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Taking care of business - B2B franchise advice

B2B Franchising

If you're looking for a franchise that draws on your professional strengths, consider a business-to-business venture 

The business-to-business (B2B) services sector can include a wide range of franchises from cost-reduction consultancies to commercial cleaning to property searches and even creative industries such as website development and branding.

Providing evidence that business services is a growing market is Michael Bright of IMSM, a management consultancy. Michael says: “The global recession has not clipped our wings as clients continue to flock to us; it’s a demonstration that there is no substitute for quality in business.” With 20 years’ experience, Michael has honed a franchise model that successfully operates globally. It is, he says, “no ordinary management consultancy” one that is seeking the kind of candidates that are looking to run their own business with “a company with quality at its very heart”.

The advantages of this sector are numerous, not least because businesses themselves are a reliable, captive marketplace, especially for the right service provider. Often the franchisor will have strong connections with other brand names and industries so that franchisees can hit the ground running. Plus, many B2B operations don’t require high-street premises.

These, and the other benefits of running a B2B franchise, are explained here by three franchisees that have found career success in the business services sector.

LuluLocal 

Tiz Bell-Richards (centre) has worked in small- and medium-sized businesses in Tunbridge Wells for 20 years, and last year opened a LuluLocal franchise there.

What attracted you to franchising?
Having set up my own businesses from scratch in the past, I was very aware of the initial time and financial investment required in branding, marketing, publicity, systems, etc and I decided to seek a new venture that was already established in these areas. The support and networking aspects of a franchise also appealed to me; I enjoy being self-employed but it can be very lonely if you are completely on your own.

Why did you choose LuluLocal in particular?
I wanted to do something locally in Tunbridge Wells, preferably in the service sector. What immediately attracted me to LuluLocal was the aspect of support for local business, giving them the opportunity to publicise themselves more widely to local customers. I was impressed that it wasn’t just another directory but a means for a business to communicate their product or service, offers and promotions to the local community on an ongoing basis. I have lived in Tunbridge Wells for over 25 years and I knew that there were businesses that would jump at the opportunity to be on LuluLocal. I was also immediately struck by the clear branding, cohesiveness of the marketing materials, energy in the development of the brand and by the approachability of the franchisor, who was keen to hear about new ideas and developments. The business model was really attractive too. I know from my previous experience that if you sell 10 widgets one month you’ve got to sell another 10 next month just to stand still, so it can be hard getting growth. With LuluLocal, our business clients sign up for monthly subscriptions so these recurring revenues seem to really be building up month by month as I add new clients.

How have you found your experience so far?
It’s working really well. As I predicted, local businesses have been keen to sign up to a web-based form of marketing that puts their offer into the heart of the Tunbridge Wells community. The response has been tremendous, one client could not believe the amount of extra enquiries she had as a result of signing up to LuluLocal and publicising her business.

What kind of support have you received from the franchisor?
I believe that the most important thing about taking on a franchise is the initial brief and training. Mike Tapia’s enthusiasm and passion in explaining his reason for setting up LuluLocal was contagious. He was able to talk though the logic behind every part of the business and gave me a strong and clear sales pitch that I was able to understand, agree with and use to hit the ground running.  

Taking on a business is complex and having clear sensible systems in place made the whole transition very easy, from publicity to marketing approach, record keeping, taking payments and invoicing it had all been thought through very carefully, and was easy to follow.


Once I had understood the business idea and began to take it into the community, I found Mike was really supportive. He is always available on the end of the phone, making time to talk issues and ideas through and taking the time to contact me to ask how it’s going. His encouragement has been very welcome.

What are the advantages of working in the B2B sector?
Every business needs more customers, and therefore sales, to hit the bottom line. LuluLocal is a cost-effective way of getting a business seen by hundreds of potential customers, and everyone I have spoken to has been interested in LuluLocal, viewing it as a benefit to the business community.

What advice would you give to anyone considering franchising?
Search very carefully for a business that you believe in and can feel passionate about. Make certain that the franchisor can make you feel excited about his or her vision – if they can’t, you are not going to be able to convince the customer. Ask questions to ensure that there are decent and workable systems in place for the entire business journey. The availability and approachability of a franchisor is very important; you need to be able to get hold of them and talk things through. I was looking for a two-way street – I was happy to take on someone else’s vision but I wanted to be able to contribute by giving my own ideas too. Not all of them are taken on board, but a good few have been! 

