Chris Bartozewicz: I’m a Yorkshire lad through and through. I bought a house but still commuted to London every day.
It was about the time I started getting itchy feet to move back up to Leeds. It was a hell of a slog for a year and a half.
I met my wife to be and decided to knock it on the head.
AB: How did running a Pitman Franchise come about?
CB: I’d wanted a trade in my own local area. I know a lot of people and lived there all my life.
I’d wanted a trade in my own local area. I know a lot of people and lived there all my life
This seemed a really good opportunity. I had maintained all the PC systems for my companies down in London.
I’ve been repairing my own computers at home for the best part of 20 years. I had an interest in them.
AB: How did you find this franchise?
CB: Through a franchise show.
AB: What made you pick this one?
CB: It was very affordable. It was a figure you could generate from a loan or savings without having to get a business loan.
I did look at other franchises and a few of them were out of my price range.
AB: What are the advantages?
CB: You can run it from home, generating revenue from minute one. You finish your training and you’re running straightaway.
You’ve got a readymade marketplace. Everyone has friends and relatives needing their computer fixing and early on you decide that you’re not going to do them any favours. This is your livelihood now.
I have to pay about £160 a year for professional and public liability insurance, but if I were broken into while carrying a customer’s computer, I’m covered. My competitors, driving round in their battered old Vauxhall Estate, won’t have that level of cover.
AB: Why did you not start your own business?
CB: A lot of my work comes from the fact that people know Pitman: it’s a very well known name.
Our engineers are CRB-checked, which I don’t think any of the competition are doing.
If I was a sole trader, I would have had to think about whether I could brand the car up like I have. Would I wear a uniform?
Would I have had an ID badge? Would I have gone down the route of getting public liability and professional indemnity insurance?
Would I have registered for data protection? Would I have got a CRB check?
Would I have got qualified? Possibly not: I might have learnt as I went.
AB: Presumably you have a centralised call centre for taking customer bookings?
CB: It’s quite sophisticated. Anyone who calls from my area or outlying areas where there isn’t an engineer automatically drops to me. If it doesn’t, then it’ll drop to head office who feed it to the closest engineer.
If we go away for a week we can divert our calls to head office, secure in the knowledge that someone is professionally answering the phones. Head office populate our diaries while we’re away so we come back to a full diary. If I was a sole trader I’d have to just stick it on answerphone until I come back.
There’s a really powerful system we have called 360, a big database that centrally stores all our contacts and appointments.
AB: Have you ever had to turn down work?
CB: I can’t remember the last time I turned down work!
I’m approaching a comfort zone in terms of income. I’m probably only running at about 30% capacity, so although I spend a lot of time marketing and leafleting, etc, there is a lot of room from growth.
AB: How flexible are your hours?
CB: Generally 8am till 8pm. I have to do some evening work because people have jobs.
But if a friend phones up and wants to play a game of golf on Friday afternoon, I’m reassured that three nights previous I’ve worked until eight at night and possibly got a job Saturday morning – so I won’t feel guilty about taking the afternoon off.
Having run your own business, would you say that operating under an established franchise brand is easier?
Yes. Setting up my own I spent most of my time trying to achieve brand awareness instead of concentrating on core business activities that generate revenue.
Although we’re quite new, we’re very lucky to have the Pitman name behind us. I ask people why they’ve chosen us and it’s often the name.
AB: Any advice for an aspiring franchisee?
CB: It involves a lot of hard work. Just be prepared for that.
And look at all the facts and figures at the very beginning. I looked at a few franchises and it wasn’t until I read the small print that I realised things weren’t as they seemed.