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London news and case studies:

There are many successful franchise businesses in the London area. If you're considering becoming a franchisee in London, why not read through the case studies below and find out how these people in this area made the successful journey into franchising.


Exclusive interview with Northwood multi-unit franchisee Stuart Williams

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Name: Stuart Williams
Location: Bromley & Dulwich
Franchise: Northwood

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to setting up your Northwood franchise business?

I had been an IT professional for 15 years, and then became a professional landlord.

Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose Northwood?

I felt that existing letting agents were not going a good enough job. As a landlord I was frustrated by their failed promises and felt I could do a better job. I wanted to be able to guarantee landlords their income and take away their hassle.

I had an idea about how to do this, but was worried about starting out on my own with a new kind of business model in an industry that I was not that familiar with from the inside. I read some statistics about the general failure rate of start-up businesses, which scared me. It was interesting to see that franchise start-ups have a very high survival rate.

I shopped around some franchises, but everyone was offering the same standard high street lettings agency. No one did anything innovative. Some seemed honest, most wanted a lot of money from me each month, regardless of office performance. One even demanded that all my clients would actually be their clients!

"I chose Northwood because they were already running a product that I wanted to offer, Guaranteed Rent and found them very honest and helpful."

How did you raise the finance?

I had savings, plus Northwood helped me get a loan from the banks. With the Northwood name and support behind me, the banks were receptive.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

Initial training was very good with courses run in the head office followed by regular visits to me to see how things were going, and encouraging me to visit other offices to see how they worked.

What is a typical day for you as a Northwood franchisee?

There is no typical day. Most days there is a lot of work. I have staff meetings to see what is happening and plan their day. I am not a sales oriented person, so I just make sure the sales team have what they need and try to keep them motivated and happy.

What challenges have you faced?

I have had to learn a lot about marketing and sales skills. It all looks very easy from the outside, but is a very specific skill set and one which Northwood helped me to recruit for.

Has becoming a Northwood franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Massively. I am the boss now. There is no one to report to, which is great. But there is great responsibility towards my clients and staff.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to set up their first franchise?

If you are not an expert in the industry, hire one. If you are an expert, hire another one, just to be sure.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?

"Someone who is willing to work hard, but also learn and learn quickly. Being a part of a franchise gives you support and help, but ultimately you are the boss and it’s up to you to make it work."

What are your plans for the future?

Expansion!!

Would you do it again?

Yes, absolutely!

To request a FREE prospectus from Northwood, click here

 

New owner for Croydon Signs Express franchise

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Signs Express offers a franchise opportunity with a big difference. Established for over 25 years, the market leading sign and graphics company is expanding their network. With over 60 centres in the UK and Ireland, there are some fantastic premium locations and resales of existing centres currently available.

Buying an existing centre can be a great way of getting off to a flying start. Signs Express has recently welcomed Mark Merrick as the new owner of the long established Croydon centre.

Based on Silverwing Industrial Estate in Croydon, Mark has already invested into his new business, recruiting for extra staff as he looks to grow the centre and expand their existing customer base.
Mark previously worked as a Surveyor for Szerelmey Ltd, London’s leading building and restoration company and was responsible for large scale contracts. Having also worked in the commercial sector, Mark has a wealth of knowledge in business and has over 20 years of management experience.

When a Signs Express resale opportunity became available in Croydon, Mark saw it as the perfect new business venture where there is tremendous scope to utilise the trading history, full potential of the assets in the Croydon area, along with assistance from our Headquarters, to grow the already extensive customer base.

“With a long history in Croydon, Signs Express has an excellent reputation and a solid customer base so I was very interested in taking on the opportunity. The signs and graphics industry is a great business venture as every business needs a sign. With experienced staff in place, a fully equipped production unit and a ready-made customer base I am excited to join the franchise network and am keen to grow and progress the business” – Mark Merrick, Franchisee of Signs Express (Croydon)
Craig Brown, Managing Director of Signs Express commented, “We are delighted to have Mark on board. He has a customer focused ethos to provide a quality and reliable service that sits very well with our own. He has the managerial experience required to run a successful Signs Express franchise coupled with enthusiasm and the desire to grow the business. We wish Mark every success with the growth of Signs Express (Croydon) and very much look forward to working with him along the way”.

Established in 1996, Signs Express (Croydon) has a focus on customer service and quality products, the centre offers a full range of signs and graphics to areas in and around Croydon such as Warlingham, Coulsdon, Purley, Mitcham, Kenley and Caterham.

Our franchise opportunities can be highly lucrative for the right candidate and as a management franchise, you need no previous sign industry experience to join the Signs Express network.

Exclusive interview: Franchising makes business sense

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Name: Jeremy Wasden
Location: Uxbridge, Middlesex, West London
Franchise: Belvoir

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?

I’ve enjoyed a varied career. Starting my working life with Lloyds Bank, I then worked in marketing for a food manufacturer which led me to working in retail for a number of years as a merchandiser for head offices working in businesses such as BHS, Past Times and The Entertainer.

However there was never any doubt at any stage my goal was to work for myself. I always wanted freedom, responsibility and the chance to build an asset in the business value on top of taking a salary.

Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose your franchise?

I recognise the chances of business success are enhanced with a franchise over going it alone. Moving to a new industry it makes sense to rely on someone with a track record to provide the tools to success.

When deciding on the franchise I thought about the process in three steps: What business model works for me? Which industries provides that model? Which company is the best franchise partner in that industry?

I wanted a business model with regular revenue streams where I could build up an income over time rather than being reliant on single sales all the time. I thought about temp recruitment, lettings, estate agency and a couple of other areas but settled on lettings.

My dad sold plastics to the same customers for twenty years plus and some of them became like extended members of the family. So I also wanted a business where I could also build up long term working relationships with people rather than a fast buck “Kiss Me Quick” business. That was never going to be an approach I was comfortable with.

I did talk to a number of other franchisors, went to exhibitions and spoke to franchisees of Belvoir and other companies. I visited about half a dozen franchisees and learnt a lot from them all.

From there I chose Belvoir who, in my mind, are far and above the best franchisor in this field in the UK. I followed Belvoir for many years and they were foremost really due to the brand, business strength and ethics. I’m not trying to persuade readers of whichfranchise.com of the merits of Belvoir specifically – more that you have that level of confidence and enthusiasm in the franchisor you pick to work with.

How did you raise the finance?

For years my aim was to work for myself so I set aside the money to achieve this. I also had support from close family.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

Two weeks training at Grantham partially on business management, but mostly focused on the lettings process. After training I took industry recognized Association of Residential Letting Agents qualifications without further courses being needed – so it was pretty thorough.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?

Is there such a thing? It will centre on the office but going out to see prospective new tenants at viewings. Meeting new landlords at their properties and responding to maintenance issues.

The office work has two focuses running of the business and marketing to generate more customers.

What challenges have you faced?

Most of the challenges have been around lettings rather than running a business. So often come in the form of leaks at properties or questions around a tenancy or taking over management of an existing tenancy.

Problems of this kind are the reason I became a franchisee. If something is challenging me I can talk to Belvoir and get good advice on a resolution. Even if I have not had an issue, one of the other 160 offices is likely to have had it.

It’s great to talk to other offices about matters arising or just a quick catch up.

Winning new business is always the biggest challenge but we are growing steadily.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?

The hours are certainly longer and that has an impact on the family so this is not a decision without consequences. I work six days a week, often into the evening but I don’t work Sundays. I’m not religious but a day clear of work is positive for me, the family and ultimately the business.

I am happier in my work than I have ever been before. But just remind me of that though the next time I get a call about water coming through a ceiling…

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?

Businesses fail because they run out of money. Start with as much money as you can. With a reliable franchisor you should be able to nail costs on your cashflow a year or so out. The amount of sales you do is an unknown county. More cash allows you time to learn, make mistakes and find out what you do best in your franchise so you make money.

