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Archive of franchising in Northern Ireland news and franchisee case studies

Northern Ireland news and case studies:

There are many successful franchise businesses in the Northern Ireland. If you're considering becoming a franchisee in Northern Ireland, 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: "Maintaining an excellent quality of life with WPA"

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Name: Simon Marks
Location: Northern Ireland
Franchise: WPA Healthcare Practice
Date launched the franchise: December 2012

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

I had been involved in the banking sector all my working life and spent 27 years in this industry since the age of 18. Following cutbacks I started to look at future business opportunities.

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

"I liked the appeal of running my own business after years as an employee, particularly escaping from the constraints of micro management that was evident in the banking sector post downturn."

I was recommended to look at WPA by a former colleague who had bought another WPA Franchise and was running this successfully.

How did you raise the finance?

Mainly through redundancy payment after 27 years with the bank.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

This is one of the major factors in choosing WPA as I felt that they were very pro-active throughout my decision making process and appeared to provide regular and on-going training to franchisees.

The invite to an open day in Taunton and invites to regional workshops prior to making my final decision were instrumental in understanding what WPA had to offer.

The Initial Training Course was extremely well presented and initial 2 year mentor period with an experienced franchisee provided the support that I needed in my early stages.

The ongoing training through regional workshops/regional meetings and conferences remains first class.

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

Normally sitting at my desk for 7.30am to handle administration/plan for appointments that day. Diary planning is essential as I cover a wide area so if I am travelling for an appointment I will aim to have 3-4 other customer visits in the area to ensure the journey is worthwhile.

I have an early start on a Tuesday with a network group which either entails a 4.00am alarm call or more often travelling the night before.

I aim to have 3 full days’ of appointments per week with 2 days to manage admin. Occasionally I have evening appointments if this is only time that suits the customer.

What challenges have you faced?

The challenge of running your own business and the practicalities involved. I spent so much time on the business model of WPA, however I didn’t fully understand what was involved in the setting up and running your own business on a day to day basis.

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

"On leaving the bank after 27 years I was looking for 2 basics; a less stressful occupation and to maintain a good quality of life. I find it very refreshing to be able to structure my own day without having to seek approval. It can mean early starts and late nights but at least I am doing it for myself."

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

Speak to other franchisees within the business to understand potential pitfalls as well as strengths. Understand the support mechanism from the Franchisor with regard to initial and on-going training, especially support in first 1-2 years of business.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?

Someone who has experience in dealing with customers and has a desire/drive to grow their business. They will need individual discipline, particularly if coming out of an office based business to working by themselves.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue to grow my business by a minimum of 10% year on year and build a strong base of business introducers.

To make my business attractive to future buyers.

Would you do it again?

Yes.

Exclusive interview with Tax Assist franchisee - Reaping the benefits of being your own boss

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Name: Ian Aiken
Location: Ballymena and Antrim
Franchise: TaxAssist Accountants
Date launched the franchise: December 2012

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your TaxAssist franchise business?
Having qualified as a chartered Management Accountant I had worked in industry at Finance director level for a number of years, in sectors such as property, garments, fabric and food & drink.

Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose TaxAssist franchise?
Buying into a franchise normally means you are following an established successful pattern. TaxAssist suited my background and experience. They were the most professional franchise I looked at in the accounting sector.

How did you raise the finance?
From my own resources.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
I have benefited from an excellent 6-week initial residential course, and ongoing training and support which has been particularly useful through the first year.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I arrive in my shop at 8:00am, check social media posts to see if there is anything interesting to take on board, to comment on or share, whilst making the first coffee of the day. Then I check my email for anything urgent. I then carry on with existing work for clients, which can be anything from completing a tax return, to a set of limited company accounts, to a business plan for expansion or to purchase a business. I may have appointments with existing or potential new clients. I could also be visiting my business clients at their premises.

What challenges have you faced?
Getting myself known has been the main challenge to grow the business. I gain a lot of business as referrals from existing clients. I also gain business from trading from a shop front. Again the franchise taught me what to look for in a shop front location.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
I enjoy being my own boss. I work just as hard as I ever did, but it is nice being in charge of your own destiny. I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing my business clients grow and prosper.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
Talk to existing franchisees for their feedback. Make sure you are committed to growing your own business, because you will be putting in long hours at the start, possibly for little initial financial reward. Make sure you are adequately financed for this.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
I would say hard work, enthusiasm for what you do and make sure you have a good franchisor behind you.

What are your plans for the future?
I want to continue to grow the business and enjoy giving my clients an excellent service.

Would you do it again?
Yes!

TaxAssist Accountant Ian Aiken leads the way

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At a conference recently, Ian was recognised as one of the first certified Advanced QuickBook Pro Advisors in Northern Ireland.

Back in February, TaxAssist announced that it had selected Intuit QuickBooks as the exclusive partner for its network of accountants. Since then, Ian has gone on to take the Advanced Advisor qualification, and is proud to be leading the way for his clients by future proofing businesses and using cloud based accounting solutions.

