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Chris Rocker

Interview with Chris Rocker, Founder of Just Shutters

Chris Rocker is the Founder of Just Shutters. It was a 25 year career working for furniture companies, that led Chris to start his own shutter business in 2006.  Chris built Just Shutters to become a successful and strong regional brand, but it was listening to Duncan Bannatyne talk about franchising that gave him his lightbulb moment. In 2009, Chris launched his Just Shutters franchise.  There are now 20 successful businesses across the UK, and Just Shutters is now the largest independent retail specialist in the country.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I grew up in Bournemouth, where, as a young person, I cycled many miles around Dorset and Hampshire. I loved the ever-changing views of the countryside and the camaraderie of the other members of the cycling club.

After spending six good years in the Royal Air Force, I forged a 25-year career growing significant sales, reinventing operational systems and injecting passion and energy into several national fitted furniture companies.

As Sales Director with John Lewis of Hungerford, I gained additional and valuable in-depth experience in an AIM Listed company.

What is your role and responsibilities in the company?

Having founded the company in 2006 as a strong regional brand, I had a lightbulb moment whilst listening to Duncan Bannatyne. Franchising was the route forward, and after huge time and money investment, it has worked out beautifully. To answer the question, Founder, Chairman, DNA enhancer!

Can you tell us about Just Shutters

We design and install Plantation Shutters. Our shutters are not security grills for shops or steel shutters for garages. They are beautiful internal window coverings which can be likened to posh blinds.

Having fallen in love with Plantation Shutters, my dream of starting a specialist company to meet the growing demand was realised; in 2006, Just Shutters was born. My team and I worked tirelessly to grow the business steadily while providing exemplary products and designs with unique styling to lead the market along with great customer service.

Having created the best-loved shutter company in the South of England, I decided to share the success by franchising in 2009. Since then, Just Shutters has truly become a great team effort. Our ongoing success has seen many more enterprising people start their own businesses with us by harnessing all our experience and innovations. I am proud that today, Just Shutters has 20 successful businesses across the UK and is now the largest independent retail specialist in the country.

Who is your target market?

Our target market is people who have homes (not just houses). Our customers value beautiful things and invest in their homes and often with our older customers to future proof. At Just Shutters, we have always been one step ahead of Britain’s gathering demand for Plantation Shutters. Shutters have become the most popular window dressing in recent years among homeowners and interior designers alike. The demand for shutters continues to grow year after year as the benefits of shutters far outweigh other window dressings. The market grows, and we grow faster!

Why is Just Shutters a great investment for potential franchisees?

The Just Shutters franchise model is cash positive, with the return coming in very quickly once the initial investment is made. We will also help you consider other provisions over and above our business fee, including your living costs while in the initial start-up phase. We can also put you in touch with a third party to assist with financing if required. You’ll see faster returns with a franchise, and it’s much safer than going into business alone. With a Just Shutters business, you get the best of both worlds, a pathway to financial freedom by following our blueprint to success and the work-life balance we all want.

What differentiates Just Shutters from the competition?

We are a family business at heart; we care, and we put our customers at the heart of everything we do. Our franchisees are very much part of the Just Shutters family. We strongly believe in operating as a local company offering a local service. We only earn when you are successful, a refreshing change. Indeed, no minimum purchases, no minimum fees, just a responsibility to help you every step of the way.

Just shutters experts now cover many areas of the UK, and all offer excellent service synonymous with the signature style of our much-loved brand. Our business support team continually strives to help our franchisees achieve their goals. This, together with our industry-leading training programme and excellent marketing, sets us apart from other franchise businesses on the market. Our Just Shutters business owners are not flying solo; they have the backup of our amazing support team!

What is the role of a Just Shutters franchisee?

Our franchisees design, measure and install plantation shutters in our lovely customer’s homes. Our business owners have the freedom, autonomy and flexibility of working in their own exclusive territory, which is local to them. It’s a rewarding business; adding light, space, and value to customers’ homes gives our business owners a profound sense of achievement.

What qualities do you look for in a franchisee? What makes a successful franchisee?

It’s who you are those counts! We are looking for dynamic people who are serious about creating their own businesses. You don’t need experience in shutters to build a successful business. If you are passionate, motivated and great with people, the rest is simple. Just follow the plan, you bring the passion, and we will bring the rest. Our most successful franchisees are all of the above. They have a great work ethic, passion, and personal strength of character. They are brave, committed, and determined to succeed.

How did your franchise adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic? How did you support your franchisees during this time?

When the pandemic first hit, we quickly adapted by creating a measuring kit for our customers that we could send out to them…..Our IT systems were already equipped for remote working; unplugging the office telephones from one router and plugging them into another at home was straightforward. We are members of the British Blinds and Shutters Association; their support and clear guidance was critical to not only surviving but growing and thriving over the months to come.

What other challenges have you had to overcome?

As plantation shutters have increased in popularity, so have the number of suppliers. The challenge was and still is to sell the value we add with our design and installation methods. Similar ingredients, but we are a top chef in a sea of cooks.

What have been the company’s biggest achievements to date so far?

The steady growth from our first million-pound year to five to eight million in a year. If we laid out all our shutters, they would cover the deck of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier 44 times!!!

What does the future hold for the Just Shutters business? 

It is time to leverage the strong foundations that have been built over the years. We have everything in place to easily double the number of franchisees whilst still maintaining those impeccable credentials. Time to cover the whole UK.

What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?

You must ensure that your brand has solid unique roots along with the robust systems required to deliver, support and ensure successful franchisees. Choose your advisors carefully, and trust your beliefs. Ensure you don’t spend a lot of money on empty promises. Get this right, and everybody can win!

If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Believe in myself, not expensive advisors.

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