small businesses and house builders to architects, as well as some trade installers. Franchisees – each operating from a secondary retail site within a protected territory – supply exclusive technologies to help customers reduce their energy bills while also reducing their impact on the environment.

Q&A subject: Richard Hiblen, MD of Green Square 

Factfile

Franchised since: 2013
Number of franchisees: Three
Typical startup cost: £75,000-100,000
Network performance: All franchisees are exceeding business plan targets

(1) What’s the story behind the business?

While Green Square might be a relatively new name in the franchise world, our energy and heating industry pedigree go back decades. We’re backed by two long-established companies, including Specflue which, as one of the UK’s leading suppliers of flue, chimney and renewable heat solutions, has been successfully serving the UK market since 1992. And while our associated companies might be well known within the industry, there has never been a renewables brand widely recognised by the public. Green Square was formed to fill that gap in the market.

Green Square has been developed from the top down, harnessing the expertise and heritage of our associated companies. It means we have our own manufacturing division and bespoke design software, all supporting European market leading products, that are exclusive and unique to Green Square. Moreover, those associations meant we could develop a bespoke training division, complete with three modern classrooms and four separate training rooms with over 18 live working systems. In fact, we own the largest privately-owned renewables training centre in the UK. And that ensures our people are fully trained to the highest current levels, gaining BPEC and HETAS qualifications on all renewable technologies supplied and supported by Green Square. All training is the latest QCF standards and are industry recognised qualifications as laid down in the Microgeneration Certification Scheme guides.

(2) Do you have a lot of competitors? What’s your USP?

Competitors are largely independent local installers of just one or two technologies. There are very few showroom outlets that deal with the broad range of technologies, most are either commercial consultants working from home using sub-contractors or are specialists in Solar PV panels (as this saw a surge in 2011).

We have many USPs, but the biggest has to be our exclusivity on some technologies, unique products and our preferential terms with our associated companies. Nobody else will be able to compete with us on the same levels of quality, customer service and price. Green Square franchisees also have a leading edge in terms of the training we provide, as well as the branding and reputation of a national franchise.

(3) What are the latest trends in renewables, why is it a good time to get involved?

With the government’s commitment to reducing CO2 emissions, and the wave of legislation and financial incentives within the renewable sector, now is absolutely the right time to enter this industry. We all agree fossil fuels are dwindling. And most people recognise the reality of climate change and global warming. The green economy is front page news and, what’s even more certain, it’s not going away. And that’s why Green Square is so well positioned to both service, and capitalise on, our need for more environmentally friendly sources of heat and power.

(4) What’s your target market?

The marketplace is huge and, at present, we’re not even tapping into one per cent of the potential. The majority of our work at the moment is with homeowners who are either concerned about rising energy costs, and are looking towards new ways of heating, insulating and generating energy, or are keen to embrace cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. What’s more, since the government has also pledged that all new homes must be zero-carbon, there is also a huge opportunity to work in partnerships with house builders and architects. Finally, small businesses present us with a growing source of new customers and ongoing income streams.

(5) Have your franchisees all come from the eco sector?

None of our franchisees have come from this sector. And that really doesn’t matter. What’s more relevant to us is their ethics, their commitment to the business and their ability to work with us in growing our brand. Strong project management skills and dedication towards customer service are of equal importance too. They’re all doing really well and, while they’re at different stages in their development, are all ahead of their business plans.

(6) What kind of local marketing support do you offer?

We design a bespoke launch programme to help each of our franchisees find their first customers. This includes local advertising, a fully managed PR launch campaign as well as a number of other proven marketing activities. Each franchisee will then commit to an ongoing local advertising campaign, but overseen with us since we have the experience to know which mediums work best in generating leads. Green Square is contracted to invest in national advertising as well and, so far, this has been a mix of print media, online activities, PR and exhibitions. And, of course, we both manage and continue to develop our website, which accounts for a growing number of customer enquiries.

(7) Name three key attributes you look for in your franchisees?

Our franchisees certainly don’t need to have a background in renewable energy, but they do need energy. We’re looking for people with the drive and resilience that’s found behind every successful business owner. They’ll also need to balance self-motivation and entrepreneurship with the ability to work as part of a franchise team. Finally, since we’re a people business, our franchisees must be able to engage with the public, with installers, with the head office team and with personnel employed by our associated companies.

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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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