Ongoing support is what attracted Penny Scott, OPC Cambridge, to franchising.
Penny originally worked for the police force as a forensic scientist. She relocated overseas and launched a greeting card company that produced bespoke cards to customers’ requirements and designs, but the element of designing and creating the cards was very time-consuming. On moving back to the UK, Penny decided she wanted to continue working with greeting cards and after seeing all the back-up and support OPC could offer her, she decided to purchase the Cambridge territory.
Penny managed to raise the finance for the franchise from her own funds and started off her franchise with OPC’s initial comprehensive training programme where, amongst others, Penny was taught the techniques involved in opening new accounts. Orientation, paperwork and stock ordering were also initially done via Penny’s dedicated business development manager (BDM) until Penny was confident enough to carry out these tasks on her own safe in the knowledge that if she had any questions, her BDM was only a phone call away.
Penny’s day starts early, usually packing stock for the routes she will be merchandising. Within the day she will try to merchandise five to ten shops on a four-week cycle. “I talk to shop owners while merchandising, asking them about business and their families, often trying to acquire more space and show owners new designs,” says Penny. In the evening she will spend time unpacking cards, preparing for the next day and completing any outstanding administration work.
Penny’s main challenge was organising routes for merchandising so they are efficient. When opening new accounts these calls have to be integrated into this structure which results in some merchandising being allocated to another day. Penny manages her time carefully in order to balance her workload yet ensuring her working days are productive and efficient.
Opening new accounts via prospecting can be quite a challenge so Penny and her husband, Richard, prospect as a team. Penny’s BDM also spends time assisting the couple with prospecting as and when required.
With an ever-changing retail environment and shoppers returning to the convenience sector, Penny is now finding that she is acquiring more space in existing shops just by talking to owners or via word of mouth.
On asked if franchising has changed her life, Penny replied: “Yes, it has changed my life. I am now in charge, can make decisions and direct my future success to include the expansion of my franchise. Knowing I can ask advice when required gives me the confidence that I will make the correct positive decision.”
Penny makes good use of the comprehensive sales tools OPC provides to the network. With awareness a key factor to her success, she uses the professionally designed leaflets, samples and brochures provided by the OPC design team to show off new designs and developments. Penny also adds photographs of spinners and racks in her other accounts to further illustrate the services available to her retailers.
Verbal communication with owners about what she can do for them and explaining the whole set-up, cards and any costs and potential profit margins involved helps Penny sell her service and product into stores. “Owners always want to make money, which is understandable. I often make comparisons to other accounts I have in the area,” says Penny.
Penny believes that having the autonomy to make decisions to direct her business in the direction she wants, working with friendly and supportive staff at OPC’s support office and a simple stock ordering system that has a wide range of cards compared to other competitors, is what sets her franchise apart.
“A successful franchisee for me is someone who is approachable, adaptable and can communicate efficiently. If you can understand that this franchise requires you to have good planning skills and time management, which is developed as you develop in your franchise, then you will enjoy success,” advises Penny.
Research, research and more research is Penny’s mantra for those wishing to go into franchising.
She says: “Ask questions, go and meet the franchisor. Discuss profits, stock ordering, hours required and other commitments such as children and family. Then investigate finance and loans and meet with your bank and their business advisors.
“Finally, make sure you are totally comfortable and feel at ease with everything, including the people, before you invest.”
Penny’s main and immediate target is to expand ranges in existing shops. She feels that many shop owners have redundant space in their shops that she knows she can utilise with more ranges and stock. One method of achieving this is to use the business relationships she has nurtured and developed over the years with shop owners.
Her future goal is to expand and develop new accounts in suitable areas within her exclusive territory with the assistance of her BDM.
Asked if she would do it all again, Penny replied: “Certainly, being a franchise owner is a great experience. It has developed my understanding of business methodology, from stock ordering, finance, communications, planning, problem-solving and what is required to develop a successful business.”