Luke Norbury from York
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?
I had lived and worked in finance in London for most of my career – initially investment banking and then in commercial finance. After my wife and I had our first baby, I began to think about having more control over my time and my income and really I had always wanted to run my own business and it was just a matter of time until I made the leap.
Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose your industry? And why your franchise?
I was making the decision at the time of the credit crunch, considering leaving a blue chip employer and risking my own savings. Although I love dreaming up business ideas, when it came to it, I needed a proven concept. As well as looking for an industry with growth potential and “recession resistance”, I wanted to do something that I felt would be rewarding and have a sense of purpose. This led me to the care sector where there are a number of franchise options, but Home Instead Senior Care stood out as an organisation with an excellent, proven business model and just as importantly, an ethos that matched my own.
How did you raise the finance?
I funded the franchise purchase and start up with a combination of my own savings and a business loan. It was a straightforward process all in all.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
There was an initial “familiarisation” day and that was followed with a full week of training covering everything I needed to know to start and operate the business. There is a lot to take in and it was an exciting time, but the follow up was just as important – like any other situation, it’s when you actually leave the classroom and apply the learning in real life situations that you find you need to ask questions. The Business Support team visited me regularly and were always at the end of the phone. Once I was more established the training continued and has been increasingly available to members of my team as the business has grown.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
One of the things I love about running my own business is that there isn’t really such a thing as a typical day. Home Instead Senior Care is all about people and that means there is a huge amount of variety. Now my business is well established I have a lot more control over my time so a typical day would involve taking my children to school, getting to the office and having a catch up meeting with my team, addressing any issues that need my input, perhaps discussing how clients are getting on. With over 70 employees there are always people popping in and out of the office and I like to keep in touch with the team. I might spend a couple of hours reviewing the business finances and some time thinking about and implementing a new marketing campaign from National Office. I’m very much a morning person, so if by mid afternoon I’m feeling my productivity dip, I’ll go to the gym (if I’m feeling motivated) or go to pick the children up from school. Having the choice to do this is a fantastic feeling.
What challenges have you faced?
The flipside of the positives of running a business all about people is that it can be disappointing if someone lets you down or indeed if you let a client down. On the rare occasions this has happened, it’s difficult not to take it too personally. I’m quite a creative person, so another challenge has been accepting that I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I get plenty of opportunity to try out my own ideas in the business, but at the end of the day as a franchisee I am operating a business model that has been proven so sometimes I have to remind myself to make the most of the wealth of resources available to me!
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
My working life is very different now to 8 years ago. Ultimately I have the choice as to whether I am needed at the office or not. As it happens I work a fairly full week, but it makes a huge difference psychologically when that’s your choice. More recently as the business has reached targets we set, I have been able to review what I want to get out of the business and have chosen to spend a large part of the school holidays with my children, which has given me huge satisfaction. As a franchisee I am in control of my own destiny with the backup of a bigger network – it’s the ideal balance for me.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
Take the time to do in depth research about the franchise. Speak to as many existing franchisees as you can and understand how they feel about the business. As well as hearing their opinions you will build a picture of the organisation’s culture which can make a massive difference to your success.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Someone who is a self-starter and motivated to succeed, but who recognises that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – a good franchise network can offer huge value to its members.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m looking forward to continuing to work with my team to grow the business. The care sector is not without its challenges, but I’m confident that being part of a market-leading franchise network is going to help us turn challenges into opportunities.
Would you do it again?
Yes absolutely. There are things I would do differently along the way, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and in fact, learning from the mistakes I have made over the last 7 years puts me in a much stronger position now.