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Setting the scene for a profitable, fun business

25 September 2019

If there’s one thing Richard Chatterley knows, its business. After moving to London aged 21, Richard took his first step up the corporate ladder to a career in business and computing which spanned two decades. If there’s one thing Richard Chatterley loves, its performance theatre – an endeavour previously saved for evenings and weekends, when he wasn’t in the office. But then Richard and wife, Tracey, discovered Stagecoach Performing Arts and the rest, as they say, is history.

Before giving up a career in recruitment to have the couple’s two children, Nathaniel and Alexandria, Tracey Chatterley had always been a keen actress. During the years after her children were born, she would regularly star in popular television series as an extra – a career which provided support for her family, but also supplied a creative outlet for Tracey.

“I really enjoyed the extra work, especially my small roles in EastEnders. I was even in the James Bond film, Skyfall, which was incredible. I’ve always been passionate about performing, but the awkward filming hours and travelling meant I was leaving my kids for too long. Richard was also working long hours and not getting home until the late evening, so we looked into business options which would fit around our family. That’s when we came across Stagecoach. Richard is very business minded, so he put together two business plans – one for starting an independent school and one for starting a franchise with Stagecoach. Stagecoach won, hands down.” said Tracey.

With Richard’s unquestionable expertise in the world of business, ensuring all eventualities were explored before they took the plunge was incredibly important to the couple. The temptation of running a company which combined their mutual love of amateur dramatics and Richard’s business acumen felt too good to pass up.

“We just couldn’t wait to work with such a respected household name. As soon as we came to the decision that Stagecoach would be perfect for our family, Tracey went ahead and started training. She took over Stagecoach Leighton Buzzard in early 2016. I was still working as an Account Director for an IT company at the time; spending half my week driving up and down the M25 and only just making it home in time for dinner. I could see how much fun Tracey was having, even after only a few months, and our own children were going to classes and thriving. It was a real eye opener for me – one day I just woke up and wanted in on the action!” said Richard.

For the second time that year, Richard and Tracey sat down and discussed their options. Experience wasn’t going to be an issue, as Richard had been involved in acting and music event production for years. Always the businessman, he put together a refreshed business plan to include another territory. This eliminated any doubt and Richard signed his franchise agreement in time for the September term that same year.

“The initial training was fantastic. I wasn’t sure what to expect and, although Tracey had gone through the same training earlier on in the year and she had enlightened me a little, I was still happily surprised. I was most impressed by the network of support you’re given, specifically when it comes to legal framework and child protection. If anything, the training confirmed that both myself and Tracey had done the right thing by becoming Stagecoach franchisees.” said Richard.

For almost 30 years, the Stagecoach model has been proven and refined to become one of the UK’s leading performing arts opportunities. Franchisees build a team of equally passionate and enthusiastic teachers, qualified to bring out the very best in their students. Stagecoach schools provide a thriving, nurturing and supportive environment for creative learning. That’s just one of the reasons why 40,000 children every week flock to classes nationwide.

All new franchisees undertake an expert induction at Stagecoach’s head office in Walton-on-Thames and receive ongoing training along with industry-leading support in marketing, customer service, IT and business development. Their tried-and-tested structure enables franchisees to play to their strengths and provides the best possible environment in which to succeed.

“I hit the ground running, so to speak, and by September 2016 I had started Stagecoach Aylesbury. It didn’t take long for me to catch the Stagecoach bug; I felt like I was born to be a Principal. There’s always a downside with any career but I’m still struggling to see the negatives. We both enjoy all aspects of being franchisees - business development, marketing plans, performances, logistics, developing the students. It really is the most rewarding career I’ve ever had – I’m certainly not missing the M25!” said Richard.

Tracey is also reaping the rewards of a worthwhile career with Stagecoach and is enjoying the time she can set aside for the couple’s two young children.

“There’s nothing we enjoy more than an incredible family holiday but when Richard was working in IT, we would have to book our trips months in advance. Now we have the time to take the children on wonderful breaks, without having to work to someone else’s schedule. Our home is a much happier place since Richard has been around more. Our daughter still goes to the village primary school and he walks her to and from school every single day. How many dads can say they get to do that?” said Tracey.

Today, a network of more than 300 franchisees operate over 680 schools offering 1,780 classes in eight countries. Through an exciting and varied framework of teaching and development, franchisees have helped to unlock the potential of more than one million students since it opened in 1988.

With more flexibility in their weekly routine, Richard and Tracey can now prioritise the passion for acting that ignited their interest in Stagecoach in the first place. The married couple are currently starring in a musical together and Tracey is in a play called ‘Philadelphia Story’ – much to the amusement of her Stagecoach students!

“The children think it’s so funny that I have to put on an American accent for the play, as our end of term performance this term was ‘High School Musical’, where they had to put on American accents too. I’ve really enjoyed building such strong bonds with my students and my teachers are incredible.” said Tracey.

With the first anniversary of their Aylesbury franchise just around the corner, the only way is up for this creative couple. They have bought into a neighbouring territory with Stagecoach Ampthill, the same town where the couple got married in 2006, which will launch in late September. They also plan to add more schools to the Aylesbury territory and nurture Tracey’s Leighton Buzzard franchise. With all this expansion, they are just hoping they will still have some time for their family holidays!

For the couple, the biggest sense of pride as business owners doesn’t come from profit margins or fame, but from the positive impact Stagecoach has on their students’ development.

“I didn’t leave the cutthroat world of corporate IT to spend my days concerning myself with the politics of running a business. The most important part of being a Stagecoach Principal is changing children’s lives for the better. Creative Courage for Life isn’t just a tag-line, it encompasses all that Stagecoach is perfectly. I genuinely feel that we are changing our students’ lives by setting them up with skills that they may not pick up on the playground. We are teaching them to become confident and outgoing people, which is invaluable in today’s technology heavy world. They learn how to communicate, how to integrate and how to behave, all whilst having fun with their peers. Nothing is more important to myself and Tracey than our students’ happiness.”

If you, like Richard and Tracey, want to quit the corporate grind and find a business with great work-life balance, find out more about Stagecoach.


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