Select Appointments 

Alun Williams has owned a Select Appointments recruitment agency franchise in Bristol since 2008, which he runs and manages with his son Peter. Alun comes from a background of high-level management roles within the healthcare sector.

What attracted you to franchising?
After a career in the healthcare sector at senior director level, I was after a business to provide a good income and be flexible enough to allow me to maintain other business interests such as the non-executive directorships I hold, with the franchisor’s approval. I also wanted to involve my son and have a legacy business to pass on to him when I retire.

Why did you choose Select?
I must have looked at 25 franchise opportunities overall. I was looking for a business where the skills I had gained in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and corporate finance sectors would be relevant. Select stood out because it has huge brand recognition – it is synonymous with recruitment in the UK. I was used to recruiting people in my previous roles so there was a natural fit. I took over an existing Select franchise in Bristol and could see there was good growth potential in the branch, enabling me to create the legacy business that I was aiming for.

How have you found your experience of the business so far?
Opening the agency at the start of the recession in 2008 was admittedly tough. We found the temp side of the business worked out very well, however, and today the business is performing well above expectations; we are looking to increase the number of consultants in the team this year. I currently have a great team of five people led by a very competent executive manager. My son is also actively involved in the business, looking after credit control and business support for the office.

Personally, I find it a very rewarding business to be in. We receive lots of thank you letters from people we have placed in jobs and testimonials from clients who are delighted with the personnel we have helped them recruit. It is very satisfying to see a graduate who has been searching for work for months finally land a job they enjoy doing.

What kind of support have you received from the franchisor?
The dedicated Select team couldn’t be more supportive, they are there to help and support us with anything we need, whether it is strategic advice or marketing. The training provided is second to none. All trainees and new consultants take part in an initial four-day induction training module at head office that covers prospecting, sales, negotiation, IT systems and financials. There is also a huge variety of other professional development opportunities that consultants can take advantage of to develop their skills. Graduates joining us as trainees know there is a solid career path they can follow if they have the talent and ambition.

Describe a typical day.
As I have other business interests, I probably spend two to three days full-time on the Bristol business per week. My main role is to mentor and motivate staff and oversee the direction and strategy of the business to ensure we are meeting targets and maintaining profitability. For consultants, a typical day will involve a combination of sales prospecting, interviewing clients and client visits to get an in-depth understanding of their business in order to match them with the right candidates.

What advice would you give anyone considering franchising?
I would say that franchising is a much safer bet than starting a business on your own. Although it is not vital to have experience in the chosen sector, it is essential to have some prior business or commercial knowledge before embarking on a franchise. Keeping an eye on cashflow is key, make sure you have some surplus funds available in case of emergencies. I would have no hesitation in recommending a Select Appointments franchise, as the potential rewards can be substantial for a modest investment.

 

LMS 

Russ Bradley is an LMS franchisee based in Derby. Originally from Birmingham, Russ has lived all over the country and has a varied skill set. Working together with LMS has proved to be an excellent and exciting opportunity to grow a business in the energy conservation industry.

Why did you choose LMS?
Occasionally, opportunities arise that a proactive and ambitious businessman simply cannot turn down – the chance to join a company that already sits at the forefront of a boom industry was one of these! The products within the LMS portfolio are second to none in specification and price.

How have you found your experience running the business so far?
The additional product and business support given by the LMS team make it nearly impossible to fail. All I had to do as a motivated businessman was ensure that I took all advice on board and used my sales experience and interpersonal skills in what is still an untapped market. Armed with the quality and value that LMS provide, I can go as far as my ambition will take me.

What kind of ongoing support have you received?
Once I’d signed up and received the initial in-depth training, the relationship with staff became one of friendship. From operations director Jamie to Richard the warehouse manager to Charlotte in reception, the staff are willing to match your ambition in creating the strongest brand in the market.

Would you recommend an LMS franchise to others?
Definitely. With LMS, the potential for rapid and immediate growth from minimum investment is considerable.

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