Growing at 16% a year, the market for hiring drivers is buoyant.
Driver Hire has been named the UK’s top franchisor for 2006 by the British Franchise Association, and in 2011 was awarded a national training award for its Driver Certificate of Professional Competence training scheme. Given these accolades, its Franchise Development Director John Warren is justly bullish about this franchise opportunity.
An experienced business development manager will work with franchisees during the first few weeks of trading to ensure a smooth and successful start-up
Adam Bannister: What benefits can franchisees expect when they buy into Driver Hire’s brand ?
John Warren: The benefit of the Driver Hire brand image, pre-launch advice and assistance on location, signage, décor, furniture and equipment, recruitment and selection of staff, market research, as well as building a client database and business planning.
We provide a sales and operations manual covering every aspect of running a Driver Hire franchise. And there’s our integrated computer software package, which means you can manage all you day-to-day operations, with links to MS Office, our central invoicing system and Sage payroll.
We also provide an intensive, two-week foundation training course, coupled with practical ’hands on’ training, and extensive national marketing support.
An experienced business development manager will work with franchisees during the first few weeks of trading to ensure a smooth and successful start-up.
AB: Why do you think you were chosen as the top franchise by the BFA?
JW: The theme of the Franchisor of the Year competition was planning for success. Driver Hire demonstrated to the judging panel that business planning is a key component in our franchise partnership.
Because the future success of franchisor and franchisee are inextricably linked, we need to ensure that our franchisees plan their businesses very carefully. To this end we provide practical support, including business planning templates, market intelligence, training and advice from business development managers and regional accountants to help our franchisees plan their businesses. We then work with them to monitor progress against their plans using a programme of regular and systematic business reviews.
AB: So ongoing support is provided beyond the initial phase?
JW: Ongoing training and support is vital. Experienced staff make regular visits to a franchisee’s office and give advice over the telephone whenever required.
Training can take the form of intensive one-to-one coaching and mentoring with one of our experienced business development managers, or it may be a formal training seminar or workshop covering a specific topic. One excellent example is our recent ‘Flying Start’ sales training programme, which has helped many of our franchisees – new and old – to improve their sales effectiveness and increase their revenue as a result.
I’d say we have good support infrastructure, in sales, invoicing, factoring, design and marketing, training, national accounts, quality and IT.
Also, we help franchisees to obtain, and maintain, ISO9002 [internationally recognised quality assurance] and investors in people accreditation.
AB: How much is the franchise to buy, and in terms of facilities, what does this buy you – ie, a fully equipped, decorated office?
JW: Because we only tend to have franchise re-sales available, prices will vary according to the profitability and trading history of the individual franchise. A good quality franchise re-sale is likely to cost at least £120k, although in recent months a couple of top-performing businesses have been sold for sums approaching £500k. Franchise resales start at £40k.
AB: How much can a franchisee expect to make - working a normal 35-hour week?
JW: Anyone who wants to work a ‘normal’ 35-hour week shouldn’t even consider self-employment! Running your own business is all about commitment – which often means long hours and hard work. However, if you are prepared to do this, then the rewards can be excellent.
But, as with any other business, your individual success and profitability will depend on several factors, not least your own hard work, applying our system correctly, commercial skills, and judgement, as well as market conditions.
AB: What do you look for in a franchisee?
JW: Highly ambitious and self-motivated people who are great at building business relationships, Good team players who are well-organised, with strong commercial acumen. They must be flexible and adaptable enough to work to our business model, yet sufficiently sales-focused to seek out and win new business.
AB: Is it important for them to have experience, either in business generally or in this particular industry?
JW: Previous experience in the recruitment transport sectors is not required – our comprehensive training provides franchisees with all the skills and knowledge they need in these area. But previous business experience is important to us, especially in those key areas of sales development and customer service.
Of course, there are also those vital personal attributes which are also essential for any successful business person: determination, a positive attitude, commitment, resilience, organisational ability, self-motivation, leadership and vision – to name but a few!
AB: What obligations does the franchisee have to observe?
JW: You also need to consider the limitations and restrictions that are part and parcel of becoming a franchisee.
The franchisee has very specific obligations which are spelt out clearly within the franchise agreement. The franchisor’s business system must be correctly followed in all respects, including sales, marketing, corporate image; operational, service or product sourcing; premises; and staffing.
If you wish to sell your franchise in the future, you are prohibited from trading in the same or a similar business for a specified period of time afterwards.
AB: Every franchisor has stories of difficulties with franchisees. Why do things go wrong sometimes?
JW: Franchising is not a guaranteed road to riches and requires just as much hard work, determination, self-motivation and commitment on your part as with any start-up.
Occasionally there are failures and in my experience they are usually due to one of three things.
People can mismanage their finances. Although we provide support and guidance, ultimately franchisees are responsible for handling their own finances, including cash flow management. It is extremely important, especially in the developmental stages of a business, that expenditure is closely monitored and that adequate provision is made for VAT and PAYE payments. Also, it is vital to have adequate credit vetting systems in place to safeguard against bad debts. One large bad debt cane lead to the downfall of a business.
Successful franchisees can lose focus – they can become complacent, expecting future success as of right. If a personal ‘comfort zone’ is reached then desire to grow the business may recede, which will almost inevitably lead to decline. It may also be triggered by troubled by personal or domestic circumstances which impinge upon the business. And franchisees can lose focus when their commitment and attention is diluted by other business interests.
A third problem is when systems are not followed. The whole point of investing in a franchise is to acquire a proven business system. A franchisee that tries to reinvent the wheel is wasting his time and money and is unlikely to succeed.