Beatrice Bartlay founded recruitment agency 2B Interface in 2005, a business which specialises in finding staff for roles in manufacturing and metalworks industries. She launched a nationwide franchise scheme to grow the company further and, along with new franchisee Laura McGimpsey, spoke to Business Advice about the appeal of franchising and what the future holds.
Bartlay never intended to establish a recruitment business. She was just helping out a friend, who was looking to find joiners to work in his carpentry shop – before a call enquiring if she was a recruitment agency prompted a split decision to pursue the opportunity, and 2B Interface was born. The business developed from there, until she finally decided to take the plunge with franchising after extensive planning – and now has her first franchisee in Milton Keynes, with three more on the horizon this year.
“In all that I do I like order”, she admitted, which means having a detailed plan of action to make sure she achieves her goals. “For a long time, I knew I had a successful and well-structured business model, and I also knew that other people could duplicate it,” she said.
While her mentor Peter Landau encouraged Bartlay to franchise the business a few years back, she didn’t quite feel ready and still had a lot of unanswered questions. She pressed ahead with research, wanting to work out the answers to a range of queries: “How can I teach my team to become tutors? How will I pass on our knowledge in the right way? Will the potential franchisees understand and follow our concept?”
“A good two years later I mastered the franchise offer,” she explained. “I completely reviewed all ops manuals and traversed them into very detailed scripts. I trained my team how to teach other people, and at the end of it I had created the 2B Interface Academy.”
All prospective franchisees have to complete five days of this academy before they open, to make sure they’ll be operating to the same standard, with the correct ethos in mind. “At the time it felt like I was driving two cars at once, but franchisees like Laura are testament to the whole process,” Bartlay said.
McGimpsey got involved after looking for an opportunity to run her own business in an environment that was “both stimulating and challenging”. A key determining factor for her, though, was looking for a situation where she didn’t have to “reinvent the wheel”.
“For me, it was always about finding a good business model that already worked in an industry of interest to me,” she explained.
The draws to setting up a 2B Interface franchise were obvious for her – with a pre-established model, “any mistakes have mostly already been made and lessons learned”. It offered a much easier route to market that appealed to McGimpsey.
Where some early-stage firms may feel a bit overwhelmed and unsupported – uncertain on who to approach for advice, for a franchisee, there’s the bonus of having a franchisor who has “been there done, that”.
“Any support and advice – and this is especially true of 2B Interface – is just a quick phone call away,” McGimpsey said. “You have a mentor that can provide assistance and counsel quickly, and that matters early on.”
Working within recruitment, there’s also the added advantage of having access to HR and finance from the franchise’s head office, which McGimpsey said is key, ensuring HMRC compliance and alignment with legalities.
She feels it’s a good option for those who have the resources to start a business and have the will to do so, but may be uncertain which field to go into. In those situations, “buying a franchise is a good springboard”, with the chance to run your own firm, but never feeling isolated when doing so.
The Milton Keynes branch opened in April 2015, and McGimpsey already expects to have 60 employees on board and 15 customers within the year.
There is a precise plan in the works, with specific expectations of franchisees, which comes back to Bartlay as the founder of the business. “I have profiled our franchisees to the very detail. I know what kind of person I am looking for,” she said simply. “We’re not after the licence fee; we’re after a long-lasting business partner.”
She has already turned down to 12 interested parties who didn’t match up to her preset criteria. The “ideal candidates” she feels, are “those who are already working in the recruitment industry for industrial customers, supplying temporary and permanent staff, small recruitment agencies with no specific structure in place”. She also listed the desire to be your own boss and have control of a company as important attributes, while those afraid of commitment and lacking a strong work ethic should look elsewhere.
In terms of deciding whether your business will be right for a franchise in the future, Bartlay was keen to press that transforming a successful business model “isn’t for everyone” and running a profitable organisation “does not necessarily mean it can be franchised”.
She believes future franchisors must have a crystal clear vision of how the process will pan out – how they’re going to map it and then how it will be implemented. “It will be written down and modified a hundred times,” she admitted, but it’s important to be as thorough as possible.
Patience is the other often overlooked consideration. “The franchisor is going to inject years of their own experience into somebody else’s brain and it’s not going to happen at once, so be patient and structure all training,” she advised.
Entrepreneurs, Bartlay suggested, can’t ever stay still. “There’s always something about growing our businesses in our minds,” she explained. The franchise model, when done right, is a perfect combination of business growth and sharing your knowledge with similar-minded people, she concluded.
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