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Interview with award-winning multi-unit Pitman Training Franchisee


  • Name: Chris Wyle
  • Location: Cardiff, Nottingham, Leicester, Cambridge, Bishop Stortford, Sheffield, Birmingham, Clapham.
  • Franchise: Pitman Training
  • Date launched the franchise: 2013

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your Pitman franchise business?

Before Pitman, I had spent 21 years in training and senior management roles in the financial sector. The experience I gained from these positions has proved invaluable, as they allowed me to develop myself as a leader, instructor and coach. During this time, I gained skills that have helped me thrive in my current role as a franchisee, including excellent communication skills, strong leadership, and the ability to act quickly and decisively.

Even before my time with Pitman Training, my passion for helping people train and develop themselves was evident. As well as my management roles in the financial sector, I also delivered personal effectiveness and presentation skills training around the globe, which helped people to gain appointments at senior levels with new organisations, win internal promotions, sell more, motivate teams, deliver keynote conference presentations and run meetings more effectively. 

During this time, I began to understand a broad spectrum of solutions for people and their training needs, ranging from the demands of young students taking their first steps in the world of commerce to the needs of senior executives seeking board-level promotions.

Can you also tell us about Pitman Training 

The Pitman Training franchise is part of LaunchLife International, a global portfolio of educational franchise brands serving both the adult and children’s markets – so it suited my ambitions perfectly. However, after just two and a half years I decided running one training centre wasn’t enough. I have since grown my business portfolio to include eight Pitman Training territories in Cardiff, Nottingham, Leicester, Cambridge, Bishop Stortford, Sheffield, Birmingham and Clapham.

Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose your industry? And why Pitman?

In 2013 I decided I wanted to help improve people’s career prospects, gain promotions or help them get back into work. So, when the opportunity arose to join the UK and Ireland’s best-established training provider and become the franchise partner for Pitman Training in Birmingham, I jumped at the chance.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

Pitman has a very engaged managing director in the UK, making life a lot easier for franchise partners. Nothing is too much trouble when you ask a question and you’re always positively listened too. Since LaunchLife International acquired the Pitman Training brand, the network has grown from strength to strength. LaunchLife has introduced new robust systems, like the MyPitman portal, which has helped develop how we do things in a really positive way. Because of the support and constant innovation, Pitman is a great brand and an enjoyable network to be part of. They understand that they can only be successful when we, the franchise partners, are successful.

Aside from the flexibility of being a franchise partner, another driving factor for me to invest with Pitman was that they were such an established brand. This meant it was easier for me to attract clients and stand out in the education sector. When starting your own business, the unfortunate reality is that you have to invest so much time and effort in product development instead of sales and delivery. This makes it so difficult to turn a self-employed training gig into a job as you never get the chance to get your brand out there. Because of Pitman’s already established reputation and great courses, I was able to focus my time engaging with potential customers and generating new business – something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d started my own training business from scratch. 

How would you describe your day-to-day role as a Pitman franchisee

I focus a lot my time engaging with potential customers and generating new business.

Provide information on challenges overcome as well as your key successes to date. Please also detail the steps you have taken to manage the business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The biggest challenges I have had to overcome as a franchisee so far have related to staff. Because I employee 25 people across eight training centres, learning how to manage the issues of recruitment, losing experienced team members and sickness or absence management proved difficult at first. However, now I have a wealth of process in place to ensure I can minimise staff-related issues. One example of my solution to these issues would be that I have a matrix of my staff/skills and knowledge, so if we lose a member of the team, I can quickly identify someone in my network that can fill their role and reduce the strain on the rest of the team

My biggest successes to date would have to be my network’s growth. To put it bluntly, I have succeeded because I have constantly evolved and grown the network. During the pandemic especially, we embraced technology to support our growth and maintained our commitments to our students by shifting course provision online and receiving numerous five-star reviews and new enrolments in the process. In fact, we have helped hundreds of people study and complete their courses online.  The greatest advantage we offer is our curriculum delivery method, in which we have invested heavily. It allows us to deliver multi-modal learning and customisation to our students. As adult learners, we put the power of their course in their hands, allowing them to customise the order the modules are delivered and ensuring there is significant practical application to ensure solid skill mastery. This multi-modal learning proved vital as our students could continue to learn online with check-ins from a learning coach.

