Stuart Hallam launched his own Expense Reduction Analysts (ERA) franchise in February 2018 after discovering that he could access his pension once he turned 55. He had long harboured ambitions to start his own business, but with a young family and financial commitments, the time had just never been quite right.
Stuart’s career saw him travel the world across Europe, America and Asia, working for multiple big companies, before he finally called time on the corporate world in 2017.
“I felt unfulfilled. I didn’t like the commuting and I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. In the past, supporting my wife and daughter was priority so taking a financial risk with no back-up just wasn’t an option. Then, with the funds behind me and my daughter now 22, I decided it was time.”
“I wanted something that had been done before and I wanted support. I like being in a situation where there’s a model and a process to follow. And knowing that, if I follow it, it will work.”
He soon embarked on the journey that would lead him to ERA, a cost management and procurement consultancy. Franchise Partners are trained to offer strategic advice and practical methods which optimise supplier relationships.
“I spent a lot of time researching and exploring franchising. My wife supported me from day one and I think that’s crucial going into any new business. She actually found ERA early on and we just kept coming back to them. By October of 2017, I’d whittled it down to four franchises. Then, we decided the best thing to do was to go and meet them all in person!”
Stuart and his wife attended the National Franchise Exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC: “We compared the stands and the people at the show and it became apparent that our gut instinct about ERA was right. I’d already spoken to Matt O’Neil (Head of Recruitment at ERA) but we hadn’t met, so, I used it as an opportunity to get a feel of the brand and I liked what I heard and saw. We spoke to an existing Franchise Partner and were able to ask lots of questions. Everyone at ERA was very open and transparent. They felt like the kind of people you’d want to be in business with.
“Throughout it all, I never felt pressured. It just felt right. The fact that you’re part of a collaborative network and never just a one man band – you’re very much part of a team. After the exhibition, I went to a Discovery Day at Head Office and made my mind up there and then. I signed up in December and met people who offered help immediately. I couldn’t wait to get started!”
“Training was a great – all the marketing material was fantastic and different specialists led each module. It was helpful to go through it together with other new Franchise Partners and share knowledge and experience from day one. I have weekly calls and regular meetings with the support team – everyone is very accessible. There’s a lot of support and it’s there for you if you want it. It’s up to you if and how you use it.”
After six months running his franchise, Stuart has some sound words of advice for anyone thinking of following in his footsteps and taking the leap into business ownership:
“Make sure you’ve done your due diligence and be confident that it’s right for you. Not just on paper but in your heart too. Make sure your finances are in place and that you’ve got enough to see you through. It’s a big investment – most people follow the norm and it’s a good 18 months before you’ll start to see income. Make sure you’re in a position to focus on what’s happening in the business, not the money.”