Geoff and Sharon Clarence

Geoff and Sharon (front) with their teamGeoff and Sharon Clarence have demonstrated how a can-do attitude can bring major success; within eight years of investing in a franchise they have grown to become the most successful franchise in the Rainbow International network and the first to exceed £2m in turnover.

The couple gave up excellent jobs to take on the franchise because they wanted to take charge of their own destiny and provide a sustainable business for their family.

They now have eight territories across Notts and Derbyshire and have bought two 5,000 sq ft industrial units. In addition, they have realised their ambition of creating a prosperous future for their family with a son running his own Rainbow franchise and a daughter also actively involved in the business.

Why did you want to go into business for yourself?
Both Sharon and I had been working in senior positions for multinational companies with long periods of service. Whilst we were rewarded accordingly, it was always at the back of our minds that we could lose everything we had worked for through reasons beyond our control, by way of redundancy or other circumstances.

When we looked at it, we earned large salaries, had expensive company cars, company laptops and mobiles etc. but we owned none of them. The only way we could ensure we had greater control over our destiny was to start our own business. I was 45 at the time and Sharon 35, and we knew that we both had the energy and experience to succeed. All we needed was the idea and then to find an opportunity.

Why did you choose franchising?
We chose franchising because a good friend and former colleague had started his business a few years earlier. We had kept in touch with him and his wife and in two years they had built what appeared to be a very strong and profitable business. That business was with Rainbow International.

What attracted you to the Rainbow International franchise?
We felt that there were transferable skills from our then jobs that we could bring into the cleaning and restoration business. I worked in sales and Sharon in marketing. Having been through the initial investigation period it became clear that the Rainbow model had substance and with the right application we had more than a fighting chance of succeeding. The good thing we found, and still find, about Rainbow International is that the training and systems are very professional and thorough and you never feel that you are alone. I suppose it’s the best of both worlds in that you have the comfort of a national brand but you are genuinely running your own business. We now own all the vehicles, computers, mobiles phones etc. and no one can make us redundant!

How has business been since starting your franchise?
Very enjoyable. We mean that sincerely. Make no mistake, it’s tough in the early days because we had to learn about the industry and the systems. But coming out the other side took about 12 months and it does get easier. We would say that the early days are about laying solid foundations, so it was more than worth it. The rewards are there for all to see and it genuinely is about getting out what you put in.

How do you manage the work/life family balance?
Our family are very much part of our business with sons, daughter, brothers and sisters all involved. That was very much part of the original strategy in that working for big companies was fine, but if we wanted to help family members on the road to employment or if they wanted to help us in our work life it was pretty much impossible. Through our efforts and with the support of key family members we are now in the position that we can employ our own family and therefore they should never be out of work. Given the current marketplace in terms of recession and unemployment that means a lot to us.

Don’t get us wrong, working with family members brings its challenges but in the main we all pull in the same direction and all share in the rewards. When we started our business our oldest son was just finishing his apprenticeship as an electrical engineer. He joined us from day one and after 6 years, left to run his own very successful franchise with his wife. You can imagine how much pleasure we gain from their success knowing that they are continuing the family connection with Rainbow International.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone on how to win business what would it be?
People buy from people. Be honest and deliver what you promise and always look at the bigger picture. You might knock on doors for a long time before you’re given a chance and remember that not every job will meet your profit targets. But if you provide a reliable and professional service your customers will continue to use you and the more profitable work will follow.

What business plans do you have to grow in the future?
We have just brought our second 5,000 sq ft industrial unit (not bad for a couple who owned nothing after working 25 years for the same plc!) and we are looking to grow the commercial side of our business. We are four months into a three-year contract with the local council for cleaning their empty housing stock. We are also the sole provider of restoration services to 14 local insurance agents.

What advice would you give those looking to start their own business?
Go for it. Absolutely go for it. You can work for any company in any industry at whatever level you are capable of, but one day someone and some circumstances can take all of that away. Running your own business means you are in control of your own destiny. Franchising gives you the business model to work within and the training, marketing and systems to support you. With all of that support and your efforts and endeavours, if you buy into the right franchise you will succeed.


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