What are your plans for the future?

Continue to establish Belvoir in Uxbridge and either invest in more staff to expand the lettings side or open up the business to property sales and full estate agency. A delicious set of options I’m enjoying mulling over. The opportunity to make decisions like that is one of the reasons I became a franchise owner.

Would you do it again?

Yes I would. I’d try to avoid the mistakes I made, but I might find others to make! With the industry experience I have I would still franchise with Belvoir, not least because being part of a larger network has brought be a number of valuable referrals I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

Act Pro to ownership - the latest young entrepreneur to complete the 'Premier Journey'

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This week we are delighted to introduce another young entrepreneur who is starting out on his business career with Premier Sport. Marcus Lahiff now owns the Premier Sport franchise in East Ham, London. Marcus took some time out this week to share with us his experiences to date, from working in a franchise to owning his own franchise.

Tell me about the last two years, starting from your time as an Act Pro up to now?
I started working for Premier Sport as an Act Pro in South East London in 2012. As soon as I started working for Premier Sport I was aware of the opportunity to run my own business and this is something that really appealed to me. Seeing the impact that the Premier brand has in schools on a weekly basis drove me to put a plan together to run my own business by 2014. I was glad to have the support of Jonathan and Chris through this process and to help me realise my ambition of running my own business. My franchise launched in September and it’s a new chapter of my life and a challenge that I am relishing.

How has Premier Education Group helped you along the way?
The Infrastructure and support in place from Activity Professional to Area Coordinator and beyond is outstanding. The constant in house training and focus on CPD is something that is second to none.

How have you developed over this time?
I came to Premier Sport as an Activity Professional and have not just developed as a Activity Professional but as a businessman also. As I mentioned before, the CPD and training the company puts on is something that has been extremely beneficial to me. Having no business background prior to launching my franchise it was good that Premier provided sufficient training and support to be able to get me ready for launching my franchise in September.

Did you ever think you would be operating your own business in the physical activity arena?
Sport has always been a great passion of mine; whether it be playing or coaching it has been a big part of life. My plan through my University degree was to gain a place on a PGCE and become a teacher, so the thought of running my own business is something that didn’t really cross my mind. When looking at options for my future the Premier Sport franchise is something that was too good to turn down.

Tell me about your future plans?
The initial plan is to work on curricular and clubs for the first couple of years and build up a solid base of schools and activity professionals within the territory. I am hoping to have established contact and be in 40 % of my schools by the 5 year renewal with Premier Sports. Premier Performing Arts is something that I will be looking to add once I become more established in the territory.

What are your targets?

  • My Target for the first year is to break even, including my start-up costs. I would ideally have 3 fully trained activity professionals.
  • In year 2 I would like to continue building up good relationships with schools and employ a full time head coach who will assist me with the development of the current activity professionals.
  • By year 3 I would like to be an established provider within the area and look to bring Premier Performing Arts into the business to use as another way of attracting new schools, as well as adding a new different option to existing schools.

What’s the best part of being your own boss?
The best part of being your own boss is knowing that your future lies in your own hands. The freedom you have to set your own targets and in turn build yourself a successful business and future.

What would you say to someone contemplating running their own business?
I would definitely recommend someone to go ahead with running their own business. However they must ensure they thoroughly think through the best and worst case scenarios. When running your own business it is important to think everything through strategically before making decisions, as these decisions can have a detrimental effect on your business.

London's calling for new Card Connection franchisee

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Leading greeting card publisher and franchisor, Card Connection has today announced that Hanish Patel has taken over its London territory. Hanish will now supply Card Connection’s extensive range of quality greetings cards and accessories to 285 stores in Central and North West London.

Previously, Hanish ran his own gift and stationery shop in Oxford for five years. However; “the commute became too much and London was calling,” confirms Hanish. “I became familiar with Card Connection’s range and award winning service through the franchisee who merchandised my Oxford store. I realised owning a Card Connection franchise could offer me the flexibility of running my own business, much closer to where I live. I also felt my experience as a retailer could be helpful with customers.

“I have now completed my training which was excellent,” continues Hanish. “It provided an in-depth look into how to deal with customers, merchandising and all the processes needed to successfully run the franchise. The head office staff have been really supportive to help me with the hand over which has been be full-on in the run up to Christmas – one of the busiest times of year for card sales.

“I am particularly excited about the products,” explains Hanish. “The constant stream of new card designs is really strong. In addition, the association with UKG also means Card Connection has a great portfolio which impresses the retailers and this sets us apart from the competition. I am also looking forward to introducing the brand new, bright pink point of sale displays very soon as they are sure to make an immediate impact on sales!”

Card Connection franchisees supply greeting cards and accessories in retail outlets on a ‘consignment’ basis, also supplying the display equipment free on loan if appropriate, minimising the retailers’ costs and maximising their profits. This is one step beyond ‘sale or return’ as retail customers don’t have to buy the stock initially; they only pay for what they sell. Card Connection’s award winning merchandising service provided to retailers has proved popular all over the UK and Ireland.

Card Connection which last year celebrated its 21st year in operation as a franchisor is one of the UK’s largest card publishers and is the market leader in the franchised distribution of greeting cards. The business’ unique model of consignment sales has resulted in a strong brand and established reputation which has been proven over many years. Through its franchisees Card Connection supplies about 12,000 retailers throughout the UK.

Card Connection is part of UK Greetings, which is a subsidiary of American Greetings Inc., one of the largest greeting card publishers in the world and has limited vacancies for franchisees that are keen to run an expanding business. Since the franchise network in the UK is complete, the available opportunities now consist of acquiring an already-established territory from an existing franchisee. These vary in price according to their level of development, but start at £7k + Stock + Card Connection fee with earnings potential in excess of £50k per annum.

Man from mars takes over Driver Hire franchise business in Guildford

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Richard Bradshaw, who started his business career as a management trainee at Mars UK, is the new franchisee of specialist transport & logistics recruiter, Driver Hire’s Guildford office.

Richard, who hails from Southampton has, over the past 25 years, built an interesting and varied CV, largely in the hospitality industry. Most recently he spent over a decade in Florida as an award-winning owner-manager for two of the world’s largest hotel companies.

He’s now relishing the prospect of running his own Driver Hire business back in the UK. “I was manager and franchisee of a "Comfort Inn and a ‘Day’s Inn’ hotel in Sarasota, so I know all about the many benefits of franchising,” says Richard. “When I came back to the UK, I started looking for another franchised business. Driver Hire ticked all the boxes; it’s got a proven business model, it’s reputable and highly regarded and, above all, has growth potential.

The UK’s largest specialist supplier, Driver Hire provides temporary and permanent drivers and other logistics staff to local and national organisations in both the public and private sector. If they’re short of staff – perhaps because of illness, holidays or seasonal demand – Driver Hire will supply them with a suitable replacement.

Belvoir London Central on the move!

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Belvoir’s prestigious London Central office has moved to elegant new premises in SW1 and undergone a stylish City makeover.

“Belvoir acquired the corporate-owned London Central office last summer to compliment our existing outlets in the City,” says Dorian Gonsalves, Belvoir’s Director of Commercial and Franchising.

“The business was initially operating from a first floor office but has now moved to stunning ground floor premises in Pimlico, and is providing a luxury lettings and sales service for the high end property market in areas such as Belgravia, Pimlico, Knightsbridge and the Borough of Westminster.”

Belvoir’s latest City Centre acquisition was rebranded to the company’s eye-catching, contemporary design, including additional luxury touches to reflect the sophistication of the London property market.

“The look of Belvoir’s London Central office is absolutely fantastic,” says Dorian. “It was agreed that the SW1 office would benefit from a slightly different look and sophisticated feel and the result is outstanding.

“Feedback from staff and clients is extremely positive, both with regard to the convenient new location and for the look and feel of the rebrand.

