Exclusive Interview: "There was no hard sell, InXpress' success spoke for itself"
Name: Rebecca Robyns
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?
Before I joined InXpress I was doing a lot of freelance work in marketing and sales. I worked for various agencies on 6 month contracts or 6 week projects depending on what the client required. For a long time I was very busy with that and worked on a wide variety of projects from Computing to Lifestyle magazines. I enjoyed the freedom of working from home and, as the Mother of two children, I was able to manage my work-life balance really well and the money was great. Prior to that I ran a fashion house for a few years and won the “Young Woman of Achievement” award from Hull Enterprise, who help and support local businesses in my home town. I loved running a shop but soon realised that working what was effectively 7 days a week with a baby and a toddler wasn’t going to last long-term, I was exhausted!
It was during my freelancing period that I found out about InXpress, I was working for a magazine and another franchisee was placing an advertisement in the magazine because they were looking for a sales person. I managed to talk myself into the job rather than them have to advertise it! Working for another franchisee gave me good experience in the business and working with the software.
I realised that I was making him a lot of money and I thought I could do it for myself! To my delight the Hull franchise was available to buy and so I seized the opportunity.
Why did you choose your particular franchise business? What research did you undertake?
"I chose InXpress mainly due to having worked in the business for another franchise and so was already familiar with it and could see the real benefits for myself. I wanted something that was proven because I knew it was going to affect my family and our future. I didn’t want to gamble on that! I was also lucky that my ex-husband, Malcolm, was on hand to help me, he has a wealth of experience in business and has since taken on a more involved role in the business, and helped to drive it forward."
Having worked for InXpress already and speaking to a few other franchisees, I could see what they were achieving and knew the business was within reach for me.
I also liked the support at InXpress. As soon as you join they’re very open about how everything is run. You can always call other franchisees for advice and to find out more about the franchise opportunity. InXpress Head Office put you in touch with a range of successful franchisees so that you can meet with them or talk to them over the phone. There’s transparency with InXpress and there’s a nice family feel to the business.
How did you raise the finance for funding your InXpress franchise? Did you use any financial support (grants etc.) specific to business start-up?
I just took out a regular loan over 3 years but we managed to pay off the loan within the first year so now I am able to enjoy the rewards of the business.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing from your franchisor?
Before I signed up to become a franchisee I went on a sales training course that introduced me to InXpress with the CEO, John Thompson and effervescent sales Trainer and motivator, Kenny B and was pretty hooked from there. When it came to buying a franchise, I was left to make up my mind with no pressure whatsoever and this again was a good sign, no hard sell was involved. The training was brilliant but a week is nothing! You’ve got to get out there and do it for yourself – there’s no substitute for hard work!
"I visited another franchisee, Andy Mitchell from Guildford, because he was the number one franchisee at the time and he was really supportive and answered all of my questions. I also visited a few more local franchisees. You can always pick up the phone to someone, whether it’s another franchisee or the support team at Head Office – there’s always someone on the other end of the phone to help."
InXpress really is a family network and that’s a great thing to have behind you.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I’m multi-tasking at present with my EYE SeeMe project which will be part of InXpress’s “Giving Back” charity scheme and so I am lucky that I have a very capable and supportive team around me.
As we’ve become more and more successful, I’ve found that the phones don’t ring as much but a typical day involves answering customer queries, being available to customers, checking on shipments, generating new business and customer visits.
At InXpress we are in close contact with our customers – it’s a handholding relationship. We make sure that we speak to our customers at least once a fortnight and our key clients who are shipping a vast amount of goods need regular support. If we have a new customer, we go out and train them on Webship which is our booking platform. My time is a combination of time in the office and customer visits.
Without Malcolm, who is filling my shoes at the moment and Gavin Orrey who is my office manager, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I also have Mariah who does the telesales support and my son Will, who is now working part-time in the business during the school holidays!
What challenges have you faced?
I faced the usual challenges of being a business owner. Sometimes you get customers who you have to go above and beyond for. For some customers, everything is about price and they are usually the most difficult customers!
"We can offer great prices but one of the main things about InXpress is the quality of the service we offer. We offer a more localised customer care, something that larger corporations cannot always give due to their size, and that’s something that money can’t buy!"
There are also the odd shipments that have problems that you can’t do anything about but other than that I haven’t really faced many challenges.
Has becoming an InXpress franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Yes, it has. It has improved the quality of my life in a financial sense but it has also given me personal freedom to run my charity project.There’s no way I could have run my charity project with a fixed 9-5 job because I wouldn’t be able to go out to South East Asia regularly. It has also changed my families lives too as my two sons have enjoyed a private education as a result and is one of the reasons I have set up a charity to help children into education in south east Asia, as I feel incredibly grateful and am a firm believer in giving back where you can.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
It would be someone who doesn’t give up. You have to work long hours initially and really focus on the business. If you put the work in at the beginning and really focus on it, you will succeed. If you get it right and get the right customers and formula the rest will blossom from there. There are no shortcuts!
It did take me a couple of years to get the right balance!
What are your plans for the future?
I want to grow the franchise and my charity project alongside each other. I want to have a successful business but I also want to help as many children globally as possible to get access to education.
I’m lucky that I have great staff so I don’t have to step back into the business all the time. I think the staff know if better than I do now but I’m passionate about InXpress and I always want to keep an eye on it to make sure my staff are looked after properly. It’s all a careful balancing act.
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