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Interview with Ed's Garden Maintenance Franchisee
Case Study: Dan Bates
Tired of the grind of corporate life, Dan Bates joined Ed’s Garden Maintenance in March 2015, to run his own gardening business covering Thames Ditton, Esher, Kingston-on-Thames and Surbiton. He’s made an excellent start building his business and is happy to share his thoughts on his franchise journey.
Name: Dan Bates
Location: Esher, Surrey
Franchise: Ed’s Garden Maintenance
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose your franchise?
I had been thinking about a career change for some time. I knew that I really wanted to run my own business and I’ve always enjoyed gardening so a combination of the two seemed attractive and logical. However, it is one thing loving gardening as a hobby and quite another to turn it into your livelihood. To be honest I found the responsibility of it all quite daunting, especially with my wider responsibilities as a father of two young children. Although I didn’t doubt the attractiveness of it, it was a million miles away from the structured corporate career with a guaranteed pay cheque every month!
It occurred to me that maybe the answer was to build my own gardening business, but within a franchise framework. This was appealing because I felt that it made my venture a lot less risky as I could tap into a larger organisation with lots of experience of helping people to build successful businesses. This option made me feel a lot more confident about managing the risk.
I researched various franchise options within the garden maintenance sector but Ed’s stood out significantly from the others. They seemed to have great exposure in the market place, a strong brand and reputation and were totally professional from the word go. The other clinching factor was that when I met with Ed and his team, I felt that I could fit into Ed’s very well – it just all felt right. What’s more, since I’ve actually been part of Ed’s I’ve seen how there is a very solid central business infrastructure running behind the scenes, which helps new business owners a great deal. It’s not just image, the substance is there to back it up.
What did you do before taking up a franchise?
My previous career was in sales/marketing and sales management roles in several large media companies in London.
How did you raise the finance?
I was fortunate to be able to fund the investment from savings.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
My in-house and on the road training started pretty much on my first day. The first few weeks were quite intense but really enjoyable. There is a lot of emphasis on structured training in Ed’s. You get a lot of help with the business side of things, ranging from helping you to put together a robust and realistic business plan to training in how to use the Ed’s management systems. You also get on the job training in how to deliver services and use the equipment. Going out on the road with established business owners is really valuable too, as that gets you up to speed with areas like estimating jobs which can be a bit tricky when you are brand new to it.
After you have completed the initial training, you still have a lot of support. For example, you have an Ed’s business coach who you speak to very frequently in your early days. This is very reassuring, not just from a business point of view but for moral support too. You also get frequent business reviews to make sure you are staying on the right track and there is an on-going training programme for all business owners throughout their careers with Ed’s. It’s all quite slick but personalised too.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
There’s been no such thing as a typical day since I started my business, which is one of things I really like about it. Every day has the potential to be unique. However, my day usually starts in the same way - my first task is to log on to my system and make sure I am clear on the plan for the day. I also check any urgent invoice or bills that need chasing. From there it’s all about the gardens and they are all very different. At the end of my day, once again I update my system and send out any invoices or pending quotes – this lets me call it a day feeling in control with everything is in order.
What challenges have you faced?
The job is quite physical which took a little while to get used to, but the plus side of that is that I feel fitter and healthier than I have in years. Learning to make decisions for my own business has also been a steep learning curve, but the support you get is great and the other business owners are really helpful if you need to bounce an idea around too.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
It has given me the opportunity to have much more freedom and flexibility in my life, which is really important to me. I’ve never had that in the corporate world and it is all the more important now that I have a young family.
I really feel like I have the best of both worlds now – I run my own business pretty much how I wish, yet I have the advantage of having a great support network behind me whenever I need to tap into it.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
There is a lot of central marketing done for you in Ed’s, in areas such as search engine optimisation. We are very lucky to have Ed himself as he is quite a whizz in this area. At a local level, I have complemented this with using mainstream tools such as Yell, etc. I have also driven my local presence through leafleting and placing ads in local magazines. I’m also pleased to say that I get quite a lot of referrals by word of mouth of satisfied customers. Finally, new work often comes my way just from customers contacting me from seeing driving my Ed’s branded van in my distinctive Ed’s uniform.
What differentiates your franchise from the competition?
In my opinion, there is a culture in Ed’s that has reliability and professionalism at its core. Business owners really do care about high standards and they are in turn well prepared and trusted to go out there and deliver those high standards. The result is a strong reputation that runs across the network and adds a lot of value to the brand. Established business owners really want new business owners to be successful, as they know that this is a win-win for everyone. The result of all of this is a network of genuinely happy and motivated operators, which is a great competitive strength.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
I think it is very important to have an interest in what you are doing. If you have this then you will have the motivation to make this succeed. It is also important to understand that even though you have the support of a franchise behind you it still takes a lot of hard work to make the business a success. Like any new business, you get out what you put in and this is no different with a franchise. Being part of a successful franchise operation can give you an excellent platform to go for your goals but you have to have the drive from within as well.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
Make sure you do lots and lots of research – which sector you want to be in, which franchise company to go with, which area, local competition etc. It is a lot of work but if you do it properly you are much more likely to select the right franchise for you so it is well worth the effort.
Be prepared to invest, not just in the upfront monetary cost of joining but in marketing and efficient equipment that will enhance your professional image. Invest your time too; throw yourself into your new venture wholeheartedly. If you go with a good franchise company, your efforts will be well rewarded.
What are your plans for the future?
As an Ed’s franchisee, I feel that I have been able to credibly and effectively enter a sector that I would have struggled to going into alone. I have been able to fast track my business to a point that I would never have expected to be at in year 1, and this has filled me with enthusiasm and confidence with regard just how far I can take things in the future.
My immediate plans are to grow my regular customer base and expand my range of services but, as I am already practically running at full capacity, I am now thinking about recruiting some additional employees. I would never have believed that I would be at that stage so early on.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely....I wanted to change my life for the better and I certainly have. I’m really proud of what I have managed to achieve already in the short period since I started up.
GREAT! WHAT'S MY NEXT STEP?
We want you to choose the right franchise, whether it is with Ed's™ or not. We encourage you to research our business opportunity and ask us questions to satisfy yourself that Ed's™ is for you.