“There has never been a better time to own a Belvoir franchise, and we are actively looking to develop further expansion in Central and Greater London.”

Belvoir announced a rebranding process of all its offices in May 2012. The rebranding project is part of a five-year plan to update all of Belvoir’s 160 offices across the network and to enhance the services that are offered to clients.

Recognition Express supplies Eastenders star with charity vests

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Local business man Hugh O’Neill, owner of Recognition Express Bromley and Dartford, has sponsored former Eastenders star Brooke Kinsella and her celebrity friends to help with their fundraising activities for the Ben Kinsella Trust.

The charity, which aims to save lives by educating youngsters against the dangers of carrying knives, was set up by Brooke after her brother was stabbed to death in London June 2008 whilst celebrating his GCSE results.

As an ongoing supporter of the Ben Kinsella Trust, Recognition Express Bromley and Dartford have previously donated personalised hoodies and t-shirts to Brooke and her sisters when they walked to the highest point of Machu Picchu last year to raise money for the worthwhile cause.

Said Hugh: “As branded clothing is one of my main areas of business, I was more than happy to help and make another donation to Brooke and her friends. The vests were quick and easy to produce and I’m proud to have my name associated with such a great charity.”

Brooke had a helping hand from singer Lemar and former Eastenders actress and Strictly Come Dancing contestant Louisa Lytton who also sported the fashionable vests during the charity bike ride. Delighted with the results, Brooke tweeted her gratitude to her sponsor before beginning her challenge from Paris: “On your marks, get set, here we go! I’m ready! Thank you so much Recognition Express.”

Recognition Express Dartford & Bromley supply a wide selection of branded garments in all materials, colours’ and sizes with printed or embroided logos and images.

énergie signs five London club deal

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The énergie Group has signed a franchise agreement to open ‘at least five’ Fit4less sites in London in the next three years and, under the same franchisee, regenerate its Leighton Buzzard and Liscombe Park sites.

An agreement with Gymstar Ltd, will see a London site open in Bethnal Green, London in June with two further sites planned this year, “We have committed to at least five Fit4less sites to start with” explains Operations Director of Gymstar Ltd, Chris Djuric “but we are interested in opening as many as we can as we know the Fit4less brand is a hugely viable financial investment.”

Chris is also Operations Director of Djuric & Co Ltd which owns énergie Fitness Club, Banbury and has successfully operated the business for the past two years. Chris says: “The énergie Fitness Club brand is a very successful model given the right elements and strong team support. We are keen open to further blue sites as we expand the business.” This statement was proven in September when Djuric & Co Ltd took control of two further énergie Fitness Clubs, Liscombe Park and Leighton Buzzard, in a deal which also saw énergie Group become a shareholder in the business.

Work has already begun on the rural Liscombe Park health club which has already seen the introduction of new equipment and alterations to the total of £250,000 but the next two years will see a further £2.25m invested. The changes will include the build of tennis courts and corporate function facilities for weddings and conferences. The overall objective is to create a health spa destination. Chris adds: “Liscombe Park is already a desirable and tranquil location but it needs major refurbishment, which we are committed to and it will create a new experience for our members as well as attract business to the area. The closely located Leighton Buzzard club will also receive substantial investment to make improvements and refurbishments.”

Jan Spaticchia, CEO at the énergie Group said: “We are delighted that Chris and company are not just further expanding our Fit4less portfolio but also investing in two clubs that have significant historic value to the group. The transformation of both will be exceptional and they will have my full support throughout the journey.”

Under the guidance of Chris and his fellow directors Gymstar Ltd and Djuric & Co Ltd will continue to expand the club portfolio through Fit4less sites in London. However it doesn’t stop there with Chris commenting: “We are always on the lookout for new potential sites for énergie Fitness Clubs and are currently working with énergie on some new, exciting, innovative concepts to bring to market...watch this space!”

With a Snap-On Tools franchise you are not alone

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Snap-on Tools franchisee Paul Siggery, 29, worked for his Father’s computing business in South London after leaving school. He moved on from the family business at 18 and over the next nine years, worked as an apprentice technician, was promoted to workshop manager, and then moved to motorbike dealership’s to work with a friend.

“Snap-on franchisees came into both my places of work, so I knew that the tools were good quality, and I liked the idea of running my own business,” says Paul.

Paul researched different franchises, and chose Snap-on. “Other franchises needed a high investment,” says Paul. “Snap-on has various levels of investment, which I found far more appealing.

“I also liked the fact that Snap-on have such a strong brand. They've been around a long time, so I knew they weren't a one-minute wonder. It helped too that the franchisees I'd met had been in the game for 10 or 15 years, they'd obviously stuck around because the business works”

Paul’s first year was hard work, but now has things on more of an even keel he says, “My area is South London and it's a tough, inner-city area, but once I'd built up a reputation, things were fine.”

Paul admits hours can be long, but he knows he'll get to a point where it will level out. “But I've more than been rewarded financially for my efforts. Most franchisees are expected to make their target or slightly over, but I've doubled on mine. In the first year, I turned over £450,000.”

“With Snap-on you're not alone,” says Paul. “You're not just given a truck, some tools and other stock which you then have to sell. There is a training programme. It's exciting! You learn so much and there's quite a lot to take in, but it's never rushed. Everyone is completely clear on how things work when training's over. Then in your first five weeks you have your Franchise Developer working alongside you guiding you through how to run your business.

Paul has now taken on a second franchise in West London, his aim is to take on a third franchise.

“I'm really happy in my job,” says Paul, “every day I get up and enjoy going to work. It's having that goal. It’s changed my life, it’s an amazing programme and I would encourage anyone who has a passion like I have for being successful to consider the Snap-on franchise”.


Snap-on is a leader in the industry and their tools are universally recognised by professionals as the absolute highest quality in the industry. Snap-on Franchisees are in the enviable position of selling exclusive, premium products to their customers.

Established back in 1920, Snap-on tools have been in business for 97 years, and been in the UK for 47 years. With a Franchise system of over 4,300 Franchisees selling over 22,000 products you can have complete confidence that coming into business with Snap-on means coming into business with the best.

Recognition Express franchise has what you need to make a successful business

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Franchisee: Hugh O’Neill
Territory: Bromley & Dartford
Franchise: Recognition Express
Commenced Trading: May 2010
Previous Job: Regional Business Manager for a Contract Caterer

Why did you choose to buy into a franchise?

Scary starting a business from scratch, wanted something that was proven and with a support structure.

Why did you choose Recognition Express?

I knew of Recognition Express as they used to supply my last company badges, I did not realise the extent of what they did. When I did my research, I was impressed with the quality of products I could supply, the margin that could be achieved, the low overhead costs and the support that would be offered.

I spoke to an existing Franchise Owner, Stuart Fisher said ‘you get what is on the tin’ and he is right!

How have you found the training and support given by Recognition Express?

Comprehensive and supportive.

How do you see your business progressing over the next three years?

In the first 3 years I see myself developing a solid base on which to grow the business. I

What has been the response of customers?

We are competitive on pricing (not the cheapest), but we also provide an excellent personal service

What quality would you say is most important in your role?

Hardworking, a good listener, a passion to make your business a success

Do you have any advice to anybody considering Recognition Express as a franchise?

The franchise has everything you need to make a successful business, it is then up to you! I love it!

The Bear necessities with Riverford Organics

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Simon Bear started his Riverford franchise in September 2006. A self-proclaimed hippy in a desk job before that, he decided at 26 that he no longer wanted to be a part of the prickly corporate pear tree, and went traveling instead. After a year in the wilderness, beating a solitary path around the world, he returned to look for a more wholesome business venture. Six years into running his North London organic food delivery business, the 35-year-old talks about why growing with Riverford was, and still is, the right move. Matt Pigott interviews.