According to Intuit, 88 per cent of small businesses expect their accountants to embrace cloud based solutions, yet only 37 per cent of accountants do so.

Ian, who runs TaxAssist Accountants in Linehall Street in Ballymena in Northern Ireland said: “small businesses, especially start-ups, have been particularly transformed by cloud software.

"Currently Northern Ireland’s small business sector is thriving and along with advances in technology, client’s accounting expectations have evolved.

"With one click, you can upload files and data, quickly discover and rectify errors, access financial figures in real time and use this information to make strategic decisions and changes straight away, all the while you’re on the go.

"I turned to QuickBooks simply because it helps to save me time, money and most importantly it ensures I provide the most efficient service to all my clients. By using this software, I can immediately learn current financial situations, without having to make my way through numerous tedious spreadsheets, it’s now as simple as glancing at a bank balance.”

This cloud based solution operates in real time, so every time an invoice is sent, a customer makes a payment or employee gets paid, this information is tracked and is updated automatically, which then offers an immediate picture of what the business’s financial situation is.

Ian added: “I am much better connected to my clients at any time and from almost anywhere from any web-enabled device (e.g. i-phone, i- pad etc.) which offers greater control over my time and my client’s time. For example, being able to check their figures in real time means you can flag up any potential problems to the client, discuss or suggest a change in strategy that would benefit them as the need arises.

"Customers want to feel valued and confident that they will get the service they expect, which is prompt replies, willingness to go the extra mile and the ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and simple way, this helps us to build trust with our clients.

"The key to future-proofing your accounting business is to be proactive, rather than reactive and boldly adopting new technologies like cloud accounting solutions is an essential part of that to survive and thrive in this fast-changing world.”

Sarah Robertson, Group Business Development Director at TaxAssist Accountants added, “TaxAssist strives to be at the forefront of industry developments and Quickbooks enables our accountants to provide an efficient and proactive accountancy service. It is fast becoming the online accounting product chosen by small business owners across the UK as they become increasingly digital. We're delighted that clients can gain the benefits of using QuickBooks to manage their finances in the cloud, with the added advice provided by our network.”

 

Interview with Diane Maxwell of Driver Hire, Belfast

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Name: Diane Maxwell
Location: Driver Hire Belfast
Franchise: Driver Hire Nationwide

Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose your franchise?
I was really lucky when it came to becoming a Driver Hire franchisee as I’d already worked within the business for 6 years, having started as a sales consultant working for the previous franchisee. I love what I do and when the opportunity to buy the business and become my boss came along I jumped at the chance. Every day is different and the thanks we get for providing great customer service is so rewarding.

What did you do before taking up a franchise?
Before joining Driver Hire I worked in a customer service role for a company called STL who are one of Ireland’s premier logistics companies. I’ve found that the people skills I picked up there have really transferred well into running and managing my Driver Hire franchise.

How did you raise the finance?
I was lucky enough to be able to buy my franchise on a gradual basis. When the previous franchisee moved on from Driver Hire the franchisor took over and I became the office manager. Impressed with my skills I was then offered the opportunity to buy 49% of the business with a loan from Driver Hire. Naturally I wanted to eventually buy the franchise outright and was able to do this with the combination of a new loan from Driver Hire and a member of my family who was able to help.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
The support I received from Driver Hire in the early days was fantastic. Although I knew the business well, there were certain aspects of it that were unfamiliar. The new franchisee and staff two week Foundation Training course really helped to complete my understanding. My Area Development Manager was also pivotal in helping me to look at ways of increasing our revenue with existing and lapsed customers.

There was also lots of hands-on support to help me target our sales activity effectively using the various campaigns created by the Marketing team, and help with aspects of Driver Hire’s internal client management system that I hadn’t used as an employee. Driver Hire has helped me immensely and I’ve learnt a lot doing the job. Sometimes I’ve had to learn the hard way. But I’ve loved every minute of it and, of course, the financial rewards are very welcome.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
There’s no such thing as a typical day! That’s the charm of running my own business. You can start out with a plan and then your whole day is taken off somewhere completely different.

What challenges have you faced?
In some ways, every day is a challenge! Our business is fast moving and operates 24/7, 365 days a year. That means either myself or a member of staff - working on a rota basis - are always on call to pick up the phone. Even if that’s at 3am to answer a call from a customer who desperately need a driver for their vehicle. I also think that with any business owner the challenges you face are a personal thing and are dependent on your own knowledge base and skill set.

For me I found the finance side challenging at times. Being part of a franchised network is a great way to keep learning and plug those gaps. And as I’ve said before the rewards are a massive compensation and help to keep me and the team motivated.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Looking back I couldn’t possibly have envisaged where I am today. I was very much an employee and had never seen myself as a leader. Whilst running my own franchise I’ve learnt a lot about business but also a lot about my own skills and drive to succeed.
Driver Hire celebrated 30 years in business recently.

