It seems as though it’s not only budding, entrepreneurial singles that are cashing in on the success of a franchise. Couples are also taking the plunge as franchisees
Morecambe and Wise, Mork and Mindy, Starsky and Hutch, Torville and Dean… we could go on. The list is endless. Not exactly double acts you’d associate with a franchise business, however. A husband and wife duo is a more common sight in the world of franchising.
In the post-recession climate, many start-ups are finding it increasingly hard to succeed. With statistics released by Bloomberg indicating eight out of ten entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months, many married couples are plumping for franchising, favouring this method of following a tried and tested formula over starting up alone.
“We’d had dreams for many years of running our own business and working together,” says half of one such couple, Gordon Dickens. “With the way the world’s economy has evolved, a franchise has become a significantly more appealing prospect than setting up a business in its own right.”
For Dickens and his wife of 31 years, Maria, Tutor Doctor – which provides academic support to students on a one-to-one basis, using a tutor as more of a mentor or guide as opposed to a formal teacher – has provided them with the business model they felt was just what the doctor ordered.
As Maria explains: “When we were looking at starting a business together, we had to appreciate that we were from very different backgrounds – my experiences were largely of family life and Gordon’s were from the corporate world. Somehow, someway we had to look for something that was going to fit both of us and, thankfully, I think we’ve made the best choice possible in the sense that we can both bring something to the business.”
“I worked for a number of international companies in consumer goods, doing quite a lot of travelling,” adds Gordon. “From my twenties to forties I was away as much as I was at home so, whilst my young lads were growing up, weekends were very important to me. As the last of our three boys was ready to go off to university, it kind of lent itself to us taking a different direction,” he says.
But what of the old adage concerning never mixing business with pleasure? Maria believes she and her husband have found the right balance. “Although we’ve both got our business heads on, we need to remember that we both need some downtime, relaxation and balance. We try to do things together as much as possible and it’s good to remember that you’re a couple.”
Gordon agrees. “We try to have an evening out together, going to the cinema or for a meal, just to distance ourselves from business and be able to relax and enjoy each other’s company rather than to be continuously focused just on the business.”
Another married couple that concur with the above sentiment is Janet and Andy Hodge, from Kent, who, after retiring to Spain in 2002, returned home to cloudier climes 11 years later and bought into Cleanhome, the domestic cleaning franchise.
“I think separating business life from married life is something that needs to be worked on,” says Andy. “When you run your own business, you have to make yourself available when the client wants you. But as we get older there’s a greater need to separate work from your private life with little things like putting your phone on silent. When it’s your own franchise, there’s every incentive to make sure things are running smoothly, especially if you want to grow the business. You want to feel like you’re doing the best job you possibly can.”
Janet chips in: “Any disagreements we’ve had have been more out of frustration. Every time you put yourself in the middle between clients and cleaners, there’s the potential to be let down. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it tends to be a last-minute thing and it’s imperative that any situations that rise are dealt with as soon as possible. Essentially though, it’s just dealing with the frustrations of running a franchise.”
For the Hodges, who have been married for 27 years, the Cleanhome franchise appealed because of the ease of access. “When we decided to move back to the UK, I did some research into franchises involving domestic care, but they wanted a great deal of investment; so we went to the other end of that spectrum and researched domestic cleaners,” says Gordon. “Cleanhome interested me because it was new, young and there was the opportunity to be involved from the early stages.”
And what sort of advice would our franchisees have for other couples looking to get involved in the world of franchising? “If the combination of the two is greater than the individual parts, then you have every likelihood of succeeding,” concludes Gordon. “If you try to change yourself or your personality you’re likely to create difficulties for yourself, which may cross over from business into personal.”