How did it all start?
Before I became one of North London’s Riverford Organic franchisees, I did PR for about six or seven years and got to the point where I simply needed a change. I was tired of working for a company – the commute, the hours, being told what to do – I needed to do something for myself, and myself alone. But first, I needed to clear my head, and so I went traveling.

Just before I left, I happened to be flicking through a marketing magazine, and saw an article about Riverford, which explained that it was a franchise opportunity, and that it involved selling organic produce locally. I thought to myself: ‘that’s exactly what I’m going to do when I get back.’

I got back to the UK on the night before New Year’s Eve, and called Riverford two days later. Finding out that the territory I wanted was available was a great way to start the New Year, and even though it would be around nine months before I commenced, I was pleased that somebody else hadn’t snapped up the territory in my absence.

Why Riverford Organic?
Organic produce is something I’ve always been passionate about, particularly food. I was in my late twenties when I started with Riverford, so fairly young and idealistic. I’m still a slight hippy at heart, and Riverford’s ethos, the way it produces food and the ethical way it does business fits in well with that. At the time, I paid less attention to the financial returns, and was focused almost entirely on shifting my life into something new and different. I’m sure that many other Riverford franchisees paid more attention to things like profit and loss than I did, but I just wanted to do something that felt right, and Riverford offered that. Luckily the financial side of things has worked out well, so you could say it’s been a pleasant by-product.

But did you discuss the financials at some point?
When I visited Riverford at head office, and was getting closer to signing the franchise agreement, we did discuss financials, and it was confirmed that I wasn’t going to become a vegetable millionaire overnight. But, like I say, money wasn’t a key driver for me. I knew I could make a comfortable living and that was enough for me.

What I can say is that I hated being an employee, and that I love being an employer, with a solid ethical company. I have a couple of part-time drivers – so I’m hardly what you’d call a Branson or a Sugar – but becoming an employer, regardless of the size of your business, is still a significant shift in terms of thinking and psychology.

So what is it like being an employer?
It still has its pressures, but you’re more in control of your own destiny. I have more flexibility now. I know I’ve got a job to do, I work hard and I work long hours, but I haven’t got somebody telling me what to do every day. Now, when I get up in the morning I don’t think: ‘oh my God, another commute, another day at the office, I’ve got to go to work!’ I’m more at ease with things, and I feel like I’m doing something useful within my community. Even when I have to get up at six in the morning to brave icy conditions and load the vans I don’t think: ‘oh no!’ It really isn’t difficult, because I believe in what I’m doing.

Most of all, after six years, I’m still wildly enthusiastic about the products I sell; that and the people…both those who support me and those who I sell to. I’ve built this business up from just a tiny handful of deliveries to well over 500 a week. I don’t think I could have done that if I didn’t feel passionately about it.

What are the main challenges you face?
Apart from inclement weather, stuff can go wrong with orders, with delivery times, but those things will happen with any food-related business. Which is why good customer service is paramount. You need to nurture the relationships you have with your customers so that, if anything does go wrong, you’re on it as quickly as possible, re-crediting them for a missing item, or adding something extra to their box, for example.

The business only works if you’re customer focused, which gives rise to another challenge in that it can be difficult to detach. But as much as being a challenge, ironically, that’s also a reward: you get to hear hundreds of people’s life stories.

Sometimes it feels as though you’re living in a soap opera. But that’s what being part of a community is, it’s about being a part of each others lives, caring about each other, and I think we need to hold onto those things and cherish them. Even if it delays me on a day when I’ve got a hundred deliveries to make, you have to make time; you have to play your part in binding the community together.

I’ve had customers who have been ordering from me week in week out since I started. I know them by name, and that’s a good feeling. You’re watching something that’s grown from nothing into something special, which I suppose, on so many levels, is what Riverford is all about.

What, in your opinion, are the best things about Riverford?
We are genuinely local. Money goes from customers to a local operator (myself), who spends money locally, so the money goes back into the local economy, it doesn’t get leeched off to the city. If you ask yourself where all of the money that goes into big supermarket tills ends up, 90 percent of it is outside of the local area.

Also, Riverford is better than the online supermarkets in the sense that we turn up whatever the weather. Some of my customers even have my mobile number. It’s a personal thing.

And on a macro level, all the way down the supply chain everyone’s getting a fair deal. It isn’t just the head honchos and managers creaming off the profits while the poor producer gets squeezed to death until they go out of business. Everyone gets a fair contract and a fair deal.

Any final words?
If you want to be happy in your life become a Riverford franchisee, if you want to make money, become a banker.

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK to open first UK franchise in West London

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Despite global financial woes, Two Men And A Truck have been busy expanding their franchise network to over 215 franchises across America and Ireland. And now the first franchise will be opening in May in West London.

 Two Men And A Truck franchise opportunities are now available across the UK, with demand already incredibly healthy. The company however is restricting the number of UK and Ireland licenses to a maximum of 70. “When they’re gone, the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this highly successful business will be gone as well.”

 Franchisees will be expected to share the company vision of building a profitable business by delivering superior customer service in the moving industry and will be expected to have the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that demonstrates leadership. “They won’t be expected to do any huffing and puffing because we’ve sorted that already,” added Mike Harrison. “But they must be able to manage people.”

Getting the best out of people with McDonald’s franchise

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Cos has been a McDonald's franchisee for over 20 years. "I'd worked in all kinds of areas before - like doing the payroll for my father's shoe factory. I had other managerial experience in the retail sector as well but when McDonald's first came to Britain I saw what a professional outfit they were and how they were streets ahead of the others. McDonald's had the systems, the standards... were cleaner, more organised, more people orientated. I was frankly impressed by their operation."
 
"McDonald's is all about managing people and getting the best out of them as well as the business. They have a big heart for the person that cares and does their best for the system. Whatever help you need, they give it. I respect that and they have demonstrated it on many occasions. Everything is upfront and above board so you know where you stand."
 
"I'd encourage others to become franchisees for sure - if you've got the business acumen you'll succeed and, after twenty years, - I feel I should know. I've even recommended one of my sons to do the same - that's how confident I feel about the opportunities. It's certainly the smartest move I ever made".

Signs Express announces franchise business for sale in South

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Franchise business opportunities act as much safer option when starting in business and this is especially the case when looking at buying an existing franchise business as a resale option.
 
Through buying an already established business, the new owner will gain a distinct advantage as the business is already up and running with an existing customer base. There are no headaches over finding a production unit to base the business, plus the centre is already fitted out with the required equipment and furniture; so no waiting around for suppliers and no need to waste time organising the layout, it’s already been done. The staff are even already in place and fully trained, therefore cutting out the time recruiting in the area and providing the business owner with the knowledge of the centre as it currently stands. This means that as soon as the franchise owner is in, he can start trading and continue generating profit from day one.
 
As well as the rewarding Signs Express location available in South London there are also additional opportunities in the Greater London area. What with being part of the London Plan and the forthcoming Olympics, London is currently experiencing vibrant growth amongst its existing business community which increases scope for business in the future. The existing business which has been operational since 1996, has an excellent reputation amongst its established customer base and receives a substantial amount of repeat business within the area.
 
With over 80 centres nationwide and 20 years of experience under its belt, Signs Express business opportunities are growing as more franchisees reach retirement. There are many business owners who joined Signs Express having worked for years in various industries and who were looking for security as they reach retirement age. This means that now, some years later, they have reached their potential and are set to retire and enjoy the money that they have earned through their own hard work over the years.
 
The key to starting in business and in particular buying an existing franchise in is its distribution channel. The franchise has built up an enviable customer base as a result of time and experience, meaning the customers would already be there and at the new business owner’s disposal. The same goes for suppliers. Signs Express has its own preferred list of suppliers and in a resale situation these relationships have already been made with the centre and therefore any problems already ironed out.
 