They organised a massive party weekend at a country house hotel on the mainland to which I took my team. It was great. But what struck me was how many friends I have within the Driver Hire network. That’s all part of franchising – a common bond. And of course there are the financial rewards. When I took over, initially as manager, I literally had nothing. I think I can safely say that franchising has made a huge difference to my life – in a very positive way.

What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
Driver Hire has a fantastic marketing and design team that are continually creating quality campaigns, literature and promotional items. We also have our own mini website which is part of Driver Hire’s main site and a HTML email tool, so we’re able to target our customers and candidates on a regular basis both offline and online.

What differentiates your franchise from the competition?
In recruitment providing a high level of customer service is key and working under the Driver Hire brand, which is known within the industry as a leading provider of logistics staff, is certainly a great starting point. Here at Belfast we also strive to continually look at ways at taking best practice one step further, and my team ensures that we always take a full customer brief so we can fully inform our candidates of what’s expected. To help with this we’ve created a ‘Get closer to our customers’ and a ‘Candidate communications’ policy.

Getting the right team on board is vital and being part of a larger network also helps, as we can easily access industry related expertise plus tried and tested systems and processes. Driver Hire is also a very innovative franchise, forever looking for ways we can either improve our existing services or develop new products to sell. This is something our single unit competitors simply cannot fund or spend time on.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Simply hard work, determination and commitment.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
Investigate the market thoroughly. Is there a need for the product and is the franchise brand an established and secure investment? Also check out the support and training you are going to get from the franchisor - ask other franchisees whether it was delivered as promised.

What are your plans for the future?
My aim for the future is to grow and develop the business. To help with this we’ve recently launched a non-driving recruitment service so we can target businesses in our area that we wouldn’t usually approach.

Would you do it again?
Yes, definitely. It was an excellent opportunity for me and I’ve thrived under the challenge. It has been a long journey, but it’s certainly paid off and I’m looking forward to growing the business even further.

Award-winning home care franchise launches in Northern Ireland and Scotland

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Right at Home, an award winning international home care franchise, is looking for ambitious partners to join them in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

The company is a global leader in the home care market with more than 350 local offices situated across the world. It provides high quality care and companionship to seniors and adults in the comfort of their own home. Carefully trained and friendly carers provide help with a wide range of tasks including housework, shopping, cooking meals, washing and physical assistance as well as personal care.

Ken Deary, UK managing director and master licence owner, said: “We have built our reputation on providing exceptional levels of service and a highly personalised approach closely tailored to our clients’ needs. Everything we do is designed around the client to ensure their dignity, independence and personal choices are respected. We are a business but we put care standards before profit, which is not always the case in the care industry as a whole.”

He added: “This is the ideal opportunity for someone looking for a management franchise which can make a real difference to people’s lives whilst providing a financially rewarding business. With the UK’s elderly population growing at an exponential rate, there are an increasing number of people needing care and assistance to continue living independently at home. Our aim is to be the leading provider of the highest quality, personalised care at home services in the UK. Currently we have a network of 20 local franchise offices in the UK and we are looking to expand this significantly by moving into key areas of Scotland such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Perth and Stirling as well as Northern Ireland.”

Franchisees do not need to have previous experience of the care sector, as each office recruits a locally-experienced, well-qualified registered manager who is responsible for recruiting, training and retaining the best carers in the business. The franchise package includes virtually everything the franchise owner needs to get their business up and running including a quality PC, an online operational resources centre, bespoke scheduling software and localised website, as well as a comprehensive stock of tailored marketing materials. However, perhaps more importantly Right at Home offers industry-leading training and mentoring to equip the franchise owner with all the business and operational skills needed to successfully run their own home care business. The back-up and support of an international and British Franchise Association accredited franchise, ensures franchisees benefit from many years of industry and franchising experience and provides a fantastic platform for the right franchise partners to grow and develop their own successful Right at Home business.

Someone who is already reaping the benefits is Tim Haigh who was Right at Home’s first UK franchisee. With his home care agency’s reputation well established in the Sutton and Epsom communities he is now billing more than 700 hours a week and his annualised turnover is set to exceed £600,000.

Tim, a former head of communications for a UK publishing company, commented: “The care sector held a particular appeal because I’d always had a strong internal drive to help people and there is an obvious and huge potential to grow a successful home care business in the UK right now.”

He added “I’ve also no doubt that Right at Home is going to be the UK’s leading home care franchise within the next 5 to 10 years and I want to be part of that success.”

The total investment required for the Right at Home franchise (including initial franchise fee and working capital) will be in the region of £80,000-£100,000. The franchise agreement is for a 10 year renewable term.

Aspray franchisee turnover increases by 300%

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In Belfast, Michael Crilly’s turnover increased by 300% last year. In one month alone last winter he had over 70 jobs on the go all received within a 3 week time period! Values of his claims ranged from a couple of thousand to £85k but very few were under £20k. The £85k job was a building consisting of damage to 4 apartments and a shop.

Michael has invested heavily in both fire and flood training and drying equipment last year but even with 20 dryers he did not have enough. He has bought a further 15 this Christmas and has around 15 air movers. Even now he could do with more and is finding it hard to rent from suppliers as they are all out of stock.

