Chairman Richard Martin’s friendly demeanor belies the unprecedented success of a man whose passion for systematic excellence has home-grown the UK’s largest single franchise brand dedicated to lettings, through his national network of over 170 franchised offices.
His former career as an Advertising Manager stood him in good stead – the attention to detail, accuracy and communication skills required proving an excellent foundation for a customer-centric lettings business.
Launched in Yeovil in 1986, Martin & Co grew quickly. Richard soon realised that the standards he set himself far exceeded the industry norm and decided to take a stand on the issue of professional standards, committing to providing his staff with extensive training. He began offering training courses to prospective letting agents and these were quickly over-subscribed. Several attendees were so impressed that they approached Richard with a view to operating his business system under licence. “Having, almost by accident, read ‘Behind the Golden Arches’ – the story of MacDonald’s extraordinary success through franchising, whilst on holiday in Portugal, it struck me that franchising was the key to growing my business,” he said, and the first franchise was established in 1995.
“Even though I am not the primary business owner of each franchise, my name is above the door and with it my reputation. Whilst I was immensely proud of our initial expansion, I must admit to being nervous as I was not in direct control of the business. And although I wanted to be involved in the business, I knew that this could only be by way of support and I had to allow my franchise owner the freedom to operate autonomously. Franchising should be regarded as a partnership.
“Franchising is not a quick fix, or necessarily an easy way to make money. It takes an incredible amount of hard work, especially in the first instance when you are trying to develop a name, brand and reputation that people will trust and want to be a part of. But the key point is that each franchise owner knows what has made Martin & Co so successful wherever it has opened and they know they must stick to the formula,” he explained.
Richard, like other good business people who continue to experience success, recognises that running an “empire” takes a different set of skills to running a lettings business. He confesses that lettings is his passion, and that is why he has recruited the very best in their respective fields to run the franchising business. “I am delighted with my senior management team, headed up by Managing Director Ian Wilson, whom I trust unreservedly. What I started as a tried and tested franchise model in lettings, they are converting into exponential franchise business growth. Martin & Co is an expanding business which has consistently grown its market share by 30% per annum for seven years and 2010 was a record year.”
With such good people at the helm, one could argue that Richard could now take a back seat. But Martin and Co is still a privately owned company, and Richard is still very much involved in its strategic direction, although he leaves the day to day running to Ian.