So You Are Thinking Of Buying A Franchise...?

Adrian & Amanda Keeling talk about their experience as the Woking franchisee for thebestof

Where on earth do you start? Do you want to spend your time making pizza, or would you rather sell telecoms to small companies? Which franchise offers the best return? Do franchises work anyway?

Well, we are pleased to say that we are living proof that, with some diligent research, you will be able to find a good franchisor that matches your life experience and your aspirations, which will provide that all important return on investment (ROI).

This is our story.

It was a rainy Friday in November 2013 when we got the call confirming that the sale of our small hotel had finally gone through. This marked the end of a dark period in our lives when everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. Having spent most of our lives being really successful, we were too slow to notice that the world had changed around us and consequently our various businesses suffered terribly. This is a common problem for entrepreneurs.

So what now? We had the money from the sale, but this would not last forever. We needed another business, and were too long in the tooth to start from ground zero all over again, so, we decided to look at the franchise market.

As someone who has always done his own thing, Adrian was inherently suspicious of relying on someone else’s ideas. We all suffer to some extent from the “not invented here” syndrome!

So, with my wife Amanda we trawled through literally hundreds of franchise suggestions, from e cigarettes to oven cleaning, and everything in between. We eventually settled on three possibilities, e-cigarettes, Telco-in-a-box and thebestof.

E-cigarettes were rejected almost immediately as we both have a deep dislike of smoking and although these do not produce smoke, we decided we would not be able to live with ourselves if we promoted any kind of smoking.

The Telco franchise initially interested us, but after some vigorous research we decided that the UK market was saturated and the ROI did not stack up. Boring subject too!!

That left thebestof. As we worked through our due diligence with this franchise, we became more and more excited at the possibilities it held. It was unique. With over 300 existing franchisees, it clearly works which means so long as you are a people person, there is little risk. There was literally no competition - a rare situation in our over saturated UK markets. It supported local UK independent businesses. We could really have used their help in our previous businesses, so a great concept! It has a very clear fiscal model with an annuity revenue stream, which grows month in, month out. In other words, your customers pay you every month by direct debit, which is the Holy Grail for any business! We loved this model! No credit control and no huge backlog of customers not paying their bills!

We attended an information day where we met Michelle Downey, the Managing Director of thebestof and what a fascinating day it was! The whole concept is well thought out and is FUN!

The support infrastructure for franchisees is also amazing. It was clear that they really care about their franchisees.

We purchased the franchise for our home town of Woking and were on the next induction day for new franchisees 5 days later!

So, as we sit here writing this article we are 4 months into our journey with thebestof Woking and can only say it has been the most amazingly fun experience that we have ever had running a business. The support from the franchisor has been nothing less than spectacular. Their vibrant office in Solihull is staffed by the most brilliant, motivated knowledgeable and helpful staff (actually staff does not do it justice, friends works better).

Everyone in the bestof organisation is focussed on finding new ways for franchisees to help clients, we attend brilliant (free!) training almost every month and there is a constant stream of great new ideas flowing down to the franchisees, so we no longer need to worry about being left high and dry because the world has changed whilst we were not looking!

Day one was to be honest quite difficult, we were all trained up, but had no clients! How do you get people to join an organisation of zero? Actually not so difficult! We needed, photographers, graphic designers, telesales people, the local cinema, and a printer, all of whom were excited to join us on a contra basis, their services in exchange for promotion by our organisation. We had clients and lift off!!

Very soon we were buzzing, actually ON FIRE. The pent up demand for local marketing proved to be astonishing. We now run two networking events per month, which regularly attract upwards of 35 attendees. We launched Surrey Dinner Club last week which proved hugely popular. Our client base is now approaching 40 companies and is growing fast. We have a better social life and more friends than we have ever had! The financial returns are also amazing with all those wonderful DDs rolling in every month.

So, how did we get known about by so many great local business owners and in this great position? The answer is simple; we networked and we networked and we networked. We joined the local chamber of commerce and all the networking groups in our area, BNI, BOB, 4N etc. Each week at 6:30am we were there networking with local business owners, and are still there. After a number of weeks, the other members of the various groups get to know you and trust that you will be able to help their businesses. You also get to know about them and how their businesses work, and this then puts you in a very strong position to understand exactly how you can most effectively help them. We are always positive, upbeat helpful and friendly, everything is possible. We always keep our promises and put our clients first. Nothing is too much trouble. People buy people.

Once we had made enough contacts among the local business community, we set up our own networking groups – Woking Connections and Woking Ladies, and now the Surrey Dinner Club. We found that the key is to get yourself out there and get your name known. Step out of your comfort zone, and push that great big heavy rock up the hill! The heavier it is to push it to the top, the faster it will roll down the other side! Once you’re in momentum, you fly!

Would We Recommend thebestof?

You bet we would! Buying thebestof woking is the best decision we have ever made!

Adrian & Amanda Keeling, owners of thebestof woking