As a management franchise, prospective franchisees require no industry experience as full training is provided. Your skills will be based on your own management and sales experience and your ability to lead a team. Ongoing support is available from sales and marketing, accounts, IT, HR, operations and technical as well as initial training to learn more about technical aspects and business techniques.
 
 

Redundancy gave new lease of life with Martin & Co franchise

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Martin &Co Wimbledon franchise owner, Ian Waldron, shares his views on why redundancy can be just the beginning, not the end
 
“I had always like the idea of owning my own business but the prospect seemed daunting, however when I was made redundant it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my situation. Franchising presented the perfect opportunity to own my own business whilst minimising the risks of starting independently.”
 
“I have always had a genuine interest in property and with my financial background in the city I knew that the trend was moving away from sales and towards lettings. However I had limited knowledge of the lettings industry but with the comprehensive training courses that Martin & Co provides combined with the continued support on offer I felt confident that lettings was the right industry for me.”
 
“The first time I saw a Martin & Co board in my area I was immediately interested. The distinctive branding that they provide is unlike anything I would have been able to do on my own. With Martin & Co our clients benefit from our office’s local knowledge and expertise backed by the power of a national brand, without choosing the franchise route it would have taken years to build up the brand awareness I already have.”
 
“Due to the success of Martin & Co as a brand and the fact that their business model has been tried and tested over a number of years, it meant the process of obtaining funding was fairly straight forward. Yes banks are going to ask probing questions but the business plan that Martin & Co provide all new franchises with settled any doubts the banks I went to originally had.”
 
“It is difficult for me to offer advice to anyone who has been made redundant as each individual case is different, and buying a franchise does require an investment. However redundancy can often offer the opportunity for reflection and change in an individual’s lifestyle which in other circumstances may have never been possible. As long as the franchisee is willing to put in the hard work required and is eager to learn lots of new skills then buying a franchise can be a great option. I love being my own boss and know that my job and my future is secure. People tend to mention redundancy in negative terms but it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, I have gone from being made redundant to owning a growing business in an industry that I have a real passion for.”

Getting Involved in the Community

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Zulfikar Somji
McDonald's Franchisee, East London

Zulfikar Somji believes working with the community and building local contacts makes a winning difference to McDonald's image. McDonald's 'Just Bin It' litter-busting campaign had been a part of his community activity calendar for four years before he won the national 'Just Bin It' title. He won the prize for the many links he forged with local councillors, editors and community partnerships.

But what stands out for Zulfikar are the links with the local schools, and the sense of pride his management and staff get from what they have achieved within the local community. He and his managers get involved with education at many levels, talking to business students about franchising and self-employment, and helping with interview techniques. They also volunteer as reading partners for local children with reading difficulties. Their award from the local borough for their commitment to Work Related Learning takes pride of place in the restaurant.

In a community with many friends and family affected by the Asian tsunami, Zulfikar's Forest Gate restaurant in east London quickly became a focal point for fundraising efforts. Says Zulfikar: "People were happy to give their money to McDonald's to forward to this appeal, which I think demonstrates a great deal of trust in the Company."

Friends Set Up Franchising Future in London

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Adrian Knowles and Jason Skelding became MBE franchisees in 2003 when they opened a centre in Kingston, Surrey.

They had been business partners for several years. They first came across MBE when they were considering how to invest money from a photography business they had just sold.

“We wanted to do something new and completely different, so we were toying around with a whole range of different options before we thought seriously about franchising. Then we researched many different businesses in this sector,” Adrian explained.

“We had strong ideas about what we didn’t want to do – for example, neither of us fancied a food franchise. We considered several franchises but none of them quite matched our criteria until we decided to look at MBE and discovered that there were numerous aspects which appealed to us very much,” he continued.

“MBE has been around a long time and has years of experience across the world, so it is a stable organisation with an enviable reputation. It offers a range of business services that people do actually want. There’s plenty of variety. It’s all-year round, so there are no real seasonal variations, which helps forward planning and cash flow. It’s clean and, as a retail business, there are regular hours. This is very important to us, because we both have families and need to spend time with them.”

MBE confirmed to Jason and Adrian that a suitable site was available in their preferred location. It turned out to be ideal – Kingston, close to both their homes. They were very keen to find out more.

Following training, they opened in Kingston in late 2003. The centre was very successful and Jason and Adrian could see the enormous potential for the business throughout the whole area.

They wanted a second centre and approached MBE to buy another site. This time they chose Richmond and found premises which are slightly smaller than Kingston’s, so they decided to treat the two centres as separate halves of their business. Jason elected to stay based at Kingston while Adrian took on Richmond, which is a cycle ride from his home.

Adrian and Jason have degrees in maths and economics respectively and have been friends since they met at primary school, aged 5. They set up their first business together within months of graduating and have worked together ever since.

The Kingston centre is well established, providing all types of MBE services to local companies and to the general public. “We do a great deal of printing and document finishing for businesses and also for students at the local university. There is a big demand for colour copies and graphics from the fashion and graphic design students. We handle plenty of shipping orders, too, mainly UK traffic but with some overseas traffic as well,” Adrian said.

The Richmond centre is trading well and serves an affluent and cosmopolitan area, with a large proportion of tourists. Consequently, the centre handles a substantial volume of international shipping orders and contracts for mail boxes.

Dream exhibition leads to a Dream Doors franchise

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John Ryan came across Dream Doors franchise after looking for a change of direction having worked in the printing industry for 27 years.

“I wanted my own business but was nervous about starting alone so franchising, with a proven system and support, appealed to me.”

“Having looked at a number of franchises at an exhibition, my wife and I were enjoying a coffee opposite the Dream Doors franchise stand. My wife commented that a kitchen makeover was something we could have done in our home. The business seemed a great idea and was something we, as a customer, would pay for”

“We spoke to the recruitment team, went away and researched the business and then, having spent a day with the team at the Dream Doors Head Office in Gosport, decided to purchase the Dartford franchise. 18 months on, having initially worked from home, we are opening our first showroom and looking forward to growing our business.”

Justin Dunn also met Dream Doors at the Olympia exhibition, but he had already seen the business advertised in the franchise press.

“I used to read franchise magazines and newspapers on my commute home from Waterloo, Dream Doors always featured positively and the concept had great potential.”

“I decided to visit the exhibition in London to research various franchises but, as soon as I met the Dream Doors team and had a friendly chat, I felt at ease with the company.”

A year on, Justin is operating the Kingston franchise and remarks “After a lot of hard work and with fantastic support from Head Office and my Franchise Manager, I am getting busier and busier. With on going training, help and advice, I’m continuing to learn and going forward all the time.”

Home Instead franchise makes a real difference in Finchley

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Canadian born Dale and Diana Bevington chose Home Instead Senior Care so they could make a real difference to their local community.

As is the case with many Home Instead Senior Care franchise owners, Dale and Diana have personal experience of the problems that arise when dealing with ageing family members.

Dale’s father, who lived in Canada, was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Dale and his family were faced with the problems of many families in the same situation – finding the right help. The process the family went through to find support for his father made Dale appreciate the need that so many people have for care in their own homes.

This experience coincided with Dale, in his own words, “reaching an age where I wanted to do something new”. Dale had run a successful London industrial design consultancy for many years and took some time off to consider his options. He had always had an interest in demographics and social change and so looked at business opportunities in this area.

Dale and Diana knew people who worked in the care sector and the couple found Home Instead through a web search. “When we found Home Instead Senior Care they were offering exactly what we would want to provide for our own parents, so we knew it was something we could believe in.” The couple researched other care companies but none offered the ethos of Home Instead.

The couple purchased the Finchley franchise in June 2007 and have seen it grow from strength to strength. Diana says: “I had chosen to work part time in the business but we’re now so busy that I will soon be working full time with Dale.”

Dale continues: “After my father was diagnosed with vascular dementia I learned a lot about the condition. We now work with Alzheimer’s and dementia groups in the area and see ourselves as part of the local support network for sufferers.

