David Hughson is a perpetually happy chap. Sometimes, in other people, that can be quite an irritating trait, especially if you suspect it’s a bit of an act, but with David you just know he’s a man whose made some great work life decisions and feels the benefit most, if not every, day.
Does he own a Formula 1 team or a football club or a brewery? Actually, he runs a gardening franchise and gets to play outside most days. Let’s find out how he got there….
Between 2002 and 2005 David was the Deputy Chief Executive of Royal London Asset Management. It was a good job with a good salary and a nice pension and he was pretty content. Then one day he was made redundant. The onset of dented pride, bruised ego and deflated soul searching was fast. David had spent his whole career building up to that point; what was he supposed to do now? What could he do now?
Turns out, David was to take Gardening Leave quite literally.
Having commuted between Edinburgh and London for those four years, David had hired a professional to look after his own garden so that he could spend more time with his family when at home. Having been less than impressed with the quality of work getting done, he decided to once again embrace his ‘hobby’ and get out there and do it himself. It would give him space to think; a chance to decide what he was going to do for the rest of his working days. At only 46, a leisurely retirement to the golf course and cruises didn’t seem a feasible option.
To cut straight to the Eureka moment of the story, David decided that he wanted to go in a completely different direction and start up his own business looking after other people’s gardens. What actually happened, was that after much deliberation and grudging acceptance that he wasn’t entirely sure how to go about setting up his own business from scratch, David discovered franchising.
A relatively simple business model where an individual can buy the right to trade under an established brand name, in an allocated territory and make full use of the company’s business model, training and support. David very much liked this idea and began investigating the different gardening franchises to see which one he felt could give him the most competitive advantage and support.
There were, and still are, many to choose from. With a background in investments, David had the early advantage of understanding the full scope of what to look for in each brand. What was the training worth? What was the support worth? What business would be generated by the brand alone? What impact would the franchise brand have on the resale value when he came to sell it?
Jim’s Mowing really stood out for David when he applied this thought process across all the gardening franchises on offer. A huge international franchise brand, established in 1989, that had grown from Jim’s Mowing into the Jim’s Group which has (correct at time of writing) 41 different divisions including plumbing, cleaning and most recently traffic control! With over 3,000 franchise owners worldwide, Jim’s Mowing ticked all the boxes David was looking for.
Of course deciding to invest in a franchise isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) a simple matter of picking the one you want and paying for it. The franchisor has a responsibility to ensure you are the best person to run the franchise in that territory. Franchises are usually ‘awarded’ to an individual after what can sometimes be a long process of meetings, interviews, presentations and business plans.
The process went very smoothly for David, greatly assisted by the fact the Edinburgh territory that he wanted was actually available and he had really impressed the team at Jim’s with his research and commitment.
“I signed up in 2006, took on my first employee in March 2007, my second in April 2007, and my third in May 2007. It literally took off,” he said. “Although I had been office based and lifted nothing heavier than a phone, I received all the garden training required to launch my business and make enough clients happy to employ six gardeners at my peak. It was quite amusing to be getting paid for climbing trees and getting covered in mud, things that my old man used to give me a clip round the ear for!”
The story doesn’t stop there however. A few years in, David saw the opportunity to become on a divisional franchisor for Jim’s Mowing in the UK. This means that David effectively owns key development regions for Jim’s Mowing within the UK and is responsible for supporting his franchisees in these regions. Rather than spending his day in customer’s gardens and managing his small team in Edinburgh, David’s focus is on supporting every Jim’s Mowing franchisee in his regions and bringing new franchisees into his growing network who can perform just as he did and grow successful, profitable businesses that gives them the lifestyle they want.
“For someone who wants to throw away the suit and tie, get outdoors and do something physical, and make a good return from doing so, what more could you ask for? Jim’s Mowing provides comprehensive training, marketing and equipment support for people from all walks of life and presents a great platform for them to take their business in the direction that they want. Some just want to work by themselves; others want to conquer the world. Jim’s Mowing can happily accommodate both and everyone in between.”
According to the British Franchise Association, the UK franchise industry has an annual turnover of around £13.7bn and employs well over half a million people. Perhaps the most startling fact is that 92% of franchise outlets (including new businesses) are reporting to be in profit – quite a contrast to the often dismal success rate statistics for independent new starts.
“Investing in a Jim's Mowing franchise has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being my own boss but with an experienced support network around me has given me the confidence to grow a very successful business. If I can help other like-minded people to make this change and join us at Jim's Mowing and experience the release, the freedom and the success then even better!”
Franchising has given David and many others like him an incredible second career that he had previously not even imagined.