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  • Sep 21, 2015
  • British Franchise Association
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Microbusiness Franchisee of the Year

Last year showed that in franchising, your impact isn’t measured by your turnover as Tina Young won this category on the way to being named Franchisee of the Year 2014.

This time around family takes centre stage as three proud fathers are showing why their small business is making a big noise. They’ve all demonstrated peerless performance to be here and a rare drive and determination to overcome all challenges. There’s certainly nothing micro about their ambitions.

LittleKickers_RTPaul Stokes, Little Kickers

Two inextricably linked events in the space of a few months transformed Paul’s life.

An officer in the Metropolitan Police for 12 years when he became a parent for the first time, Paul faced a daily commute of up to three hours and a stressful and demanding job. It was taking time out with his new family that led to an unexpected opportunity...

Encouraged by his wife to attend a class to bond with their son, Paul looked over the Little Kickers website and found a link entitled ‘franchising’. “Here was an opportunity to do something radically different, leave the rat race and lay foundations for a new life for all of us,” he says.

After copious research, and admitting he was nervous about his lack of business knowhow, he signed up in October 2013 and opened his first two classes the following January while still in the police force. When demand necessitated a third class shortly after, he left his job (a rarity in a career which is most often seen through until retirement) and hasn’t looked back since.

Learning about both running a business and being a football coach at the same time, Paul had a minimum target of eight new classes in year one. He opened 20, more in his first year than any other Little Kickers franchisee, and turned a healthy first-year profit. By May 2015 he employed 14 coaches and had over 300 children registered.

Embracing the essence of franchising and passionate about the unity and shared knowhow found in the Little Kickers network, he’s involved in several forums and has developed a coaching programme which has been shared with and used by other franchisees, both in the UK and overseas.

Being based from home and able to choose his own hours has fitted in ideally with his family life and gives him quality time with his wife and son every day; those two life-changing events still go hand in hand. “The fact that my son was the reason for my introduction to Little Kickers and franchising makes it even more special,” he says.

TruGreen_RTLes Graves, TruGreen

After 31 years as a factory manager, following redundancy Les took the opportunity to get out into the open air and do something he was passionate about.

Since then Les has not only become an award-winning lawn care franchisee, he’s also welcomed his son, Stephen, into the business with the pair working closely together. Les has enormous pride in that and is enjoying building a business and a legacy for both their futures. He’s quick to admit that it’s been a challenging journey. The first two years in particular, during the recession, were not easy, but after being revitalised by Stephen’s arrival in the business, Les has led from the front.

Tirelessly working on new initiatives and strategies delivered new customers and growth and a constant focus on customer service has kept them coming back time and again. His efforts were recognised last year as Les was named TruGreen Franchisee of the Year, an accolade which inspired him to press for further expansion.

A new multi-channel marketing strategy this year has had a big impact. A mixture of digital marketing and good old-fashioned mailshots increased the business’s web traffic by 43 percent in the first four months of 2015 and turnover rose by 60 percent. His conversion rate from enquiry to customer is running at more than three in four.

Les insists that working with his franchisor as closely as possible has been central to his business performance. He was re-energised by Alan Lewin becoming MD of ServiceMaster in April 2014 and credits TruGreen technical expert Steve Walsh with a comprehensive knowledge of all things lawn-related.

It’s very much a two-way street: Les is heavily engaged in the network promoting ideas and shared knowhow and since 2013 he’s been chairman of the Ideas Review Council.

Having just renewed his franchise agreement, and after his strong results this year so far, Les already has his eyes on further awards: “Hopefully I’ll be here again in a different category in future years! My future is in my own hands and it is looking positive.”

Wilkins_RTAdrian Steel, Wilkins Chimney Sweep

It’s not difficult to see why Adrian was named earlier this year as Wilkins Chimney Sweep Franchisee of the Year. With boundless enthusiasm and passion, he’s introduced and pioneered innovations in the business and demonstrated great results from them since he launched in 2012.

But his first foray into franchising was a very different matter.

Admitting he didn’t do his due diligence or closely follow the system, Adrian took on his first franchise in 2008 but left the business only two years later. He learned from his experience and when he found the clear brand and straightforward business of Wilkins, he knew this time around would be different for him as a franchisee.

So it’s proved. With more than 1,000 return customers annually, Adrian is the top performer in the Wilkins network and his energy and drive saw him play a pivotal role in developing a new patio clearing revenue stream, Wilkins PowerClean, to balance the seasonally quieter spring and summer months. Taking the lead as the pilot franchisee, Adrian made a profit within a year and it’s been rolled out to his fellow franchisees since.

That development is the rule rather than the exception where he’s concerned. Enjoying a close relationship with his franchisors, Adrian has also pioneered marketing campaigns which have gone on to be adopted elsewhere in the network; worked with head office on a new telephone answering system to minimise loss of business; and has taken time out to record videos for the Wilkins website and Discovery Day.

All this while having the added flexibility and freedom to spend quality time with his son, born during Adrian’s second year running the business.

With big plans to grow 25 percent by next summer and take on an employee and second van, he continues to break new ground for what’s possible in his franchise. Boasting a remarkable 9.9 average score on Checkatrade from almost 500 customer reviews, no wonder he’s confident of succeeding.

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