Pip Wilkins, CEO of the British Franchise Association (bfa), explains why franchising is a reduced-risk business option for entrepreneurs, before interviewing a multi-unit franchisee about his journey.
For many, starting a business may seem like reaching for the stars, which is why entrepreneurs should be applauded for taking a risk, and going after what they want. Global Entrepreneurship Week was created 10 years ago to drive up global interest in entrepreneurship and to open up opportunities and information to budding entrepreneurs. It’s an initiative that has launched startups, brought forward innovators and inspired business owners.
This got me thinking about how franchising offers those wishing to become entrepreneurs the ability to chase their dreams, while still having a support network, ongoing training, and the knowledge they are entering a growing industry, as our recent survey stats show.
Being a part of a franchise doesn’t mean you are essentially a manager of another brand outlet. You own the business, you can set your own business goals, contribute ideas for the future of the business and even expand into multi-unit franchising. Entrepreneurship is all about developing and managing a business, and being willing to take on the risks that come with launching that business. Franchisees are responsible for their franchise and must be willing to work hard for its initial and continuing success.
What we have noticed at the bfa, and as the recent survey stats back up, is that franchisees come from all backgrounds, and there has been a sharp rise in under 30 franchisees, as well as a spike in women becoming their own boss. Franchising is enabling those outside of the normal status quo to flourish.
Rob Simpson, Director of Drain Doctor Plumbing Anglia, a commercial and domestic plumbing and drainage maintenance company, recognised how being a multi-unit franchisee has allowed him to flex his entrepreneurship muscles. We speak to him about his journey into franchising, and how you can get involved, too.
Tell us your background before you joined Drain Doctor Plumbing
Prior to Drain Doctor Plumbing, I worked at an estate agency for 11 years at branch manager level and then moved to Yellow Pages for 13 years, where I started in sales and then moved up to a National Account Manager.
How did the opportunity come to buy Drain Doctor Plumbing, and why did you join?
Having worked for Yellow Pages for over a decade, I knew it was time to make a career change and find a business that was recession proof. Recognising this, I felt I had four options – to stay and eventually be made redundant, emigrate, work in London and make lots of money, but not see my family, or I could start my own business.
It wasn’t until I was chatting with one of my clients at Yellow Pages, a Drain Doctor Plumbing franchisee, that I even considered franchising. He told me that he was looking to sell his business because he’d had a health scare and the rest is all history. I immediately went home, discussed this with my wife, Sam, and then went away and did my research and due diligence. We then agreed a sale price for the three territories, which took about six months, and then we started trading as the new owners in November 2009.
What experience did you have before going into franchising? And has it helped you?
I didn’t have any previous experience in franchising, but I had managed teams of people and clients’ marketing, which provided me with a great foundation to start my own business and has proved to be very helpful in the long-term.
I did not, however, have any prior knowledge of the plumbing and drainage sector, so I took it upon myself to do a crash course involving extensive research about the industry, speaking to many experts in the field, fellow franchisees and for the most part, on the job itself. Running your own franchise is more about running a business and the concept is the same whatever the product or service you are selling.
How did you finance it?
Bearing in mind that I left Yellow Pages during the recession, I managed to secure a couple of loans. A third was financed through the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, a government-guaranteed lending scheme for smaller businesses, and the other two thirds were financed with a consideration loan from the previous owner.
Why have you decided to expand your franchisee ownership Drain Doctor Plumbing? What was the process of the scale up?
We have been serving commercial and domestic customers now for nine years now, covering Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex and have had good organic growth. With the lease on our premises coming to an end, it was a natural next step for us to find new headquarters which could enable us to continue to expand both our business and accommodate our growing fleet of highly trained and qualified plumbing and drainage engineers, vans and support staff.
Building on the success of our other territories and following discussions with the franchisor, we have also recently increased our territories and now cover North East and South East London and Kent.
What do you want to achieve at Drain Doctor Plumbing? Do you have any goals?
We wish to be the preferred business for customers to go to for all their plumbing and drainage needs in all of our areas.
I am confident that we can continue to develop our business by providing a world-class 24/7 plumbing and drainage service to all our customers and, as a result, differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We have a strong Code of Values and company ethos that centres around integrity, honesty and treating others as you would like to be treated. This, without a doubt, has contributed to us being able to provide a superior customer service and a business with a strong staff retention.
What challenges have you experienced so far and how have you overcome them?
Branching out on your own is always a challenge and I have really felt the pressure at times, particularly in the first two years when we had taken on a lot of debt to buy the business and had to meet payments, salary commitments and so on. One of the hardest encounters I experienced was taking over an existing business when everyone around you knows more than you do from the outset and having to manage your cash flow when the business is both new and growing.
Do you believe the franchising industry is a great way for entrepreneurs to fulfil business ambitions?
Absolutely, especially if they are coming into a business where they don’t have direct knowledge of that sector, as was the case with me when I bought my franchise. Being part of a franchise network has been hugely valuable as you have a pool of resources, support and fellow colleagues to turn to for advice and guidance – we are all in business to make a success so being able to share experiences with one another is vital.
What is your vision for the future of your business?
To continue to grow a thriving business with an excellent customer satisfaction score and a happy and fulfilled workforce.
We currently have a Net Promoter Score of 84, which is a management tool which gauges the loyalty of customer relationships, and we compare very favourably with customer service focused companies such as Apple and Amazon. I am immensely proud of this and shall continue to offer this same level of service for every job our technicians carry out.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are looking to go into self-employment?
Do your research and have the courage of your own convictions. If you’re not brave enough to start up on your own, then franchising is a good alternative as you will benefit from expert training, proven systems and a dedicated franchise support.
For this Global Entrepreneurship Week, consider franchising as a viable option. Head to www.thebfa.org to start your franchising.
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