I had spent 25 years in the retail trade working my way up from a retail assistant to retail store manager, but found it more and more unrewarding with the constant pressure, and the politics involved.
I had wanted to work for myself for years, but didn’t want to be in an office or shop-based business. Becoming a franchisee seemed the best way forward given all the research I had done, but choosing the right one seemed like a minefield. I had one lucky escape from a franchise I nearly signed up with that subsequently went bankrupt, leaving its franchisees high and dry.
Guidance and training
That incident illustrated the importance of finding the right franchise for me and I decided the business had to be a member of the British Franchise Association, as well as being established in its sector.
Autovaletdirect met this criteria and I bought the franchise in June, 2008. Under the guidance and scrutiny of an experienced franchisee, the training was very much on the job, and my impression of the team was that the people were friendly, very informative and provided great back-up and support when needed.
For the first few weeks I was constantly on the phone to one of my trainers. I found support and advice was always available, and still is.
The experience of the franchisor, Chris Johnson, is unrivalled and second to none in my opinion. He has operated his own car valeting business, just like his franchisees, starting the business over 20 years ago. From his experience he has fine-tuned the service we are privileged to offer our customers.
Spending so long in retail helped me adapt to my role as franchisee because I understood the importance of good service. The franchise is all about building a customer base and working hard to consistently exceed customer expectations, and from that base has come regular demand for the service.
The first few months took some getting used to. I went from receiving a regular four-weekly wage no matter what, to earning a living through my own efforts, self-motivation, and the guidance I received from the franchisor.
Although a large percentage of the work comes through our head office, building an establishing interest from the large audience of customers in my area requires ongoing marketing activity from pounding the pavement leafleting and using our call marketing system to utilising the internet through the proven IT system we are lucky to have as franchisees.
I have, for example, even attended a lucrative charity golf event in my area, offering a free valet as a raffle prize to raise my business profile.
Since I became an Autovaletdirect franchisee, there have been some great successes. One of them was signing a national car rental firm to use our services, and another was securing work locally from several large companies that now use me regularly for their company car fleets. On top of this, I have recently won a contract from a freight company to valet the cabins of 30 of its lorries every month.
The recent launch of Caravanbrite, lifetime guaranteed interior and exterior protection for the leisure industry, has also been a fantastic success. Introduced last year at the Caravan & Motorhome Show at the NEC, Birmingham, we anticipate huge success for this unique supply-and-apply service.
As an Autovaletdirect franchisee, I have attended several paid events, including corporate track days, golf and award events for Audi, and the Motor Show at ExCel in London where, along with the Autovaletdirect network, I looked after the Alfa Romeo stand. The highlight for me was looking after the Alfa Romeo relay cars at the World Super Bikes event at Silverstone in August, last year.
After three years as an Autovaletdirect franchisee, I’ve found that being my own boss is a world away from working as a retail store manager. It’s a decision I wish I had made sooner.
You know the buck stops with you, but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your business grow from your own ability and effort.
For further details on the Autovaletdirect franchise, click here.