Becoming InXpress franchisees has enabled Henry and Faye Hamann to grow a business on three continents. But their franchise never would have gotten off the ground without help from their church
From launching an innovative tech firm to starting a plumbing business, kicking off any enterprise requires courage and conviction. But it was faith of another kind that helped set Henry and Faye Hamann on the path to not only become the franchisees of InXpress Redhill, the shipping franchise, but also to grow their business across the world.
The story behind the spouses’ success started when Henry lost his job. “The company I was working for went into liquidation,” he explains. While they immediately started looking for employment elsewhere, months passed without any result. “It was very difficult for us,” he recalls. “And then somebody at our church offered us money to help us set up our own business.”
And it wouldn’t take long before the Hamanns took him up on the offer. But while they were compelled to start a business of their own, the couple felt that building something from scratch would take too long to turn a profit. Fortunately the couple found the solution to their predicament: franchising. “I liked the idea of getting the keys to an operation we could start up immediately without a major setup,” says Henry. For the best part of a year, he looked at numerous franchises but none of them were to his liking until InXpress caught his attention. “It fit me perfectly because I had worked in shipping for many years,” says Henry. “Then I contacted the guy from the church and asked if his offer was still on the table. Not only did he say yes but the money offered was the exact amount needed to buy the franchise, including VAT.”
However, just because the entrepreneurs had the money they needed, that didn’t mean purchasing the franchise was without challenges. The money still hadn’t been transferred when they set up a dinner meeting with John Thompson, founder and CEO of InXpress, to buy the franchise. “I called the bank and told them that the money was coming: I said I would write the cheque even without the funds in the account,” says Henry. Having ended the conversation, he rushed to the station to catch the London train. It wasn’t until he was hurrying to meet the founder and buy the franchise that the bank manager called him back. “He told me that they would honour the cheque but that I should never ever do this again,” laughs Henry. “So yeah, we nearly bought the franchise with a bouncing cheque.”
The success or failure of any enterprise depends on how well founders attract clients. Fortunately, the couple was able to rely on their personal networks to source their first customers, with Faye setting up a meeting for her husband through a contact at a charity they’d been involved in. This person helped them set up a pitch with a big company just months after launching their franchise. “At the time I didn’t even own a laptop,” Henry says. “So I was going to have to do the whole presentation with just a few brochures.” And even if she’d helped set up the initial meeting, his wife started to worry that they may be in over their heads. “Faye told me not to go and make a fool out of myself: she thought no big company would do business with a one-man-band like me,” he says. Luckily the prospect of failure didn’t deter him and he walked out of that meeting with 10% of the company’s worldwide distribution.
However, while signing up clients was an important step towards ensuring the business’s future success, the couple still hadn’t secured a warehouse to store deliveries. Their solution was to get all the shipments sent to their house and carry each box into the building by themselves. “We literally ended up sitting on boxes, sleeping on boxes and eating on boxes,” says Henry. But neither this nor the fact that they had to label each box by hand stopped the couple from pushing on. “Nothing is impossible,” says Faye. “Most people shy away from things they haven’t been done before or don’t know much about but we find a way to make it work.” This attitude has certainly served them in good stead: their work ethic means word quickly spread about the franchise and its client base has largely grown organically.
But franchisees are unable to grow without the support of their franchisor. Fortunately, InXpress has been on hand to help them at every step. “Whenever a prospective franchisee calls me to ask whether or not I would buy an InXpress franchise again, the answer is always ‘yes’,” says Henry. Not only were salespeople and members from the central office available to help get the business up and running but the same team has also been on hand to help iron out any questions that the couple may have had over the years. “There was always someone who could come around and help you,” says Henry.
However, InXpress’s assistance wasn’t limited to simply upskilling the couple and their employees. The franchisor has also supported the Hamanns when they were looking to move into new markets. “That’s the biggest help that we’ve got,” says Henry. “When we needed access to the Singapore market to help one of our clients, John Thompson put us in contact with the guy setting up an InXpress there. And he helped us with things like negotiating with various couriers.” The couple has received similar help in the past few years with launching an agency in Dubai and negotiating to start trading in South Africa. “If they didn’t have a presence there, they would put us in contact with people who could help make it work,” Faye says. And as the couple is also looking into growing the franchise’s operations in America and Europe, this support will certainly come in handy.
Having grown their shipping business from a stack of boxes in their living room to operating across three continents, the success of the Hamanns just goes to show what can be achieved if you believe in yourself and have a little faith.