“We have met a lot of Home Instead franchise owners and I think that the common thread that links us is that we are reaching out to our local community with a business with meaning rather than ‘chasing the money’. I think we all believe that if you are really interested in what you are doing, and do a good job, then success will follow as a natural consequence.”

Forest Hill - Speed letting: property let – in 48 hours

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YOU’VE heard about speed dating. Now what about this for speed letting? Forest Hill letting agents Martin & Co have let a one bed roomed property on Devonshire Road in just 2 days.

The deal was completed by lettings negotiator Judith Fuhr. She said: “Now that what I call moving fast – even though I say so myself.”

Franchisee Charmaine Dennis said: “We have had a phenomenal start and I am absolutely delighted. We are taking on more and more properties and our name and reputation has spread quickly among the landlords and tenants in and around Forest Hill.”

We are able to offer an excellent combination of expert local knowledge in the lettings market backed with the strength and connections of a national network. It certainly helps us match people with property very quickly indeed.

“The lettings market in Forest Hill remains very buoyant with a healthy demand for all kinds of accommodation,” Charmaine said. “The outlook for the rented sector is very rosy indeed and we are looking for further properties in and around the Devonshire Road to keep up with the tenant demand.”

The Martin & Co now consists of Judith Fuhr Lettings Negotiator, Michelle Message Office Administrator, Candy Panayi Weekend Administrator and Charmaine Dennis Proprietor.

Located at 15 Dartmouth Road the Forest Hill office has been trading since August 2007 and is part of the latest phase of the company’s growth in London. Neighbouring offices include Bromley, Croydon & Charlton.

Signs Express Deliver for Eurostat

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Leading signs and graphics company, Signs Express have recently completed stunning vehicle graphics on a fleet of delivery vans for Eurostat Office Supplies.

Eurostat, based in Croydon and Boroughbridge West Yorkshire are a leading supplier of office supplies to the small and medium segments of the market. They tasked Signs Express with providing full colour graphics to their fleet of 7 vehicles. Two of the 80 strong Signs Express network collaborated to complete this project – Signs Express (Croydon) and Signs Express (Harrogate).

The vans feature bright pink livery with the tag line “Shh! We've got your order". This exciting new design fits in with Eurostat’s sleek and contemporary corporate identity.

Ken Macgregor, MD of Eurostat, said "The new image is proving very successful. We are a well established company, privately owned, and our 40 staff have really got behind this way of raising our profile. Signs Express have supported the programme where we have sites and it has all gone well.”

Richard Worsley of SX Croydon said "Working with Ken and his team has been great, they are getting excellent publicity for an affordable cost."

Vehicle graphics are a highly effective promotional medium with research showing a busy vehicle is seen by over 3000 people every hour of the working day.

Impressive Introduction to Business

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Name: Steve Bennett, Recognition Express, Croydon
Commenced Trading: April 2002
Previous Job: Paper Supplier

Why did you choose Recognition Express?
There was a nice feel to the business. They were well established with a good track record. The variety of the work was important- a good balance of production and sales, and the ability to make things quickly if required for my customers. When I visited the office in Leicestershire, I was impressed with the people that I met. They were likeable and trustworthy, and I left feeling that I would enjoy operating a franchise and make a good living. I looked at five other franchises, but did not get the same feeling.

How have you found the training and support given by Recognition Express?

I have been very pleased. The helplines work very well, and all of the staff are knowledgeable and patient. The Centralised Marketing is an excellent initiative- when you are on your own, keeping up with generating enquiries can be difficult. The new product areas that have been developed since I joined will be very successful for me. Recognition Express is a forward thinking company rising to new challenges.

How was your first year in business?
I had to pace myself as you can’t learn everything at once. I opened 60 new accounts, and started to develop fruitful long term relationships. Recommendations started early on when customers experienced my service and these continue to bring in good business, and I get a real buzz from making my own products, although the sound of my invoice printer working gives me the most satisfaction! So far (touch wood) I have no bad debts, but my biggest challenge is balancing my time efficiently between the different parts of the role.

How do you see your business progressing?
I have just taken on my first part time staff member. My target turnover is £250,000 within the next couple of years.

Do you have any advice to anybody considering Recognition Express as a franchise?
Do your homework, talk to existing franchisees, and decide if this is a role that’s right for you. The Recognition Express approach to winning business really works, and the impersonal methods of my competition are a real benefit. I am developing genuine customer loyalty. Our diverse range is crucial, so we are a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all recognition products. I can provide short runs in quick time using my own equipment, and high volumes through selected trade partners. I don’t rely on repeat orders of the same items, and have now sold more than one product to most of my existing customers.

The Flying Colours of Signs Express

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An exciting new initiative launched by the RAF captured the spirit of leading signs and graphics company, Signs Express (Wembley), when they were asked to provide striking vehicle wraps to two NASCAR racing cars. The cars, along with a harrier jet, received a grand unveiling at the RAF Spirit of Adventure launch at the Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall.

The two UK racing series NASCAR’s got off to a perfect start and qualified 1st & 2nd and then finished 1-2 in both their races at the first meeting of the SCSA V8 Trophy at Rockingham Motor Speedway.

In addition to their racing requirements, the cars will also be appearing at various RAF Spirit of Adventure air shows around the UK, throughout the summer. Each of the shows includes theatrical ground displays, breath-taking aircraft fly-pasts, role demonstrations and exhibitions; featuring state-of–the-art technology to express the key themes of life in the RAF, i.e. adventure, lifestyle, sport and technology. The Spirit of Adventure events are to be used to promote the image, reputation and profile of the Royal Air Force.

Signs Express (Wembley & Harrow) provided a comprehensive design, manufacture and fitting service at their production centre based on The Hawthorn Centre in Harrow. Centre owner Gareth Doherty explains; “We were able to visit 3 squadron at RAF Coningsby, taking a selection of high resolution shots of fighter planes and then set about designing the graphics. NASCAR’s are large racing cars and we needed to ensure that the design would fit appropriately within the contours of the car.”

“Each car has its own design – one with the striking Spirit of Adventure logo and flame graphics and one which depicts a Typhoon fighter jet, together with after burners at the rear! We’ve been really excited about the project and were delighted to be given the opportunity. The cars look really great!”

On the specification of the project, Gareth continued, “The cars were both completely wrapped, using ultra conformable cast film, which was printed on our in-house digital printer, the JV3; and then laminated for long lasting finish. Each section is heated and then moulded into the contours to give a seamless graphic across the entire car. Preparation of the surface was key as the fibreglass bodywork can cause difficulties during application. It was a great challenge for us.”

The NASCAR’s, which are hugely popular in America, now appear at regular race meetings in the UK at a purpose built track at Rockingham, Corby. NASCAR race-meets take place here once a month, with two races per meet. When the cars are not racing they will be used as part of the promotion for the Spirit of Adventure and other RAF shows and events.

Furthermore, the RAF were so delighted with impact of the RAF livery, they immediately commissioned Wembley to wrap a third rally car which is being run at a number of events up and down the country by Sergeant Chris Daykin of RAF Marham. Chris also got off to a flying start and finished 1st in his class on his first outing!

Signs Express (Wembley & Harrow) works with a variety of business both large and small, providing all forms of signage from interior and exterior signs to vehicle graphics, window graphics, banners and exhibition products.

As with all Signs Express centres, Wembley has their own drive-in livery bay. This climate-controlled environment is essential for creating the optimum conditions for vehicle graphics application. This promotional vehicle livery job is a great example of what can be achieved with wraps. They can be used for short-term promotion or longer run projects. They are removable after their life, preserving the original paint-work underneath.

Signs Express is the UK & Ireland’s largest sign company with over 80 centres nationwide. Signs Express is a member of the British Sign & Graphics Association, the British Franchise Association and the International Sign Association.

