Being the owner of any business can be a lonely place, according to George Stewart, who owns Apollo Blinds in Hamilton, but being part of a franchise network means that there’s always support from his franchisor, who has a team of people available to help with all aspects of running his window blinds franchise.
“I’ve been in the window blinds industry for 28 years – the last 13 of which I’ve been running my own Apollo Blinds franchise, so it’s fair to say that I’ve got a lot of experience and knowledge. This should mean that being a business owner is easy, right? Well, not quite.
Speaking to other business owners, it seems we all share that sense that being your own boss can sometimes feel like a very lonely place because the buck stops with me. I’m responsible for everything: running a shop, managing staff and sales, and ordering and fitting made-to-measure blinds. And then there’s the financial side of making sure that the business remains profitable by ensuring that we get paid on time and in full, paying our suppliers, paying staff and paying taxes.
If I ran an independent blinds business, I think this may have overwhelmed me by now, but Apollo Blinds is the reason I’m still going strong. And it’s all down to the people in the team behind me.
I learned the true value of a team after spending 7½ years in the Parachute Regiment, which is why asking for and accepting help, guidance and support doesn’t dent my pride – in fact, it has the opposite effect because it benefits me as a business owner and, just as importantly, me as a person.
The Apollo Blinds team are very good at coming out to see me on a regular basis to discuss how my business is performing. They are also very good at getting franchisees together for product training and business coaching, and every year they hold a conference where all the franchisees from across the UK come together.
But more than that, they are very responsive when I want help, some information or just a chat – and at this point, I should mention our Business Development Director Matt Thomas, who is always happy to help exactly when I need it.
The last couple of years in particular, I’ve had a spring in my step again, and I’m always at my showroom in Hamilton town centre for 7am, as I can’t wait to start my day. Unlike some other similar-sized Apollo Blinds franchises, I still like to do the sales calls and the installations myself, so my days are always hectic, but I like it this way because I think this level and continuity of service throughout is vital to the customer experience.
My customers may see my staff in the showroom or me when I’m doing my sales calls and fittings, but what they don’t see is the team behind me, which continues to make my business what it is.”