Last Thursday saw the great, and good of the franchising world gather for the annual Franchisee of the Year Awards, with finalists from all industries, and walks of life. The gala ceremony at Birmingham Town Hall lauded successful young franchise bosses, women running franchises, the best of older franchise owners, and many more besides. But as well as giving successful franchise owners just recognition for their achievements, there are lessons to be learned from their examples and experience. Who are the best of this year’s franchise bunch, and what are the secrets of their success?
Women are winning at franchising
The number of women setting themselves up in business via a franchise has steadily increased over the past 25 years, according to the British Franchise Association (BFA), with about one in five franchise owners in the UK now being female.
Carolyn Sharpe was the winner of the night in the Female Franchisee of the Year category, given the top gong for her running of the mother and children’s swimming school franchise Puddle Ducks in Newcastle. After buying in to the business, Carolyn quickly beat her own weekly goal of teaching 500 babies and children, and now boasts a team of 20 getting more than 1,200 babies, children, and mums-to-be in the water every week. Her business also has the record for highest turnover and profit of any Puddle Ducks franchise.
Shweta Jhajharia was also in the running for the prize, being ranked one of ActionCoach’s top three business coaches out of 1,200 worldwide. Based in South-West London, Shweta and her team grew the business by 400 per cent in just three months last year, and doubled the number of entrepreneurs they worked with in the last 12 months compared with the previous four.
Faye McDonough is another woman to watch, running her eco-friendly domestic cleaning service, Bright and Beautiful, in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, with 250 regular customers, and a turnover of £3.5 million this year. Meanwhile, Sarah McLean was shortlisted for her work running 13 restaurants across the Midlands, including two McDonald’s outlets. She has business savvy, high standards – one of her McDonald’s is used as a training restaurant by the franchisor – and stood out for her efforts towards charity, and sustainability.
Ones to watch under 30
About a fifth of new franchise recruits are under 30 years of age, and it’s not hard to understand why more young people are being attracted to self-employment using the franchise route. 26-year-old Richard Swayne was the victor in the Young Franchisee of the Year award, recognised for being the number one franchisee in the entire Snap-on Tools franchise system in his first year, with sales at his branch in Dartford, Kent, double that of the network average.
Tim Harris is no less impressive. He took on his Anytime Fitness franchise in Welwyn Garden City at the age of 29, and soon ranked as the best-performing club less than a year old, despite the pressures of starting the business, his wife getting pregnant with twins, and Tim being operated on for a serious heart condition.
Dan Wade beats them all in the age stakes, being just 21 when he started running his franchise, WPA Healthcare. Brighton-based Dan has proved so successful at the franchising game that he now recruits for the franchisor, and trains other new business owners.
From small beginnings
Paul Stokes’s Little Kickers may be a small business, but it’s a force to be reckoned with. Which is why Paul was named Microbusiness Franchisee of the Year in the 2015 awards. He took on the football class franchise in Hitchin, and burst through his first year targets, putting on almost three times as many classes than required, hiring 14 coaches, and registering more than 300 children.
Les Graves is a good example of a franchisee who’s benefited from industry experience. Having been a factory manager for more than 30 years, Les invested in the TruGreen lawn care franchise after being made redundant. His previous knowledge of how organisations are run helped him grow his South Bedfordshire franchise quickly, in particular using a digital marketing strategy to attract and keep customers.
Fellow award nominee Adrian Steel is no less ambitious. Running his Wilkins Chimney Sweep franchise in Basingstoke, he has more than 1,000 repeat customers annually, and has developed new revenue streams for quieter months, offering a patio cleaning service, an approach other franchisees have since followed.
Keeping customers happy
Any business is nothing without its customers, and the shortlist for this year’s awards showed just what a difference looking after clients can make. Noel Gallacher was first choice for Customer Service Franchisee of the Year due to his attention to detail even while covering a huge geographic area. Noel has introduced a three-part recruitment process for his emergency plumbers operation, Dyno Plumbing, including a simulation of a visit to a customer’s home. All of this is to ensure the best service possible, even though his franchise territory covers most of Scotland.
Nic Chaviaris personally visits all of the regular customer base of his Driver Hire franchise, which is based in Gatwick, to make sure that he’s in touch with their needs. And Amy and Philip Kennedy are no less attentive, having 70 care givers supporting 100 clients every week for their Home Instead Senior Care franchise. This is a level way above the industry norm.
Steve Roberts now runs 16 O2 stores, with many of his 176 members of staff studying for an NVQ in customer service. He chooses store managers who’ve been promoted through the ranks, chosen as much on personality, as experience. All to keep customers happy, and coming back for more.
The best of B2B
Lee Eaton had a very good night, being named B2B Franchisee of the Year, and netting the £10,000 top prize. Lee’s Manchester-based franchise, Signs Express, has worked for Team Sky designing its signs and graphics, but the business applies the same level of expertise and attention to customers of all sizes – even those less famous than Bradley Wiggins. Lee believes the business’s success is based on staff training, incentivising workers, and asking them for feedback and suggestions. It’s a formula that works – the business has grown by 25 per cent year-on-year.
Kevin Preston operates seven franchise territories under the Drain Doctor banner, covering much of the North West, and turning over more than £1.5 million. Kevin invests in the latest technology, such as using CCTV to show where problems in drains lie, with a view to providing the best level of service to commercial customers.
Lee Brimecombe and Paul Nebbet have worked closely with housebuilders in their native South West to build up their in-toto kitchens franchise. Contracts with colleges and universities training the next generation of chefs have also proved profitable.
The rewards of wisdom
Almost four out of ten new franchise recruits are over the age of 50, and the awards seeks to highlight the achievements of the brightest and most inspiring franchisees over 55. Mike Guerin was declared the best of the best for his success operating 13 McDonald’s restaurants across Bristol and Wiltshire, growing his businesses at or above the network average every year. He has introduced an apprenticeship programme, ran the South West’s first 24-hour McDonald’s, and was the first franchisee to open an outside play area.
Another older innovator is Sue Caulfield who has grown her Metro Rod franchise operation every year, despite early upsets including undergoing a double lung transplant, and divorcing her husband who was also her business partner. She employs nine staff with six vans, and is set to turn over almost £750,000 this year.
Fran McLean is also an inspiration, not only being a canny business woman, running her six Pitman Training centres across Scotland, but also overcoming severe injuries sustained in a fall three years ago. But business must go on. Fran has always been keen to adopt new technologies, flexible diploma courses, and the latest developments from the franchisor to make her business a great success.
All in all, there was much to inspire at the awards event, and evidence that franchising can be a great route to business ownership, and professional achievement. Boost Capital sends congratulations to all of the nominees and winners, and wishes them every success in the future.