To help him with the increased workload – which really took off when he began building a great relationship with a leak detection company in Northern Ireland – he has taken on board a Quantity Surveyor.

“To cope with this volume of business you cannot do it alone” says Michael and whilst Michael himself is very shy about his own business acumen, having a good business mind has certainly helped Michael progress Aspray Belfast.

Michael is now reaping the benefits of having an Aspray franchise. Perhaps you should look at taking a nice holiday before the next bout of bad weather and inevitable surge of claims Michael?

Aspray Franchise - What is Claims Management?

  • Aspray Property Repair and Claims Management Franchisees provide a free, comprehensive building claims management service to the insured
  • Deliver a professional service using local, approved sub-contractors
  • The role requires Franchisees to assess the damage, negotiate with insurance companies and then to provide contractors to ensure the work is carried out
  • Insurance companies pay directly to Aspray

What can an Aspray franchise offer you?

  • A highly lucrative business with excellent margins achievable
  • First year’s target turnover between £150,000 to £350,000 giving a net profit of £40,000 to £100,000
  • Recession resilient business which excels in bad weather
  • Full training and on-going support
  • An exclusive Territory with a minimum of 150,000 households.
  • Support of a proven and professional network and a nationally recognised brand
  • An easy sell to the customer – it won’t cost them a penny.

TaxAssist Accountants franchise gives small businesses dedicated focus

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Franchisee: Jim Andrew
Franchse: TaxAssist Accountants
Territory: Belfast
 
I am a qualified Chartered Management Accountant and prior to joining TaxAssist Accountants I worked in financial and general management in various industries in Northern Ireland. These included manufacturing (cigarettes, soft drinks, and insulation), housing association and even a charity. Most of the roles were finance related but I also completed five years as Managing Director of a company with five factories in UK and Ireland with over 300 employees.
 
Most accountants that I know have a notion of sometime opening their own business/practice. So, after considering the best method of getting set up and finding clients, I joined TaxAssist Accountants in March 2008 and opened my shop front on the Cregagh Road in Belfast in October 2008.
 
I was initially attracted to TaxAssist Accountants because of their very clear focus on a specific market sector – Small Businesses. I liked the approach to the market particularly the use of shop fronts to reach out and make accountancy services more accessible and welcoming to the public. This approach certainly works as over half of my new business actually comes from “walk-ins”. Offering clients an excellent service at a fixed price with payment by monthly direct debits is very well received.
 
Even in a recession, growth has been steady. I now employ one fully qualified accountant / tax advisor and a part-qualified accountant. I am currently looking to recruit one further accountant, perhaps on a part-time basis initially. Having good staff is critical to any business. It is also important to have sufficient staff to give good service to existing clients while offering some capacity for new clients.
 
At the moment, I am the only TaxAssist franchisee in Belfast. However, the success of my business, and the rapid uptake of franchises in the Republic of Ireland, illustrates that the system established on the GB mainland does transfer to other locations. There is certainly scope for more TaxAssist franchisees in Belfast and Northern Ireland generally. I am even considering opening a second shop front.
 
As a Management Accountant with a strong Industry background, I found the training and support of the TaxAssist staff at Norwich to be invaluable. TaxAssist Accountants provide all their new franchisees with an incredibly comprehensive training package that includes a five-week course that focuses on all aspects of running a business. The training taught me new approaches to accounting while reinforcing what I already knew.  It gave me the confidence that I would be able to bring success to the business - refocusing my existing skills to ensure I had a full understanding of the TaxAssist Accountants model.
 
After three years, I have a total client base of over 120 with a turnover of around £100k. Net growth in fee bank continues at a steady pace.
 
 

CeX franchisees believe in the brand

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 Newry, Northern Ireland
 
Is this your first CeX?
 
We’ve just opened our third CeX store in Newry, which is in addition to the existing stores we currently run in Enniskillen and Derry.
 
Why did you choose franchising?
 
CeX’s franchising model is a successful proven business model. They provide a sophisticated business process, together with an ongoing daily retail support mechanism, that we could not achieve to the same degree of success if we operated independently.
 
What did you do before taking up a franchise?
 
Trevor: “I have extensive retail and business experience, having run a family owned supermarket and worked in the licensing trade for many years.”
 
Stuart: “I started my career working initially in a CeX owned store, and have now become a franchisee, which is even more rewarding.”
 
How did you raise the finance?
 
We financed our third store, Newry, partly though capital, together with additional finance from our bank, which was happy to support us, giving the strong trading position of our existing businesses.
 
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
 
Initially, new franchisees have to complete and pass an extensive in-store training programme, before they can open their first store. For us, there is always help with training staff on an ongoing basis. In addition, we received invaluable support from a dedicated team in opening our new store.
 
What challenges have you faced?
 
Running a CeX store is hard work, with long hours, but very rewarding. It’s not for the faint hearted and requires your total personal commitment. If you are going to run the store and maximise its potential you have to be in there working alongside your staff continuously.
 