Not only have we retained business through the pandemic, but I was able to nurture other sides of the business too. In fact, because of the pandemic, I have been able to focus a lot of my time engaging with potential customers and generating new business. Over the past two years, we have provided constant support to the NHS with our world-renowned medical courses, such as the Medical Admin Diploma. This has been recognised by the NHS who now actively send students to study with us. As well as helping relieve the pressure on the NHS, we have developed corporate relationships and even partnered with Amazon to help thousands of Amazon employees upskill through the Amazon Career Choice programme.

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

Joining Pitman was the perfect opportunity for me to help improve people’s career prospects, gain promotions or help them get back into work. I’d heard positive things about the Pitman brand through a colleague who’d worked there before. So, after doing some research, I decided to invest in the Birmingham territory. It was too good an opportunity to miss. I’m now eight years down and have a fantastic work-life balance and would never have expected to also own the Cardiff, Nottingham, Leicester, Cambridge, Bishop Stortford and soon-to-open Sheffield centres when I started out.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

The great work-life balance comes from having such a great team around me — both from the people I employ, and the people Pitman employs. One thing I’ve found about being a franchise partner with Pitman is that you’re in business for yourself but not by yourself. There’s a level of comfort that you get because other people are involved in the same project. It’s a real team effort, and even if you’re a one-centre owner, you’ll never feel alone.

If you have staff, how do you retain your best staff and keep morale high and productive; how do you incentivise your staff and recognise success?

I am in a very fortunate position that we have hundreds of courses at our disposal at Pitman. So, we practice what we preach and use what we have got for staff development.

I encourage staff always to be learning because talent development is vital to sustainable business growth and success and is also crucial to helping people better themselves and stay ahead of the curve in their own professional lives. As mentioned above, I keep a matrix of which staff have done which course so I can keep track of their development and help to push them towards the courses that benefit their future ambitions most. Not only does this benefit my staff, but it also helps my customers because they receive the best quality support from the team.

I have also put staff on external courses. For example, I have put the sales team through an external course to help them target specific things we didn’t offer at Pitman. I have also paid for a dozen people to go on apprenticeships. 

I have put in place several incentives for staff to keep morale high and productive. The first is a bonus scheme. I believe that this positively affects the team’s behaviour, improves productivity by increasing motivation and helps the businesses meet our overall objectives. By using a bonus scheme, employees are rewarded for good behaviour, meeting expectations or even exceeding targets.

Another initiative I have put in place is an employee of the month scheme. This is done through a peer group vote and the winner receives an Amazon voucher. I firmly believe this scheme promotes a feel-good factor throughout the team and allows me to recognise the hard work my team put in on a daily basis. We also do an end of year awards. This contains categories such as salesperson of the year, learning coach of the year, employee of the year and a special recognition category. Again, this gives me another opportunity to show my team how grateful I am for all their hard work.

Can you tell us about any community involvement, including any local partnerships, incentives or charity work you are involved in? 

One of the best things about being a franchisee is that I am afforded loads of flexibility – which means I have plenty of time to take part in community and charity initiatives and enjoy spending time with my family.

Initially, I thought that becoming a multi-unit franchise partner would mean working more than the usual full-time hours, but because of the excellent staff I have and the franchise’s brilliant head office team, I’m presented with a great work-life balance that allows me to help my community. Personally, outside of work, as well as doing the school runs on both ends of the day, I work as a school governor, sit on my church parish council and am also a magistrate! Professionally, I work with local job centres to help people’s career prospects and get back into work. I also work for government agencies with the short- to medium-term unemployed, providing free career advice. At Pitman, we also offer our students with CV and Interview preparation workshops once they have finished their courses with us.

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

My advice for people thinking about becoming a franchise partner with Pitman would be that you should always look for multiple income streams. At Pitman Training, you can provide services to both private students and corporate clients, as well as supporting people through government-funded schemes. This is important if you want to be successful in your business, especially when certain market demand can fluctuate throughout the year. For example, when corporate sales go up, private acquisitions may go down. So, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and you will achieve consistent sales throughout the year.

What are your plans for the future?

I now plan to expand to 10 sites and increase turnover to 2.5 million by December 2023. This will be done by developing more corporate and government-funded contacts. I want to innovate to find more ways to help people and use my training centres to support my local communities through education and employment. I work as a school governor, sit on my church parish council and am also a magistrate! Professionally, we work with local job centres to help people’s career prospects and get them back into work. 

My goal is also to innovate the business and find more ways to help people and use my training centres to support my local communities. 

Interested and want to know more about Pitman Training?

The Pitman Training profile outlines all aspects of their franchise opportunity and allows you to contact them for further information or to ask a question.

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