An Expert Eye
How our experienced in-house franchise consultant assists with the franchise application process and helps you make the right choice.
Dugan Aylen, born and bred in Zimbabwe but now residing in this country, has specialised in franchise recruitment for more than ten years. He has a great deal of history and experience working with franchise brands to help them find the right profile of franchise owner, at the same time enabling potential investors to go through the correct decision-making process and arrive at the right business opportunity.
Now working as a consultant alongside Granite Transformations’ marketing department, Dugan is engaged in the brand’s ongoing franchisee recruitment process, culminating in a series of meetings. Dugan tracks potential investors through an online database that’s linked to GT’s franchise recruitment website and maintains a dialogue with prospects through regular emails, telephone calls and interim meetings with relevant parties.
“Brands need to have the right exposure to generate enquiries and GT has an excellent market presence. So most prospects have prior knowledge of the brand, often knowing someone who’s had an installation or having had a makeover themselves. Many have also seen the worktop product on TV makeover shows, like Sarah Beeny, DIY SOS and 60 Minute Makeover, which really adds to the brand’s credibility,” he says.
“Most serious enquirers come to the final selection process with two or three brands in mind, but generally once they see and touch the GT product, the decision is made. These are high end materials, with a high end finish, at a cost much lower than it appears,” he continues. “Potential investors are usually householders themselves with an interest in property maintenance and home improvement and they realise that if they really like the product, then others will too.”
Potential GT franchise investors are typically in the 35-55 years age range, according to Dugan, and are either looking for a change of lifestyle or seeking a new career path. Typically they are used to a decent salary and are eventually looking to earn what they used to make, although they are usually realistic enough to appreciate that it will take a year or so to be drawing a decent income, says Dugan.
“Even then,” adds Dugan, “some don’t always look to match their previous income, as long as the work/life balance is good and there’s a sense of achievement from running their own business. That’s where a franchise model like GT’s really appeals, because it has scope for building into an operation that matches one’s personal goals. It has the potential for scaling up into quite a big business, with additional sales territories and scope for involving a spouse and older children, turning it into a real family enterprise.”
Dugan’s role is to guide potential franchisees through the whole application process, sizing up the investment required, matching skill sets and experience to the role, and obtaining the necessary finance.
“I make it clear from the outset that I have the best interest of both parties in mind - I sit in the middle between the franchisor and potential investors, seeing if there could be a good fit,” he continues.
“Assuming there is, my next task is to identify whether their finances will support the proposed business model. Initially, a potential franchisee might feel that a GT franchise is outside the range of what they have to invest, but that’s often because they don’t fully appreciate the opportunities presented by bank lending. In my experience, the high street banks are very open to lending against a mature franchise business like GT. Given home ownership and other assets, banks may lend up to 70% of the total finance required, opening up the options considerably. Even if you can self-finance the whole package, it’s often better to request a loan at the outset, say for 50%, and keep some of your own money back, which you can later use to see you through a sticky patch or perhaps buy another territory.”
Crucial to the success of raising bank finance is the preparation of a detailed business plan and here Dugan and GT expedite the process by introducing potential franchise investors to a specialist franchising finance firm - Franchise Finance. They previously carried out a thorough business health-check on Granite Transformations, to prove that the franchise model is viable and the overall business is in good financial condition, and now assists qualified franchise applicants with the preparation of a professional business plan, projecting two years’ trading ahead.
“The firm has more than 60 years’ combined experience of dealing with lending underwriters,” says Dugan. “It takes an honest and realistic approach to forecasting financial performance, taking into account the individual circumstances of the applicant, and can structure a proposal that provides the bank with everything they need to say ‘yes’. Also, GT itself has pre-approved lending facilities with all the major high street banks, so this normally streamlines the whole process of raising finance.”
Preparing the business plan is included as part of the GT franchise fee, so there is no additional cost, and providing everything is satisfactory at this stage, the franchise candidate signs an ‘intent to proceed’ agreement and pays a deposit against the agreed franchise fee. Dugan continues to stay involved right up to the start of the induction training programme, at which point GT’s comprehensive franchisee support network takes over.