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
 
It’s given us the opportunity to work for ourselves and work towards some of our long-term goals.
 
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
 
Do as much research as possible and talk to some of the franchisees within that business. In CeX, part of any initial new franchisee process involves having the opportunity to work for several days in a store, which helps both parties see if it’s right for them.

Bevloir franchise building a successful future despite the recession

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Franchisees: Andrew Jack and Craig McCracken
Franchise Territories: Belfast South and Belfast East
Launched: 2002
 
Andrew Jack and his business partner Craig McCracken are the owners of Belvoir Belfast South and Belvoir Belfast East.
 
Background
“Prior to joining Belvoir I was working in Edinburgh but my fiancée lived in Northern Ireland so I decided to relocate,” explains Andrew. “When I gave up my job I knew I wanted to work for myself in this area and began to look for franchise opportunities. I was drawn to property management because I had previously dabbled in doing up houses and selling them on and it was something that interested me.”
 
Why Belvoir?
“I researched a few property management franchises, but was attracted to Belvoir because it seemed more professional than its competitors and I was particularly impressed by the team at Central Office. At that time the Belvoir franchise in Newtownards was also launching, so there was a momentum to develop the brand in Northern Ireland and it was exciting to be part of that.”
 
Training and Support
“I have found the training and ongoing support to be extremely useful,” says Andrew. “I have been in business for seven years now, but I find being part of a Franchise is extremely useful as you can learn from the experiences of other Franchise Owners who may have faced the same challenges as you and can offer advice to provide solutions.”
 
Success to date
Andrew’s Belvoir Belfast South business is located in Ormeau Road. “In September 2004 Craig McCracken, another local agent, approached me with regard to a business partnership and he has since become a joint Franchise Owner,” explains Andrew. “We bought out Belvoir Belfast East in 2007 when the current owner decided to move on and now have eight members of staff.”
 
Future plans
“When I first started there was a real property boom in Northern Ireland and the market was very strong. However, even when the residential sales market fell we found that the lettings market remained strong, as people were unable to buy or didn’t want to sell. I think the property market is recovering now, which means landlords are viewing the prospect of buying a house as an attractive investment again. We are very optimistic about the future.”
 
My advice to anyone considering a Belvoir Franchise
“Since joining Belvoir I have found the training and support to be excellent, but the ability to network with other Franchise Owners is invaluable,” says Andrew. “All the Franchise Owners in Northern Ireland are keen to develop the brand here and see it grow and we would be delighted if more offices opened. Provided a potential owner has a positive mind set and a determined attitude and taps into the support that is readily available through Central Office and the Belvoir Network Group they should do well.”
 
 

Loving what we do with Belvoir franchise

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Franchisee: Trevor and Jackie Burns
Franchise: Belvoir
Territory: Newtownards & Bangor
Launch Dates: 2003 & 2008.
 
Background:
Husband and wife team Trevor and Jackie Burns are the owners of Belvoir Newtownards and Belvoir Bangor, with Jackie running the Bangor office and Trevor managing Belvoir Newtownards.
 
Before joining Belvoir both Trevor and Jackie had worked in the property industry. “Trevor lived in the States and rented properties of his own and was involved in the property business there,” says Jackie. “I came from a property background too, working in estate agency for many years locally in Bangor.
 
“We decided to set up our own business because we’ve both always been involved in the property business and knew we liked it. Also, there was a lack of specialist letting agents around and we saw a market for it.”
 
 
Why Belvoir?
“Trevor looked at lots of business openings but liked what Belvoir offered best. He liked the package that came with being part of a franchise and the on-going support that was offered by Belvoir in particular. He then visited Central Office in Grantham for an initial meeting and just gelled with Belvoir’s CEO Mike Goddard and the rest of the team.
 
Success to date:
Building on the experiences and successes at Trevor’s original launch, Belvoir Newtownards, Jackie and Trevor went on to open Belvoir Bangor in September 2008.
 
“We’ve had much success since first opening but one of our major successes is definitely opening the Bangor branch,” says Jackie. “It was great to take lessons from what we’d already learnt plus it was nice to open another one as it gave us a lot more coverage in the area.
 
“After two years in Newtownards we had about 50 properties and now we have about 260 between the two offices! We certainly feel that the business is going well.”
 
 
Vision for the future:
“I would like to think that we will keep growing the way we are,” says Jackie. “I think the market is changing and more and more people are looking to long-term rentals rather than buying their own property - much like in Europe.
 
“We’ve got plans to grow our staff as the business grows. We have two full-time staff and a book-keeper in Newtownards and then there’s myself and one full-time staff member in Bangor. At present we’re managing very well with the resources we have – we have great staff who are very capable, but we’re certainly hoping to get another member of staff in Bangor when the time’s right.
 
“There are only five Belvoir offices in Northern Ireland and I think there’s definitely room for another one but this isn’t something Trevor and I are looking at as we enjoy running the two offices we’ve got and we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.
 
“Trevor and I love what we do, and if you like what you do it’s not really work is it?”

