Chief Executive of Premier Sport, David Batch, knows only too well how important the face of the company is.
None more so perhaps than the first ever franchisee he chose to take on board – someone who has since paved the way for the many success stories who have followed.
After setting up alone and five months in, David selected his first franchisee to join him – Karl Fox, a former professional footballer for Cambridge United, who had recently left the game.
“At that time it was much more of a job-based franchise and Karl had all the relevant coaching qualifications. But the best thing about Karl was his conscientiousness,” said David.
“The system and processes surrounding our franchise model weren’t anywhere near the level they are with us now. And our product range wasn’t as in depth and tested, so the way our company has changed and evolved is even more of a testament to Karl’s longevity and success.”
Karl, now 33, was aged just 18 when he started with Premier Sport. His turnover has risen from a first year of under £15,000 to a turnover of £500,000. He now has an additional area with mangers running his day to day business while he has been promoted to managing director of one of Premier Education Group’s subsidiary brands, a physical activity scheme called The Golden Mile.
“Karl has always believed in the model and not tried to deviate from it. He didn’t try to reinvent the wheel,” said David. “The biggest assets I can attribute to Karl are loyalty and trust, as well as belief in the business. Karl realises, as do we, that we can always evolve and improve but we do so in a manner which is more akin to a partnership. If it’s done properly, everyone benefits.”
Premier Sport now has 92 territories with 11 new starts due to commence in the next two months. The group also includes 48 Golden Mile licences and a further 17 Performing Arts licences with another 11 due to begin in the near future.
The company, based in Norfolk, is a full member of the British Franchise Association and a top 500 European franchisor. It has recently appointed Platinum Wave as international franchise developers as it looks to move into international markets.
Premier Sport now has 800 activity professionals working for franchisees in schools across the UK. In the first eight months of this school year it had already delivered 5.7 million hours of physical activity to the UK’s children – that’s the equivalent to every person in Denmark doing an hour’s sport with Premier Sport since September.
“When taking your first franchisee, step one is to be 100 per cent confident with the credibility, strength and fairness of your franchise agreement, and the product you are taking to market,” said David.
“Our selection process was nowhere near as rigorous as it is now but in the early days of being a franchisor, the biggest challenge is having the courage to turn people away.
“Recruiting the right people is always a challenge, even now, so I would advise people to talk to other experienced franchisors about their processes and why they have them. You can save yourself a lot of time by getting these processes right – it’s more likely to lead you to the right person first time.
“If you can prove the model works, with evidence, then it is a lot easier to recruit good people. The first franchisee is clearly very important because it gives a model of each annual milestone and what can be achieved.”
For Karl himself, his part in helping the company grow to become market leader has been a fascinating journey.
“It’s amazing how Premier Sport has developed and me within it. I’m proud I’ve been there every step of the way,” he said.
“It’s a pleasure to go to work every day, and even better to be part of driving the company forward. And the best thing is we are now doing this faster than we ever have before.”