For Caroline Robinson, a long-held desire to run her own business was fulfilled when she started her Sandler Training Cambridge franchise – and within just three years she’d been named the network’s Franchisee of the Year!
Here Caroline reflects on her first four years in the business: overcoming challenges, scaring herself silly – and becoming an alchemist!
Year 1: Let’s get going
I started with Sandler in April 2012. Previously I was a strategy consultant to the pharmaceutical industry and I was looking for a new challenge. I wanted to develop further expertise, particularly in business development, and I wanted to run my own company. Sandler offered me the opportunity to bring all of that together.
I was attracted primarily by what Sandler stood for; the opportunity to continuously learn and grow myself within a supportive culture, as part of an established brand and network of like-minded business people. I was also looking for a quick ramp-up in my business and I felt that a franchise offered that to me in a way that was less likely by starting up on my own.
When it came to my expectations, I wanted the highest quality in terms of the calibre of training, the client experience and the returns on investment for my clients. I had very specific goals and a vision to work towards when I started out.
Year 2: Collaboration and support
The first 18 months in the business were challenging, but thanks to the collaborative approach of the Sandler network, both in the UK and US, and my mentoring from Anneli, the Oxford franchisee, I am now firmly on track.
The level of support, coaching and the frequency of it that I get from head office has exceeded my expectation. I talk to my fellow Sandler franchisees regularly and to a certain extent they’re mentoring and coaching me as well. I was constantly amazed by their generosity, what they’re willing to share and how they’ll help you in any way they can.
That’s a very genuine sentiment I’ve got from everybody in the network. It bowled me over, I didn’t expect that level of support and collaboration between franchisees. I’m very impressed by the calibre of people within the network as well.
Year 3: Awards, Success Triangle and work/life balance!
This year I was named Sandler’s Franchisee of the Year! I was very surprised but really pleased. It’s been a great endorsement of how far both I and the business have come since 2012. I’ve grown a good client base and they’ve been getting great results, so the award felt like a testament to all that hard work.
The fundamental cornerstone within Sandler is something called the ‘Success Triangle’ which is that to be more successful in growing sales – in fact, with any aspect of life – there are three things to work on: attitude, behaviours, and techniques. If I look at my growth since 2012 those are the three areas I’ve really focused on and developed personally as well as with my clients to help them get the success they want to achieve. The award is a great endorsement that the philosophy really does work on an individual and company level.
Over the last 12-18 months I’ve become much better at setting my work/life balance. I’ve discovered that I must have two goals at any one time: one of those goals is always a revenue goal for the business; to balance that, I have to have an exercise goal, something that frankly scares the living daylights out of me!
I love running and last year I signed up for a quadrathlon. I’d never done anything like it before and fitting in the training with everything else I was juggling was a challenge. But with Sandler we teach the principles of setting yourself ‘stretch goals’ and how to work towards them, so I was delighted and proud of my achievement as I crossed the finish line!
The Alchemy Group within Sandler in the UK is a group to help us take our businesses to the next level – essentially, practicing what we preach with our clients. For me this is the next stepping stone. I’ve got big ambitious plans for where I want to take the business in the future and the Alchemy Group is a way of helping me to get really specific on questions like ‘What is the plan, the strategy and the actions that I need to be implementing in the next year, and subsequent years, to get to that level?’
Year 4: The Alchemy Group
Sandler UK’s ‘Alchemy Group’ helps established, high-earning franchisees take their businesses to the next level. Many solo consultants hit a plateau once they clear their initial target of billing £100,000 a year – and then require further training to scale up their operation without impacting profitability.
The Alchemy Group was created to meet this requirement, and has been an unqualified success so far. It is also the perfect complement to our performance-based awards system.
After a day of learning, many of the major steps forward come from within our supportive group discussions, with inspired consultants asking themselves the three core questions relating to sustainable business growth:
More – Shall I do more of what I already do?
Better – Shall I do it better?
Different – What do I need to change?
With the outcomes of these sessions helping to create a clear roadmap for success, The Alchemy Group training has been a positive and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Year 5: The best yet! And a scary presentation…
It’s been the best year so far. I’ve taken it up to the next level – partly from a revenue perspective, but also the kind of clients I’m winning now, larger clients and bigger opportunities with them. It feels like the business is continuing to grow up!
It’s thanks to the learning and experience gained over the last 2 years. And significantly, in the last year I’ve got a coach, a US-based Sandler franchisee who is well ahead of me in where his business is and his experience at growing it. Working with him has made a really big difference, both to me and to the business.
I don’t think you get this level of collaboration elsewhere. I’ve said all along, it makes Sandler unique. It’s 100% there right from the word go and as long as you’re in the network you’ll be able to tap into that. It’s very, very genuine.
We have our annual Client Summit in March each year and for the first year ever I spoke at that, in Orlando. It was a huge deal for me. There were around 1,100 people there and my presentation was to about a third of them. It was a little scary! It went brilliantly, I was so pleased.
As for the future? I’m due to renew my franchise agreement this year, which is a no-brainer for me. I’ve thought about my longer-term goals very carefully over the last 6 months and for me it’s about continuing to grow the business but in a way that enables me to step back a little bit – to where I’m able to work four days a week but it’s still growing and functioning exactly the way I want it to.
I have the same growth trajectory, but I’m making it so that I don’t have to work every hour under the sun to achieve my goals!