Impressed with the professionalism of Martin & Co franchise

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Name: Gordon Campbell
Location: Belfast
Franchise: Martin & Co
 
I wanted to run my own business and having investigated various franchise options in the property lettings business Martin & Co impressed me with their professionalism. Franchising presented the perfect opportunity to have my own business whilst minimising the risks of starting independently.
 
Martin & Co worked with me to obtain bank funding. The bank were happy to provide the funds as they felt confident in the Martin & Co business model.
I previously worked in food retail and production managing various companies within the food sector and, therefore knew that I needed a lot of training and support to operate successfully in my chosen industry. I have always had a genuine interest in property and I recognised that that the trend was moving away from sales and towards lettings, as Belfast became a more vibrant and attractive city to live in. However I had limited knowledge of the lettings industry but with the comprehensive training courses that Martin & Co provided combined with the continued support on offer I have developed specialist knowledge of the local lettings market.
  
It is important to remember that starting any business from scratch is a challenge, from generating new business to employing staff. It has all been worthwhile though, as I now have an established business, with a reputation I have developed based on delivering a service second to none for our clients.
 
Landlords and tenants want an established national brand they can trust as well as local knowledge and personal service and this approach has been crucial to my growth over the past 5 years. Our office currently employs 4 full time members of staff and 1 part time. We started from scratch and now manage a portfolio of more than 220.
 
Martin & Co have successful offices throughout England, Scotland and Wales and Ireland isn’t any different. I don’t feel I have encountered any differences to the rest of the network as a result of operating in Northern Ireland. I feel that the business model is strong and reliable, as is the lettings industry. I launched at a good time in a developing city, where there was a lot of property development and as a result have been successful over the last 5 years.
 
Owning my own business is fantastic and I would recommend it to most people, however you have to be prepared to put in the hard work to get the rewards. Going the franchise route has given me the opportunity to fulfil my personal ambition to run my own business; avoiding the mistakes I would have made going it alone.
 

Chance finding of Snack-in-the-Box franchise

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Deciding that I wanted to go into business for myself, I started to thoroughly research all the options available to me.  It was purely by chance that I came across Snack-in-the- Box (SITB). Whilst reading a newspaper I saw one of their adverts and straight away I knew it was exactly the type of business I was looking for. I had worked in distribution before and as I wanted a business than ran along similar lines, Snack-in-the-Box was an ideal choice for me.
 
As I bought the business of another franchisee, I was lucky enough to inherit a number of customers.
 
Before the launch I was provided with a week’s training at head office which was followed by a period of shadowing a franchisee on the actual job. This provided me with a good understanding of the ins and outs of the running of the business.
 
Since launching my SITB franchise 12 months ago, I have built the business up to about 200 calls per week. As everyone likes chocolate, it’s a product that doesn’t require a hard sell and so I’ve found attracting new business relatively easy.  As the boxes are placed on a contract-free basis, customers feel that they haven’t got anything to lose - and of course this is all helped with the addition of the Cadbury brand name.
 
Throughout the launch and the ongoing running of my franchise, I’ve found SITB to be very supportive and helpful when I’ve needed them. They will leave me alone to run the business as my own but if I need help they will always be there.
 
You have to be a positive person and naturally very motivated to be SITB franchise owner. SITB provides a good opportunity and if you’re hungry enough, there’s the potential for further investment and expansion.

TaxAssist Accountants announce the opening of their first shop front premises in Northern Ireland!

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TaxAssist Accountants provides small businesses with expert advice tailored specifically for their needs, from the completion of end of year accounts and tax returns to payroll, VAT and bookkeeping. This is complemented by a wide range of additional services for small business clients, including debt recovery, independent financial advice and personnel (HR) services.
 
TaxAssist Accountants developed the shop front concept with the aim of attracting the local small and medium sized business owner with a fresh, modern and stylish look. Not only do the shop fronts lend visibility and accessibility they also offer the credibility with clients and other businesses that working from home simply could not provide.
 
Jim Andrew is the franchisee who has become the Northern Irish pathfinder for TaxAssist Accountants, opening his shop in Belfast this month. Jim joined TaxAssist Accountants in February 2008 and reports “Since the launch I have had a steady stream of work, despite the economic downturn. As the credit crunch bites, self employed people and small businesses turn to accountancy firms for business advice and for ways to save money on their taxes. In my opinion now is the ideal time to launch an accountancy franchise and capitalise on the situation.”
 
Having attended the franchise’s initial 5 week training course and refresher days Jim comments “the training course really boosted my confidence and I left feeling I would be able to run my own business effectively. The support I have received has been first rate.”
 
Karl Sandall, Chief Executive of TaxAssist Accountants comments “It is very clear to us that moving into shop front premises will continue to be the way forward for all franchisees. We have always had complete confidence in this. Professionalism and business stature within the community are immediately elevated with the increased profile of a shop front office, - which in turn improves local business relationships and increases referrals of new business. We are very pleased to be welcoming Jim to the TaxAssist Accountants network and expect our presence here to grow considerably.
 
