Name: Diane Maxwell
Franchise: Driver Hire
Date launched the franchise: 2012
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying your Driver Hire franchise business?
I started my Driver Hire story in 2008 when I joined the team at Driver Hire Belfast, becoming the office manager in 2010. I’d previously worked in the transport office of a local haulier.
Can you also tell us about Driver Hire?
Now into its 35th year of trading, Driver Hire is the UK’s largest specialist supplier of temporary and permanent staff to the road transport and logistics industry. If a customer is short of staff – perhaps because of illness, holidays or seasonal demand – Driver Hire will supply them with a suitable replacement.
My office provides recruitment services to around 120 customers in Northern Ireland. We find regular work for around 100 drivers every week.
Why did you go down the franchise route?What made you choose the recruitment industry? And why did you choose a Driver Hire franchise?
I didn’t choose the franchise – the franchise chose me! In 2012 I’d been running the office successfully for 18 months. Driver Hire’s senior management team were clearly impressed and offered me the opportunity to buy the franchise and run the business for myself. I loved what I was doing, saw the potential and – whilst there was an element of risk – I backed myself to make a success of it.
How did you raise the finance?
I was offered the opportunity to buy a 49% stake as a joint venture, with financial help from Driver Hire. Two years later, having increased turnover to £1.439m (a 107% annual increase) my brother Danny joined me in the business, injecting further capital. As a result, we were able to buy out Driver Hire’s share and become joint franchisees and owners of Driver Hire Belfast.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
Being office manager and being a franchisee are similar jobs. Having run the business for nearly two years, I didn’t require a huge amount of initial training. However, I’ve still relied on regular head office support - one of the greatest benefits of being a franchisee is the back up and support of a good franchisor.
How would you describe your day-to-day role as a franchisee?
Danny’s role is looking after the financial and operations side of the business. Over the past decade, I’ve developed a really strong working relationship with our customers, so my role is looking after sales and customer services. In addition, we have two recruitment consultants (one of whom is my daughter) and an office administrator.
What challenges have you faced?
Life was tough in the early days. Whilst I was quite capable of managing the business on a day-to-day basis, setting targets and developing a strategy for sustainable growth was a whole new challenge. When times were particularly hard or not going well, being part of a franchise network gave me emotional and professional support.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Very definitely. Financially I’m much better off then I could even have dreamt of back in 2008 when I first joined Driver Hire as an employee. And, of course, Danny and I are building a valuable and attractive business should we decide to sell it at some time in the future.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
From talking to other franchisees who went down a more traditional purchase route, doing in-depth research and due diligence on both the franchise and the franchisor is essential. From a personal perspective, don’t underestimate the hard work and dedication you need to be successful.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Every franchise is different. But in my experience the key skills you need are sales, customer service, relationship building and management. And, as I’ve already said, an appetite for hard work.
What are your plans for the future?
In business terms, last year we achieved another record – passing £3m turnover for the first time. Only one other Driver Hire office has achieved this. So, it’s more of the same.
On a personal level, I became a grandmother last year so having built this business, it’s nice to allow myself a wee bit more time off to be with my beautiful granddaughter.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
It’s not all been plain sailing – far from it. But I don’t think there’s much I would change. From the outset, I’ve always believed in being honest with my customers and my drivers and offering them the same level of respect and decency that I would like to receive myself. It’s a formula that continues to work for our business.