The Flying Colours of Signs Express

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An exciting new initiative launched by the RAF captured the spirit of leading signs and graphics company, Signs Express (Wembley), when they were asked to provide striking vehicle wraps to two NASCAR racing cars. The cars, along with a harrier jet, received a grand unveiling at the RAF Spirit of Adventure launch at the Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall.

The two UK racing series NASCAR’s got off to a perfect start and qualified 1st & 2nd and then finished 1-2 in both their races at the first meeting of the SCSA V8 Trophy at Rockingham Motor Speedway.

In addition to their racing requirements, the cars will also be appearing at various RAF Spirit of Adventure air shows around the UK, throughout the summer. Each of the shows includes theatrical ground displays, breath-taking aircraft fly-pasts, role demonstrations and exhibitions; featuring state-of–the-art technology to express the key themes of life in the RAF, i.e. adventure, lifestyle, sport and technology. The Spirit of Adventure events are to be used to promote the image, reputation and profile of the Royal Air Force.

Signs Express (Wembley & Harrow) provided a comprehensive design, manufacture and fitting service at their production centre based on The Hawthorn Centre in Harrow. Centre owner Gareth Doherty explains; “We were able to visit 3 squadron at RAF Coningsby, taking a selection of high resolution shots of fighter planes and then set about designing the graphics. NASCAR’s are large racing cars and we needed to ensure that the design would fit appropriately within the contours of the car.”

“Each car has its own design – one with the striking Spirit of Adventure logo and flame graphics and one which depicts a Typhoon fighter jet, together with after burners at the rear! We’ve been really excited about the project and were delighted to be given the opportunity. The cars look really great!”

On the specification of the project, Gareth continued, “The cars were both completely wrapped, using ultra conformable cast film, which was printed on our in-house digital printer, the JV3; and then laminated for long lasting finish. Each section is heated and then moulded into the contours to give a seamless graphic across the entire car. Preparation of the surface was key as the fibreglass bodywork can cause difficulties during application. It was a great challenge for us.”

The NASCAR’s, which are hugely popular in America, now appear at regular race meetings in the UK at a purpose built track at Rockingham, Corby. NASCAR race-meets take place here once a month, with two races per meet. When the cars are not racing they will be used as part of the promotion for the Spirit of Adventure and other RAF shows and events.

Furthermore, the RAF were so delighted with impact of the RAF livery, they immediately commissioned Wembley to wrap a third rally car which is being run at a number of events up and down the country by Sergeant Chris Daykin of RAF Marham. Chris also got off to a flying start and finished 1st in his class on his first outing!

Signs Express (Wembley & Harrow) works with a variety of business both large and small, providing all forms of signage from interior and exterior signs to vehicle graphics, window graphics, banners and exhibition products.

As with all Signs Express centres, Wembley has their own drive-in livery bay. This climate-controlled environment is essential for creating the optimum conditions for vehicle graphics application. This promotional vehicle livery job is a great example of what can be achieved with wraps. They can be used for short-term promotion or longer run projects. They are removable after their life, preserving the original paint-work underneath.

Signs Express is the UK & Ireland’s largest sign company with over 80 centres nationwide. Signs Express is a member of the British Sign & Graphics Association, the British Franchise Association and the International Sign Association.

Achieving Her Dream

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Amita Sankar recently opened an MBE centre in Chiswick, west London. She had previously spent eight years with the Environmental Services division of the local council, the last two as a Health and Safety Technical Officer, a job which enabled her to see a wide range of businesses – but from the inside.

“Launching a business of my own had always been a dream and with a growing family, my dreams grew to mature too. As a Health and Safety professional I used to visit dozens of local businesses every week and it was clear to me from what I saw that I saw that I could run a better – cleaner! – business than most of those I surveyed,” Amita said.

“Close contact with local companies and the issues they face gave me confidence that serving business was a definite opportunity. I took a business planning course and was greatly encouraged by both my teachers and friends,” she continued.

Amita was unsure about what kind of business she wanted until her husband came home clutching a newspaper article about a new private mail service for businesses being launched jointly by DX and Mail Boxes Etc.

“The potential for this innovation hit us like a lightbulb coming on, especially when combined with other business services that MBE offers. A tailor-made, affordable virtual mailroom cum stationery cupboard plus mailbox rental formula seemed like a winning formula – not to mention the packing and despatch side,” Amita enthused.

Amita began her career working with the US Embassy in Delhi, India, where she managed events and visits for the Embassy’s Cultural Attaché. “This was one of the most colourful experiences of my life, meeting people from all over the world, from crazy artists to distinguished writers, politicians and diplomats. I realised that talking, dealing and negotiating with people was a spontaneous skill I had,” Amita observed.

She went on: “My job with a local council in the UK was in marked contrast and I had always wanted my own business. I have several friends and relatives who are franchisees, so I understood the concept very well. The initial problem was deciding which franchise to choose, although I knew quite definitely I didn’t want to do anything with food or cleaning.”

After Amita read about MBE she recognised that it offered everything she wanted. She comments: “The fact that there is a support network to help you from day one is a big plus for me and has reinforced my belief that franchising is was the right choice.”

Amita wants to support other women into business and is very ambitious for her own franchise. She says: “Having moved away from family, friends and a very comfortable life in India years ago, we don’t want to settle for second best in the UK. What’s the point in being an average family? And if you have to be average, why leave home to do it?”

On the property ladder with Belvoir franchise

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Graham Watts is Belvoir Lettings’ franchisee in Barnet, North London. Belvoir is the fastest growing specialist lettings franchise in the UK and now has 97 operating centres.

Graham opened his outlet in Barnet High Street in November 2006. He first met Belvoir as a prospective franchisee at the Olympia franchise exhibition but had previously experienced Belvoir’s service as a customer for two years when he rented a property through the Watford office.

“I’ve seen the property sector from both sides, having been a tenant and landlord,” Graham commented. “What impressed me about Belvoir and Kevin Butler, the Watford franchisee acting for my landlord, was their thoroughly professional approach. It was a pleasure to deal with Kevin because he looked after me so well. His service was in marked contrast to the treatment I had received from another agent who was managing my own properties,” Graham continued.

Graham’s dissatisfaction with his property manager coincided with frustration at work. He was managing the IT department of a credit insurance company but, with limited promotion prospects and feeling restless, he decided it was time for a new challenge.

He explained: “I asked myself what job would I enjoy doing. I was very interested in property but didn’t know anything about actually running a property business. Franchising seemed the obvious move since it would enable me to acquire training and knowledge, be my own boss and have the opportunity to carve a substantial business. I researched the concept before going to the Olympia exhibition to see what was available and also spoke to Kevin, who by this time had become a friend.

“I found visiting the exhibition very helpful because it enabled me to see the tangible side of the franchises found in various franchise magazines. The next step was to see if there was a quality and ethical company behind the glossy image. This, after all, is what the customer sees. Olympia helped me to take that step.

“When you buy a franchise you know that someone else has already tried and tested every aspect of the operation, so that gives you a quicker start than if you set up your own business entirely from scratch. You have the freedom to make decisions but with support. Belvoir has a strong brand, good professional marketing material, great support for franchisees and promotes excellent service. They have a bespoke legal advice line, which is invaluable because it is always up-to-date. In short, it is an ethical business with high standards.

“The training is followed by one-to-one sessions with a mentor, one of the Belvoir directors. This is fantastic grounding because they coach you in the right way to approach every aspect of the business to get the very best results. This includes giving consistently good service, reliable advice, being polite and helpful, and paying attention to detail. “As a result, I am delighted to say that every prospective landlord we have seen has chosen us. This represents 100 per cent success rate so far against an industry average of about 50 per cent.” Graham summed up.

A firm believer in proactive marketing, Graham is also a contributing editor to local property magazines, which is creating awareness of his Belvoir office and what it can offer. He has built an enviable reputation locally as knowledgeable and reliable property manager and a specialist in buy-to-let properties.