Jim is currently the only franchisee in Northern Ireland, however he will be joined by a new franchisee in the New Year and numbers of enquiries remain high. We are also actively looking to expand into Southern Ireland via selling a Master Franchise Licence so if you’re interested please do get in touch.”
 
Franchisees do not need any formal accountancy qualifications as full training is given, but you do need to have a relevant career background, be self motivated, disciplined, ambitious, hardworking and keen to build a substantial successful business. 

TaxAssist Accountants announce the opening of their first shop front premises in Northern Ireland!

largeTA_car07.jpg

TaxAssist Accountants provides small businesses with expert advice tailored specifically for their needs, from the completion of end of year accounts and tax returns to payroll, VAT and bookkeeping. This is complemented by a wide range of additional services for small business clients, including debt recovery, independent financial advice and personnel (HR) services.
 
TaxAssist Accountants developed the shop front concept with the aim of attracting the local small and medium sized business owner with a fresh, modern and stylish look. Not only do the shop fronts lend visibility and accessibility they also offer the credibility with clients and other businesses that working from home simply could not provide.
 
Jim Andrew is the franchisee who has become the Northern Irish pathfinder for TaxAssist Accountants, opening his shop in Belfast this month. Jim joined TaxAssist Accountants in February 2008 and reports “Since the launch I have had a steady stream of work, despite the economic downturn. As the credit crunch bites, self employed people and small businesses turn to accountancy firms for business advice and for ways to save money on their taxes. In my opinion now is the ideal time to launch an accountancy franchise and capitalise on the situation.”
 
Having attended the franchise’s initial 5 week training course and refresher days Jim comments “the training course really boosted my confidence and I left feeling I would be able to run my own business effectively. The support I have received has been first rate.”
 
Karl Sandall, Chief Executive of TaxAssist Accountants comments “It is very clear to us that moving into shop front premises will continue to be the way forward for all franchisees. We have always had complete confidence in this. Professionalism and business stature within the community are immediately elevated with the increased profile of a shop front office, - which in turn improves local business relationships and increases referrals of new business. We are very pleased to be welcoming Jim to the TaxAssist Accountants network and expect our presence here to grow considerably.
 
Jim is currently the only franchisee in Northern Ireland, however he will be joined by a new franchisee in the New Year and numbers of enquiries remain high. We are also actively looking to expand into Southern Ireland via selling a Master Franchise Licence so if you’re interested please do get in touch.”
 
Franchisees do not need any formal accountancy qualifications as full training is given, but you do need to have a relevant career background, be self motivated, disciplined, ambitious, hardworking and keen to build a substantial successful business. 

Richard McGonigle - Signs Express (Derry)

largeDerry_L.gif Signs Express franchisee Richard McGonigle opened his production centre in Derry after previously working as a Software Developer. Richard wanted a change and had always aspired to start his own business so looked at franchising as a way to achieve this. He talks about his experiences so far and hopes for the future.

"After looking into a few businesses that were for sale in the local area, the costs involved made it unviable. I then decided that a franchise was the best option to suit my needs as it was a tried and tested idea and could provide me with the vital start I needed in business.

The signs business interested me and I contacted Signs Express to find out more. After seeing the Head Quarters and the amount of support that was offered, I was delighted to be awarded the franchise for the Derry area."

Each Signs Express franchisee takes part in a comprehensive training course covering all areas of the business and receives ongoing support and advice from a dedicated team of over 20 industry professionals at the Head Office; covering all disciplines including technical Support, accounts, marketing, IT and operations.

Signs Express is the UK & Ireland's largest sign company with over 80 centres. Each centre operates from a custom designed light industrial production unit with dedicated vehicle application bay, experienced signmakers and specialised equipment to complete client requests to the highest standards.

Richard continued, "We have only been up and running for a short time but are already finding a lot of customers are coming back for repeat or similar orders. The brand image is what gets us a lot of our jobs, people recognise the brand and realise that they are not working with a 'fly by night' company but a reputable business."

"Since starting the business, the hardest part I have found is organizing your day and your staff so that everything gets done. It’s a bit of a challenge at the beginning as you tend to have a million things to do!"

"The business is still in its infancy yet I have been able to achieve great sales so far and have been involved in a number of exciting projects for clients. The biggest satisfaction I get is driving about the city and seeing more and more vehicles and signage we have produced. Every day is different too, which is very challenging yet rewarding."

"My lifestyle has changed since starting the business as I now use every opportunity to promote Signs Express. In my previous employment I clocked off at 5 o'clock and that was it. Now I enjoy what I am doing and do not see it as a hassle if I have to work out of hours.

We will be looking to take on an additional staff member shortly to cope with increasing demand and I would also like to be in a position over the next year to purchase a wide format digital printing machine, benefiting our profit margins and developing our in-house capabilities.

In the future I hope to have Signs Express (Derry) fully established as the place that people go to in the NW of Ireland for all their signage requirements...and I can see no reason why this will not be possible!" To find out more about a Signs Express franchise, please log onto www.signsexpress.co.uk or call Tony Marsh on 01603 625925.

