Name:Steve and Deb Swann
Location:Stoke On Trent
Date launched:October 2006
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to setting up your Northwood franchise business?
I had been part of the middle and senior management team at a local ceramics manufacturing company here in Stoke on Trent and, having been with the company for over 20 years I became frustrated at decisions being made and my lack of control in certain situations.
Deb had set up a new Government funded multi-agency team working with schools, health and social service and the programme was coming to an so we started to look at opportunities where we could be in control.
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose Northwood?
We looked at a variety of business opportunities but felt that the franchise route would knock 5 years off the business plan and would help us get established in the market place with a recognisable brand.
We initially looked at the business, some franchises offer an opportunity to be self-employed, and some franchise opportunities are so reliant on the franchisor that if anything happened to them your business would fold overnight.
We wanted a business that we were in control of, which we could develop into a business that had a value, being able to build the business at our pace with the support of the brand, the training and the expertise of the franchisor.
We discounted many business’ on the route to our final decision, the decision was not made in a particular sector of the market but more from a point of could we make this business work, could it become profitable and then is it a business that we felt comfortable working in.
Northwood make you feel included and offer the qualities we were looking for, we are invited on a variety of steering groups to ensure that franchisee’s have an input in to the development of the overall franchise system.
How did you raise the finance?
We had some savings but not a huge amount, cashed in ISA’s and we had equity in our property. We were given assistance putting the business plan together which we presented to the bank who were happy to loan the rest against the business plan.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
The training was vitally important, at Northwood they train you to a point that you are able to open then offer limitless support ongoing. Ten years in and we still have occasion to call up for a bit of advice or some legal support.
All of our team have attended basic training and are following this up with ongoing personal development courses from webinars to the much higher level of BTEC Level 4 Professional Diploma in Residential Letting & Management.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
There is no typical day in this business which is what we love. We are dealing with people and their homes however we are now getting to a stage in our business where our position is more one of directing our business as opposed to being involved in the day to day tasks of the business.
What challenges have you faced?
It’s a business, it is not a till filling exercise, anyone getting involved in a business may it be a franchise or not needs to be aware there are going to be good days and bad, the difference when it is your business the buck stops with you but on the flip side it is your business, no one else’s.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Yes most definitely. As a business owner you have a pride in what you are developing, the team you employ and the clients you serve. A brand can be developed over many years but can be destroyed very easily.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to set up their first franchise?
Look at the business, is it a business? The team behind it, can you work with them? Then follow the plan, don’t try to change the shape of the wheel.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Someone with a passion, the basics of business acumen and a strength to succeed, in our case the support of each other with a common goal.
What are your plans for the future?
We have a structured business plan that we work towards, this is flexible and moves with the growth of the company and the market place.
Would you do it again?
Yes but would probably have done it 5 or 10 years earlier.