Flying starts

Further advice from Dorian Gonsalves for new franchisees, with top tips from a very successful business owner

Flying starts

In my last column I offered my advice to new franchisees and reflected on the success of Tom Cartwright, winner of the Belvoir Best Newcomer Award 2023. This month I thought it would be useful to ask Tom what advice and strategies he’d found most useful in his critical first year of trading as Belvoir Exmouth.

When Tom joined Belvoir in October 2022, the financial climate in this country was chaotic, thanks to the impact of Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous budget. However, Tom had taken on an existing business and rebranded it, so already had a database of customers and hit the ground running. Being an ambitious individual Tom has recently completed on the acquisition of a small local lettings agency, giving him another 30 properties, and a foothold into the sales market. 

“We’re now managing just under 100 properties, which is great, particularly as we’ve not yet been trading for a year,” said Tom. “Having those additional rental properties was a real lifeline, as the sales market dried up after the September 2022 budget. Things are picking up now, and we’ve started taking on and selling properties, with business generated by personal recommendations, which is great.”

So what are Tom’s top tips for anyone considering taking on a franchise?

“Firstly, I’d set aside a buffer fund to last me through the first year,” he said. “I intended to mostly use this for marketing. but the acquisition opportunity was not something I wanted to miss, so I used the money to help fund that. Interestingly, people are so pleased with our services that we’re gaining new business without any marketing, so it’s worked well!

“Secondly, I think people recognise and appreciate that we’re a family-run, independent business with the support of a national franchisor and reputable brand. We also use local contractors who embrace our ethos of doing a good job and getting things done efficiently, and that has helped.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback that we’re not like average agents. Make sure you listen to carefully to people and try and work out what they want. Sometimes people haven’t always clearly identified this for themselves!

“Keep clients in the loop at all times. For example, I always assure people that I’ll personally manage every aspect of their property sale. Each time I do a viewing I call and provide feedback. People like to know what you are doing on their behalf.

“Take advantage of your franchise support team. When I had some concerns that property sales weren’t taking off, I called Central Office and the Franchise Director visited straight away. Together we looked at all aspects of the business and put together new a plan, which is working well. I also have access to a fantastic free legal helpline.

“Although you do all the necessary training prior to launching, most of your learning is on the job and that’s where being part of a franchise comes into its own. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t call for advice because I should have known the answer to something. The help is always there, whenever I need it.

“If you’re thinking of taking on a franchise, my advice is to talk to as many franchisees as possible. I spoke to several big, successful franchisees, as well as those just starting out and some that had been going a long time. As a result, I came into this business with my eyes wide open.

“Finally, remember that nobody can predict the future, and things will happen – just like the budget last September, which impacted businesses everywhere. During these times it’s important to dig deep and ride out the storm, knowing that being part of a franchise will really help.

“I couldn’t do any of this without being part of a franchise. Although there will be times when you may wonder what you’ve done, or what will happen next, this can work both ways, and amazing things also happen. I hadn’t planned to do an acquisition as quickly as I did, but because I’m part of a franchise it all became possible. Belvoir’s Acquisition Team did all the due diligence checks, and afterwards sent a team member to work with me for a week to ensure compliance, which was incredibly helpful. I now have the confidence to look at future acquisitions – when the right opportunity comes along!”

Dorian Gonsalves
Dorian Gonsalves