Believing in McDonald’s

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Jetting around the world and staying in expensive hotels for a pharmaceutical business still didn’t give Des Lamph the job satisfaction he craved. “I wanted to do something for myself,” said the Northern Ireland franchisee.

Des had been in the pharmaceutical business for 12 years and when he heard McDonald’s was breaking into Northern Ireland he saw his opportunity. “I was attracted to it because it was a proven system with 25,000 restaurants worldwide. It meant I could run my own thing, but there was back up. You are part of a community and a system where there is help at the end of the phone.”

Three months later he had packed in his job and had started a year’s training as a crew member at Liverpool Edge Lane. “In my previous job I only flew first class and stayed in 5 star hotels, suddenly I was making chips on a retail park!” Des laughed. “But I loved it.”

Des admired the regimented approach to business and the desire for perfection. “It was always a challenge that you can do something better each time. I like to compare how I’m doing when I go to other people’s restaurants.”

In 1992 Des opened his first restaurant in Bangor. “It was very scary. We took £62,000 in our opening week. It was the first Drive-thru in Northern Ireland, and we blocked the dual carriageway!” recalled Des. “In fact one customer waited an hour to be served, and said he didn’t mind as he just wanted to be part of the experience.”

The challenge now for Des is keeping the momentum going. “I find it easy to promote the brand because I’m enthusiastic and believe in it,” said Des. “It’s the same key points that we learnt at the beginning about keeping the customers happy. I make sure I share information with my team and offer incentives schemes to keep on improving things.”

A More Secure Career

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Name: Aiden O’Callaghan
Location: Northern Ireland
Franchise: gas-elec SAFETY SYSTEMS

Why I chose franchising
I opted for franchising after years of thinking about self-employment and investing several months of serious investigation into various options for starting my own business. Franchise appealed to me as all the research data indicated it was the best risk free option for starting your own business. Further one to one conversations with franchises confirmed that is was a more secure approach to starting self-employment.

What I did before taking up a franchise
Qualified as an electrical/electronic engineer. Took up management posts in production and quality for electronic consumer assembly company. Brought a 700+ organisation through a major quality program and in the process achieved ISO9001.

I then moved to a medical electronic assembly company and was the supply chain manager responsible for appointing key suppliers and managing logistics and quality of their products.

How I raised the finance
I used my own savings and some borrowing.

The training and support I receive from my franchisor
One of the reasons I selected gas-elec was THE PROVISION OF THEIR OWN CITB REGISTERED TRAINING CENTRE. This provides training facilities much superior even against many blue chip companies. Add to this the investment made in IT infrastructure support and gas-elec easily sets itself as a market leader. This IT infrastructure benefits appeals to our experienced property professional clients and makes selling of our service so much easier.

The regular communications and meetings amongst the 100+network provides invaluable assistance in resolving issues/problems.

The challenges I have faced
The business depends on landlords and letting agents been aware of the electrical and gas safety regulations. There is a better awareness in England and Wales of the need to do electrical and gas safety checks due to a number of prosecutions for failure to comply with landlord regulations. The lack of, if any, prosecutions within N.Ireland under the same regulations contribute to the apathy in many parts of the local N.Ireland market to the safety regulations. I have overcome this by making significant investment in literature that now sits in many letting agents offices. Many agents have also incorporated my advise into their own information packs. By working closely with letting agents we get referrals to landlords.

Positive results were also achieved by talking to local council authorities some of which have recently produced a guide for landlords that highlights the requirement to comply with the safety regulations.

My advice to someone thinking of buying his or her first franchise
There is no 100% guarantee that a chosen business is going to work for you. However the security of a proven system as offered by a franchise is hard to match. When running your own business or franchise especially in early days be prepared for the quiet periods, but also be ready for the busy business. The key is flexibility and been able to plan for and respond to the market dips and highs.

My plans for the future
The franchisor is looking at larger markets such as care homes. I am following this up also and looking at other commercial type property such as business parks and offices. More business owners are becoming aware that their insurance cover is invalidated if they do not comply with electrical and/or gas regulations and guidelines. We have completed electrical inspection in one business park and plan to expand more into this commercial property market.

Oscar Reaps Success in Northern Ireland

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Why I chose franchising

I chose franchising as it offered me a complete system to start up my own business and to keep it running efficiently.

What I did before taking up a franchise

Before taking up the Oscar Pet Food franchise, I worked in an engineering environment, being responsible for the quality inspection department of one of the factories, operated by an aircraft seating company.

How I raised the finance

I raised the finance through my local bank.

The training and support I receive from my franchisor

The training and support I received from Oscars, Preston is very good without them being intrusive.

The challenges I have faced

The main challenge I faced was keeping a tight check on finances in those first few years.

My advice to someone thinking of buying their first franchise

Expect to work very long hours initially with very little financial return. Eventually it will all come together and you will be able to get the best combination of money and time off that suits the lifestyle you aspire to.

My plans for the future

My plans for the future are to expand my business.

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