“I believe it is crucial to get the basics of your business right and to grow it on service. You must respect people and learn to listen to what they have to say – how else can you give them what they want? It’s important to always ‘go the extra mile’ – that’s what people remember,” he says.

40th TaxAssist Accountants’Shop Front Office Opens!

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Debbie Corbett & Vince Dalaimo have now opened their brand new shop front office in central London making them the 40th to do so in the TaxAssist Accountants network.

TaxAssist Accountants provides small businesses with expert advice tailored specifically to their needs, from the completion of end of year accounts and tax returns to payroll, VAT and bookkeeping. This is complimented by a wide range of additional services for small business clients, including debt recovery, independent financial advice and personnel (HR) services.

As part of a national network of over 150 offices, TaxAssist Accountants provides a friendly local service with the back-up of a national organisation to deal with every tax and accounts issue or query which may arise.

The shops are aimed at attracting the local small and medium sized business owner with a fresh, modern and stylish look. They have locations throughout the United Kingdom and cover all aspects of accounting and tax work. Twenty more shops are due to launch before the end of the year in new locations across the UK.

Reputation for Excellence

The shop front offices offer a friendly, prompt service with fixed fees agreed in advance. The fees can be paid in monthly instalments making cash flow easier to manage. This allows clients to concentrate on what they do best, with the assurance that their accountancy needs are being well looked after.

bfa Franchisee of the Year Finalist

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Shilpa Wymer had helped her husband build up two businesses and was looking for a new opportunity when she first met Pitman Training.

She was immediately attracted by their supportive approach to franchising, just as they were impressed by her communications skills, business knowledge and personality. At the time, there were no suitable resales available but an agreement was reached for Shilpa to take on the company-owned site in central London.

The London office had a history of franchisee underperformance before being bought back by the franchisor, but with Shilpa in charge, the business not only developed, but became the network leader. Her results were impressive from the start and the London franchise now outperforms every other site in the Pitman Training network.

Throughout this progress, Shilpa Wymer has worked in close partnership with Pitman Training’s head office. Her success is dependent on the franchisor’s experience in choosing locations, providing a high demand product and supplying systems, training and branding support.

At the same time, Shilpa has revitalised the business, repositioning it to appeal to local clientele, extending opening hours and adding trainer support. She has taken centrally generated initiatives, such as diploma courses, and promoted them with huge success and has doubled the turnover, reduced overheads and increased profits in less than two years. She has invested those profits in opening other Pitman centres and her third has opened it’s doors for business this month.

Shilpa sees the success of the franchise as a ‘two-way street’, requiring both parties to be mutually supportive. She has taken the franchisor’s proven business model onto a new level, demonstrating to the growth potential of the network as a whole.

Farm Life Comes to London

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Riverford Organic Vegetables, Devon based organic home delivery box scheme, launched the recruitment drive for 15 new franchisees in London and the surrounding areas, at the British and International Franchise Exhibition in April.

“This is the next logical progression for Riverford’s franchise network,” states Martin Swarbrick, Business Development Manager. “We are actively recruiting for franchisees for the London territories.” The farm, based in Devon, picks and packs the vegetables one day and the franchise network collects the vegboxes from a chilled distribution hub located in their territory and makes the deliveries direct to the customer’s home. Currently delivering to 11,000 homes a week, London will soon benefit from Devon grown organic produce delivered direct to their door.

“This is such a fantastic opportunity for the Farm and for the franchise network,” comments Tieneka Drew, Marketing Manager. “It will decrease the reliance on the supermarkets for the Devon based farmers, who are part of a 13 strong co-op, and allow them to concentrate on growing the vegetables, whilst the franchise network distributes.”

For further information about franchise opportunities, please contact Martin Swarbrick or Jennie Maltby at the farm on 0845600 2311.

Looking Onwards and Upwards with ERA

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Manoj Pabari
Expense Reduction Analysts
Redhill, Surrey

Why I chose franchising

I chose franchising as it is a more supported form of business with greater resources than a stand-alone, and also there is more chance of success with franchising than with a start up.

What I did before taking up a franchise

I undertook plenty of research into start-ups, franchises, personal finances, to find out what type of business i was suited to. I also looked at the support of the people of around me as this is important for franchising.

How I raised the finance

My investment was part self-funded and part bank supported.

The training and support I receive from my franchisor

It gave me a good basis for beginning my business. It covered most of the important areas such as how to find, how to do and how to continue and where to find. There is good support including mentoring, but probably more important is the support of the entire franchise network early on and how it continues even now.

The challenges I have faced

Learning to explain our services in detail, but concisely to clients.

My advice to someone thinking of buying their first franchise

Are you suited to working alone and accepting no income to start?
Are you happy to follow an already invented wheel?

My plans for the future

I am looking onwards and upwards. I am looking at continuing to grow the business at the rate that it is, and then enjoy the fruits of my labour. I would also like to try and get involved in the training side of the business.

A busy 12 months for Servicemaster franchise SE London

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Carol Ruddell
South East London
Servicemaster

IT'S been a year of wedding bells, paperwork and mops for new franchisee Carol Ruddell who has divorced, set up her own franchise business and remarried … all in the last 12 months.

The 50-year-old, who has just launched her own ServiceMaster Merry Maids cleaning business in South East London, employs six women to clean around 30 homes and has never been busier.

Carol, a former housing officer, said: “I have had so many different jobs but never worked for myself and I desperately wanted to try.

Setting up my own business was a daunting prospect though, so buying a franchise was the perfect answer. I got lots of back-up along the way and have never felt completely alone.”

A new husband has also helped. Carol, who married bus driver Michael in March, has needed lots of support over the last year.

She said: “It is always hard starting a new job, so when you are doing it on your own a supportive shoulder really helps, and Michael has been wonderful.”

Another requirement of the job has been to get dirty. Although Carol has staff, she has frequently ended up doing a lot of the cleaning herself, and now ensures everyone follows a strict cleaning regime to make sure every home is spick and span.

Her most famous customer was TV chef Jamie Oliver, whose London studio needed the once over.

“I didn't get to meet him,” said Carol, “but I made sure he'd remember me by making his place sparklingly clean!”

Merry Maids is a management franchise opportunity from ServiceMaster, providing a professional, customised cleaning service to its customers. Since the Merry Maids franchise was introduced into the UK in 1993 the network has grown to over 80 businesses. The franchise license and equipment package add up to £18,005 + VAT.

Call 0116 236 4646 for information about a Merry Maids franchise or email kendennis@servicemaster.co.uk

Dedicated to being the best with Card Connection franchise

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Nallathamby Thiru
Harrow
Card Connection

Why I chose franchising

I chose franchising because I wanted to set up a business of my own. I was inclined to go ahead with my own business for flexibility and freedom reasons.

What I did before taking up a franchise

I was working as an IT engineer which involved using my technical and customer relation skills.

How I raised the finance

My finance for this business was raised by obtaining a 5 year payment loan from NatWest and additional help and support from my friends.

The training and support I receive from my franchisor

Initial training and guidance from my franchisor (Card Connection) has been excellent, as this helped further to build up my confidence in establishing myself both in field and home with merchandising rounds, including the handover process.

The challenges I have faced

So far the challenges I have faced since taking over the business has been the “Busy” Christmas period where I had to discipline myself with time, preparation and space availability at sites, in order to get there before my competitors.

Another challenge has been in aiming to open more quality sites at the right price to build up strength for my business.

“Success” always pays off with an excellent franchise and a good product!

My advice to someone thinking of buying their first franchise

Research, planning and good financial help are essential. Not forgetting dedication and determination for growth and success for your franchise.

My plans for the future

To be of course the best franchisee for Card Connection, by opening quality sites and selling more cards with regular merchandising. Thereby, increasing my income and profits.

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