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Business Affairs

If you're considering going into franchising with your other half, ensure it's a business match made in heaven. Here five couples offer their tips for the top

Going into business with a partner may be some people's idea of hell. But for others, nothing could be more rewarding than building a business together. In fact, one in five franchises in the UK are owned by a couple (NatWest/bfa Survey 2010). So what does franchising have to offer ‘us'?

Franchising provides the chance to be your own boss and run a business with the security of a tried, tested and proven business model with training and ongoing support. Nevertheless setting up and running a franchise is a huge and challenging task, one that can be eased with the support of your partner, as Granite Transformations franchisee Rob Douthwaite, 41, says: "Running the business is a big job for one person, so working together eases the workload, but also if I'm working late, my wife is understanding and supportive because she understands what needs to be done."

Sarah Dyckhoff, 46, a Cartridge World franchisee agrees: "I run the store, enabling my husband Martin to do the deliveries - it really helps to have someone of some standing doing this job because it's where we receive the majority of our customer feedback, which is essential to running a successful business."

A partnership also brings a wider skill set to the job in hand. Cash generator franchisee Alex Sturgess, 42, explains: "Our skills complement each other. My wife Karen is the motivator. She deals with the finance side of the business because she has great attention to detail, whereas I tend to be more slapdash. I take care of the management side of the business. We have different roles so we are not in each others pockets or stepping on each other's toes."

Many franchises offer flexible hours and work particularly well for couples with young children who are looking for a better work-life balance. Alex adds: "Running a business together fits in well with family life because if the children are sick, I can cover Karen. We take it in turns to drop the children off at school and spend time with them."

Dan Archer, X-Press Legal Services Franchise Development Director, agrees that flexibility is the main attraction for couples. He explains: "Around 28 per cent of X-Press Legal Services franchisees are couples, which is ahead of the national average of 22 per cent. The flexibility of the business is the reason we have more couples. Many start with one partner working full-time and the other remaining in employment until the business has grown and more human resources are needed.

"Also many franchises, such as ours, allow franchisees to start their business from a home office and are only encouraged to move into office space when employees are required. Couples can delay the move into offices for longer allowing for a more profitable home-based business."

Cartridge World

Sarah and Martin Dyckhoff were lor a local business, and within six weeks decided to buy the Aylesbury Cartridge World store in Buckinghamshire

Why did you buy this franchise?
We wanted a tried-and-tested business so we looked at franchising. We didn’t want to start a franchise from the beginning either, so when we heard that our local Cartridge World store was up for resale, we decided to go for it.

How do you separate work and home life?
I’m getting better at it! When you own a business you think about it most of the time, but that’s just the nature of running your own business.

Top tip: Make time for each other outside the business – where you don’t talk about work! If you want income coming in from day one, opt for a franchise resale (an existing business) like we did. (For more on resales, see page 70).


Cash Generator

After 10 years of marriage, Alex and Karen Sturgess moved their family from Devon to Northampton to run a Cash Generator store

What are the advantages of working with a partner rather than a friend?
Going into business with your partner I think can work better than going into it with a friend. Friends fall out and you’re probably more likely to argue over money, whereas you can be honest with your partner and you’re more likely to work through the problems until you find a solution.
We motivate each other. If one of us is feeling disheartened or tired, the other is there to pick you up.

Top tip: Listen to and take advice from each other.  Try not to bring work home with you.


Domino’s Pizza

Andy and Lisa Gamwell worked together for six years before deciding to go into business together in 2003. They now own four Domino’s Pizza franchises in Lincoln and Newark.

Did you both join the business at the same time?

Yes. Domino’s suggested that Lisa could continue working as a Domino’s store manager while I set up the business, but I felt she had a skill set we needed for the business.

How do you make it work?

We have similar personalities, but we also have different roles. It’s unusual to have the same skill set as your partner, so you need to define your roles in accordance with both your strengths.

You can talk your problems through at any time of the day, you don’t have to arrange a meeting, so issues can get sorted out immediately. It also allows us to work flexible hours. Lisa is expecting our first child in September so I can cover her or vice versa if we need someone to look after the children Or, for example, if we’re on holiday and there’s a problem, one of us can be on the phone working while the other one is playing with the children.

As with any new business it’s difficult to take holidays in the early years, but now we have built up a dedicated team we can rely on. We’re always on call while we’re away, but it’s not a problem. I don’t have trouble switching off because I don’t see it as necessary. If we get a phone call at 1am, it’s just part of the business, it’s our life.

Top tip: You both need to be interested and passionate about the business.

Granite Transformations

Rob and Georgina Douthwaite opened a Granite Transformations store in Lymington, Hampshire, in 2003. 

What were the main challenges of working together at first?

You quickly learn that the way you both deal with issues at home and at work is very different. At home sometimes it’s better to have harmony than to win an issue. At work it’s about the bottom line. You need to talk openly, frankly and objectively without emotion to reach a solution. You also need to establish boundaries between work and home life and actively talk about everything.

Do you have separate roles?

I work on the operational side, Georgie deals with the admin and sales. Our roles are ever-changing though and they overlap. It’s good to have an understanding of both sides of the business so you can both step in to cover the other person when needed.

Top tip: Treat each other as business partners at work.

Snack in a box

Susan and Keith Denwood operate 84 Snack in the Box vending machines in Halifax, Bradford and Huddersfield.

Why did you go into franchising together?
We wanted to work together and felt it was safer going into franchising than starting a business from scratch because of the back-up you receive from the franchisor. We have different strengths so we thought we could combine them to run a business.

You get total trust. I don’t think you can ever quite get that by working with a friend. You also have the drive to help each other as much as you can because it is as much for their wellbeing as your own. The money is all for the same thing.

It’s nice that if there are any issues you can sort them before you go to bed. There is emotional support too. For instance, if one of you isn’t feeling very well, the other tends to pull you through.

We don’t take long holidays, but we’ve chosen to run our own business for our own advantages and we really enjoy the lifestyle it brings. It’s not a chore because we’re not doing it for someone else. I don’t get the Friday feeling, but I don’t get the Monday morning feeling either!

Top tip: Look at both of your strengths. Choose a franchise that you can both contribute to and enjoy your roles. n