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Minuteman Press Ayr is a true family business

Name: Jeff & Lise Whittle
Location: Ayr
Franchise: Minuteman Press
Date launched the franchise: October 2009

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a Minuteman Press franchise?
“I am a graduate mechanical engineer (University of Bristol) and have an MBA from Kingston Business School.  My previous career was as a Quality Engineer becoming a Quality Director, before I moved into Programme Management as a Project Director.” 

“My wife, Lise, has an artistic background, having studied Silversmithing and Jewellery to degree level, she became a Designer Jeweller until our family came along.  When she returned to work, she became a part-time Teaching Assistant.”

Can you also tell us about Minuteman Press franchise?
“We are a marketing and printing centre that helps our clients with anything they need in regards to their printing, logo, and branding. We help other businesses grow and that is a great feeling. A client can consult with us to discuss an idea with one of our graphic designers.  We can then turn it into a finished design and product that we are all proud of.”

Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose the printing industry? And why did you choose a Minuteman Press franchise?
“One of my electives for my MBA was small business management and I thought it was time to be my own boss.  I went along to a franchise fair in Glasgow and met the Minuteman Press International team.  I was definitely interested and Vice President George Holzmacher met me on several occasions to visit some of the Minuteman centres in Scotland.”  

“Coming from a manufacturing engineering background, one of the key factors choosing Minuteman Press was the proprietary software that was part of their proven system of operations. Minuteman Press has made a major investment in this software, called Flex, and that is a huge help in managing all aspects of our business. Another key factor, of course, was that the company had family values and really wanted the owners to succeed, offering superb support at all times.”

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
“After identifying a site for our store, Lise and I went to the two week training in the US.  Again, I was impressed with Minuteman Press facilities and the high standard of training.  Personally, it was important to really succeed as we were investing our life savings in this new venture and I made sure I did the homework each night, so we were prepared for the next day’s training!”

 “When we arrived back in Ayr, our new equipment was installed and tested.  We interviewed and selected a full-time Graphic Designer who we employed, and we were ready to open on 19 October 2009 when the country was still in recession.  We were very ably supported by our Area Manager Dave Watson, who worked with us for 3 weeks with our store set up and initial marketing to our local business community.”

“We still enjoy the support of the franchisor and enjoy the annual meeting with the rest of the franchise network. We also have the opportunity to attend an Expo in the US every two years where further training is available on everything from motivation and understanding customers to the latest innovations in marketing and printing.”

“I’ve often been often asked why I don’t go it alone with a business, but from the outset I was looking for an established franchisor. I enjoy the support of Minuteman Press; they are always there at the end of the phone and from the off I’ve benefited from their superb system and ongoing training.”

How would you describe your day-to-day role as a Minuteman Press franchisee?
“After nearly ten years in business we are a firm part of the local business community with many long-term repeat customers. I still work full time on the business and Lise works part time. Our three children have also all worked here!”

“My two sons would work here in their university holidays while my daughter, the youngest, actually continued to work here part-time after completing her college education. Two years ago, at her own request, she became a full-time member of the team and is pursuing her career as a graphic designer. It’s been very satisfying building a business that has served our family so well in many different ways. We’ll be continuing to run the business for many years to come and it’s brilliant that the next generation of our family are part of that.”

What challenges have you faced?
“Lise worked part-time in the store and I worked full time.  It was tough at the beginning, however, I received terrific support from Dave Watson, my local BNI group, friends and relatives and I redoubled my marketing efforts to get it on track.”

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
“Our business has steadily grown. Our two sons and daughter worked part-time during their university and college holidays.  Our youngest son continues to work part-time within the bindery department, and our daughter, Lara (the youngest), has joined us as a full-time graphic designer, since leaving college with her HND.  It is marvellous that the next generation has joined us and we enjoy working well together.  We also employ two other full-time graphic designers (who are also both excellent), so we have doubled our staff complement since we have opened.”

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?  In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?  
“It is important to keep marketing to new and existing customers and we aim to serve our customers with care and efficiency.  We are also proud when new customers come to us on the basis of referrals.” 

What are your plans for the future?
“It’s been very satisfying building a business that has served our family so well in many different ways. We’ll be continuing to run the business for many years to come and it’s brilliant that the next generation of our family are part of that.”

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