Having been made redundant twice in quick succession and disillusioned with the London media landscape, Simon Broadhurst decided to get out of the rat race and grab a better work-life balance with his wife Gina and young family.
Having identified the positive statistics around success rates of franchising versus independent start-ups, as well as less risk and infinitely more support, they decided to focus their research on franchise opportunities. Searching by budget available, location and sector, Just Shutters, the largest independent shutter specialist in the UK, popped up!
“Shutters was a product that we could be passionate about, as we love design and interiors. It fitted my skill set, as I’m practical and enjoy DIY and working with my hands. We researched and established that the shutter category is a fast-growing market, and we were sure it would be very appealing to our local area. We liked what we heard at the initial meeting; we bought into the brand and how Chris (Franchisor) spoke about his aspirations for the company. We especially liked the level of support available through Sales Support, and it set Just Shutters apart from other franchise opportunities on the market.”
Like with any new business start-up, challenges exist. Simon and Gina gave us a good outline of the challenges they overcome.
“Rapid growth – In Year 1, if I was fitting shutters, I could not be selling shutters; as time moved on, there was a chance that we were going to grind to a halt, so we needed to create more capacity. In the space of 18 months, we moved from being a one-man business run solely by myself to a company actively run by its two Directors and with an Employee. We have learned that you need to be brave and take calculated risks, have the vision to spot potential problems and mitigate them well in advance. The recruitment and training process took time, so if we had waited until the recruitment need was urgent, we would have seriously handicapped our business.
Sticking to your budget – we regularly review our budget and reconcile it against actual performance so that we can identify any over/under spend. It is crucial that we cut costs when necessary, but also release more funds into the budget if we over-perform.
Marketing ROI – it can be counter-intuitive, but we have learned to spend on Marketing even when there is a dip in revenue. We are a relatively new business, and we need to build brand awareness and visibility in the local market; though Marketing can be viewed as a cost to a business, we have concluded that it is an important investment. That said, we regularly review the ROI on our Marketing activities, channel by channel, and if something isn’t working, we cut it off the plan. Equally, if it is bearing fruit, we will release more funds to expand this channel.”
Life has changed for Simon and Gina since becoming franchisees. “We no longer commute to London nor use childcare for our children before and after school. We have more flexibility to see those all-important assemblies and school plays whenever they come up. We are building something for ourselves and have the satisfaction of employing two people. We work hard but feel proud of our achievements and have a greater sense that we are the masters of our own destinies. We won Best Home Improvement Provider in the Essential Surrey Awards 2019 which is something we are immensely proud of.”
For anyone else thinking of buying a franchise, Simon and Gina give this advice, “Do your research, be realistic with your business plan and ensure you have enough working capital to get up and running. If you believe in what you are doing – be brave.
We believe a successful Just Shutters franchisee is committed, hard-working, buys into the master brand, is prepared to take controlled risks, has a sense of humour and is a team player.”
The future looks very bright for Simon and Gina, with them outlining several achievable objectives:
- Become the No 1 choice for shutters in Surrey
- Continue to grow the business with higher turnover and consistent margin
- Increase our conversion rate and average order value
- Drive growth through more commercial work and higher levels of affiliate partnerships
- Hit £1 Million turnover by Y5
So, if you had to do it all again, what would you do differently? “Be braver. Take on a part-time Fitter earlier in the process. Define the role of the Sales Manager, someone in the office to chase up quotes and speak to customers every day, and put this into action earlier on. Put simply, accept this can be a one-man business, but to deliver our ambitious growth plans, this was not the best option for us.”