“I love the variety of my business and every day is different,” says Justin Brookes, who owns two Mail Boxes Etc. delivery franchise stores in Oxford.
“My working day begins with a pleasant drive with my wife from the pretty Cotswold village where we live to the middle of Oxford where we both work. Travelling is about the only routine part of the working day. Anything can happen.
Apart from the diversity of MBE’s services – from mail box rental to printing and courier services, to name a few - much of our business is seasonal. For example, in the early summer months we are busy with packing and shipping: collecting books and personal belongings to ship abroad for students and visiting academics returning home, as well as transporting all sorts of goods and equipment from local hospitals and businesses.
“Then in the run-up to Christmas we are printing bespoke calendars and Christmas cards, as well as special offer posters and leaflets.
“We are a preferred supplier to the well known local auction houses, so throughout the year, several times a week, we collect items that have been bought on-line or by phone. We bring them back to the store for packing and then despatch all over the UK or abroad.
“I have very good managers and support staff who take care of the day-to-day running of both stores and looking after customers. I keep an eye on everything but delegate as much as possible, so that I can concentrate on the finances and managing the business. I produce monthly reports to provide an accurate financial picture.
“The day is always full: time in the office, being out and about, visiting customers, meeting prospective new ones and attending business events are combined with handling queries, emails and letters. I also have to ensure that we understand the stream of constantly changing rules and regulations that affect postal services and couriers in the UK and overseas. We have to pay particular attention to customs requirements that vary enormously from one country to another.
“I don’t stop for lunch and seldom eat anything in the middle of the day. I prefer to go for a swim instead, on average three times a week. My car becomes an extension of the office while I’m driving between the two stores and visiting customers as I can talk to people on the hands free phone, so not a minute is ever wasted.
“Apart from when I attend a networking meeting or industry event out of town, I like to finish around 6 pm then collect my wife from her job and be home by early evening.
“The stores are open six days a week and I take paperwork home some weekends. Some of my time is given to my involvement with the British Franchise Association. Last year I was appointed to their main Board as a franchisee representative, which was a great honour because there was only one other franchisee invited to serve on the board, out of 35,000 franchisees operating in the UK.
“Recently, I was also asked to chair a new committee created to establish greater franchisee involvement, which I’m very excited about. Being part of the bfa has been very rewarding and I have met some really interesting people.
“I thoroughly enjoy being a franchisee and what I do. I knew about small business from an early age since my grandfather, father and uncle all had their own enterprises and I think I absorbed much of their thinking. I’ve gained from that knowledge and experience, helping me to avoid many common mistakes.
“Many people don’t have that background and family input, which is why franchising is great in providing advice, guidance, training and support. I have been very lucky with my franchisor who was always there when needed, offering support and help but enabling me to develop my own business independently.
“In a retail franchise like ours, the business must be in a prime location to attract the right mix of customers. We concentrate on the services that are the most popular in our area and therefore profitable. Income streams vary between different locations but, here in Oxford, a thriving tourist city with two universities and a huge medical establishment, much of our business is generated by students, academics and tourists.
“Having a good franchisor is essential to succeed as a franchisee. I like being part of a network with the opportunity to meet other franchisees and share experiences with them.
“The great work-life balance I have now would have been difficult to achieve without being a franchisee. I am very content with my two stores, which are both trading well but I don’t have any plans to expand in the immediate future.”