After only 14 months of trading Oliver Brock, who has a degree in graphic design and 10 years’ marketing experience, now runs the fastest-growing it’seeze franchise in the UK and the second largest business in the network.
FranchiseSales.co.uk: To what do you credit your success?
Oliver Brock: Determination: if I don’t succeed I can’t pay the mortgage, so I’ve got to be determined and motivated – I believe that’s very important in business. Also, you’ve got to be a good salesperson with communication skills on the phone and in person. If you have these qualities there’s more of a chance your business will be a success.
FS: How did you raise the capital?
OB: I had some savings. I did have to borrow a bit of money to keep me going for the first three months, but now I have a regular income which I’m constantly building on. Currently I design and update about seven websites every month.
FS: And you manage this all by yourself?
OB: Yes, at the moment. I have plans to buy other areas from the company, for example Chelmsford, our neighbouring town. Once I do that I can start employing people.
Eventually I’d like to be able to take a step back and let someone else look after certain aspects of the business, like maintenance of the website.
FS: How do you handle marketing – what’s the best way to get new clients?
OB: I do a lot of networking, letter-writing, cold calling, including face-to-face cold calling. If I see a van at Sainsbury’s I’ll stick my business card on the window screen to try and get the message out there.
But I also focus on offering a good service to my existing clients on an ongoing basis, so I don’t just design their website and disappear! I continue to make their websites as effective as possible. I’m a local service, so whenever my clients need me I’m always available to solve any problems and discuss ideas.
I think a lot of other web design companies are quite inaccessible; I want to add a bit more value.
FS: Was your degree in graphic design essential?
OB: You don’t need a technical background; it’s about sales experience because that’s what’s going to make you succeed. You must have the ability and passion to drive the business forward.
It’s quite easy, hence the name of the business – it’seeze! You go on a four-day training course which teaches you how to use the systems. We also had some telesales training, which was useful.
FS: Did you always have an entrepreneurial streak?
OB: It was always on my mind to eventually run my own business. The only thing stopping me was having the courage to pack in my monthly salary and actually take the leap. I felt I needed the experience under my belt to really build my confidence.
Also, I needed to find the right franchise. I looked at a few options but it’seeze seemed the best. When I spoke to the head office team they seemed interested in getting the right franchisee on board to move the company forward.
FS: What made you think it’seeze was the best option for you?
OB: It was reasonably priced and I can work from home, which means low overheads. Also, the system that we, as a company, provide to our customers is fantastic. I think it’s important to believe in your product. Thirdly, the head office team are always on hand for any support us franchisees may need.
FS: What are the advantages of an internet business?
OB: Low overheads, no stock, there’s very little equipment needed; just a laptop and car, bike or bus for travelling to work. Small companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the internet as a central marketing tool so a professional website is key, which places us in good position in the service industry.
FS: How did you perform in the recession?
OB: People still do business during a recession. It'seeze websites add value to our clients’ businesses and once people understand that, it makes sense.
If cash is an issue when buying a franchise, it’seeze is a great product because of the low setup cost. Personally, my first year’s target was met and passed during a recession, and I’m eager to see what 2011 brings.
FS: Why should companies hire an external agency such as it’seeze rather than design their website in house?
OB: They could service their own company cars but they don't. I think small companies who understand the importance of a professional website like the it’seeze system because they can have an interactive, flexible, future-proof solution without having to invest thousands upfront. They also get a local consultant who helps them make their website as effective as possible.
FS: Any pearls of wisdom for potential franchisees...
OB: Shop around and talk to as many people as possible. Talk to existing franchisees – and not just the people the company recommends. Try to dig out as many people as possible. Also, think about the skills you already have and how you can apply them to a given business.