ENGINEERING A FUTURE IN INVENTORY MANAGEMENT
Working with the Metropolitan Police as a radio engineer in a male dominated environment was always going to be a challenge for a woman, but the life skills Lorraine Verlander picked up during her 20 year stint as an engineer and later a manager, have proved invaluable in running her own No Letting Go inventory management business.
A gritty determination to succeed, a willingness to learn and adapt to changes in environment, coupled with proven communication skills all stood Lorraine in good stead when she made the decision to go it alone last year as a No Letting Go franchisee.
Having risen to a managerial position supervising two teams, Lorraine recognised the limited career progression opportunities in her current role, and felt the time was right for her to consider running her own show.
Franchising had always been Lorraine's first choice as a means to start her own business but she was keen to identify a franchise which would offer a chance to operate in a totally different culture from the civil service environment that she had been used to. Lorraine was also keen to establish her business in a market sector which presented significant long term growth opportunities.
It was a former Metropolitan Police work colleague who first introduced Lorraine to the No Letting Go concept. Chris Holmes was one of the founder franchisees of the now 18 strong No Letting Go franchise network, which has undergone a massive 130% growth in the last 12 months. Chris's enthusiasm for the business combined with the natural fit of Lorraine's skills / experience together with the impressive training and support on offer from head office made the decision making easy for the former engineer. Following a couple of weeks shadowing a fellow franchise owner and an inventory clerk, Lorraine's mind was made up and she signed up to take on the Bexley / Bromley territory on 18th June 2009 – a decision which she now claims is the best move she ever made!
The decision to set up a business via the franchise route has been ratified many times for Lorraine. "You really do get the best of both worlds, the chance to run your own show but with the support and backing of a well established organisation," says Lorraine. And in terms of quality of life the changes have been equally gratifying "I used to spend three hours of my working day travelling, now I work from a home office, get to see my son off to school on a daily basis and enjoy a far great degree of flexibility in my working life. I had calculated that I might earn back my franchise fee in 11 months but in six months, I've already clawed back my investment and am earning a living out of the business consistent with my previous earnings – but with the added benefit of a greatly improved quality of life. Of equal importance to me is the fact that I now own a prosperous business which is poised to enjoy further growth in the years to come – so I have not only matched my original investment – my inve stment is continuing to grow – something which is very difficult to achieve in the current economic climate!"
Falling pregnant with her second child proved to be just the catalyst Lisa Williamson needed to take stock of her working life. She had been working in the lettings business for a number of years and following the birth of her first child, had opted to work on a part-time basis. But having two young children to care for was going to require an even more flexible working arrangement. When her existing employer announced that the company planned to outsource the handling of inventories for clients, Lisa jumped at the chance to take on the role, which effectively launched her leap of faith to become a self-employed sole trader.
This new regime suited Lisa perfectly since she was often able to take baby Sophie with her as much of her work was carried out in vacant properties. A day would comprise undertaking inventories (producing a detailed document detailing the contents of a rented property and noting the general condition), before a rental agreement was in place. Lisa's services were also required at the beginning of a rental agreement (checking in) or as the tenants moved out of the property (checking out) – which could usually be arranged around her childcare responsibilities. Lisa started out just working for her original employer but it was not long before she was asked to handle inventories for a further two offices in the same company network. A combination of word of mouth recommendation and some basic marketing in the guise of an online presence via one of the inventory management trade organizations led to further growth in the business, and in 2004 Lisa felt confident enough to set up her o wn limited company.
Since the inception of Express Inventories, the business has gone from strength to strength starting off with just four clients and now providing an inventory management service to 15 letting agents covering up to 600 properties. With a phenomenal 100% increase in turnover it was evident that Lisa needed to staff up the business so Lisa's husband now works alongside her full-time, supported by four freelance inventory clerks and three freelance inventory secretaries.
"Running your own company does not necessarily give you the freedom and flexibility that so many working mothers yearn for" says Lisa "you need to identify a sector that will enable you to adapt your working day around the needs of your children – and inventory management does just that. I can fit in my visits to client properties around the school day and then catch up on all the admin and forward bookings in the evenings when the kids are in bed. Better still, setting up this business did not require me to dig deep in terms of upfront finance, the start up costs are very low as are the ongoing business overheads – once you've got your Dictaphone and a car you are ready to go" continues Lisa.
The business has proved such a success that Lisa is now working alongside Nick Lyons, managing director of No Letting Go, the UK's first national brand in the inventory management sector to launch an office in South Essex.
"I had a very lucky break setting up Express Inventories since I was presented with an excellent opportunity by my existing employer and I was already working in the lettings market. However, the No Letting Go franchise presents a fantastic direct route into the business, providing all the essential training and business back-up required to launch your own inventory management company but with the added support and reassurance of being associated with a national brand. Becoming part of the No Letting Go network provides me with access to the additional resources and potential leads to further grow and develop the business" says Lisa.
For Lisa a typical day kicks off at 10 o'clock, having dropped the children off to school. A new inventory will usually take about an hour and half so Lisa will often then squeeze in a further two check-ins / check-outs leaving her plenty of time to be at the school gates for 3.30. After the usual ferrying of children to various clubs and getting them fed and off to bed, Lisa returns to her home office at about 8.30. During the evening she will forward the voice files to the inventory secretaries to enable them to produce a formal inventory document, book in work for the next day, proof read any inventories which have recently been typed up by her team of freelance secretaries, undertake any necessary client correspondence and of course, keep on top of any invoicing.
When asked about the best aspects of her work job Lisa is quick to acknowledge that she enjoys meeting people – whether it is tenants or letting agents – and of course the undisputed flexibility that running her own business provides.
Anyone interested in running a No Letting Go inventory management franchise should contact Tony Mundella on 0845 6599980 www.nolettinggo.co.uk / firstname.lastname@example.org.
NURSERY TO PROPERTY
Making that final decision to go it alone and start your own business is right up there with a handful of life changing experiences, but for some, that defining moment and personal call to action, simply represents a natural path to follow. Such was the case with Chris Holmes, who has just joined the growing network of No Letting Go inventory management businesses, trading in the Medway area.
For Chris, the enormity of that traditional "leap of faith" was very much reduced as a result of his previous experience of launching a child day care business which he had grown and developed over a period of four years. Having already effectively steered one company to success, the opportunity to face a fresh challenge in a totally disparate market, was far from daunting, and rather, provided Chris with the renewed impetus to expand his repertoire of business management skills.
Chris' first career was in the mobile telecommunications network, where he had held a series of high profile Quality Assurance type roles. His remit had required him to work overseas for a period of time and it was during one of these postings that he decided it was time to change the work / life balance. With two young children, and a wife that worked full-time it was inevitable that the couple would have to rely heavily on the resources of a local nursery to accommodate their demanding work schedules. However, Chris realised there was another solution to their dilemma. By establishing his own business in the child care sector, not only would he resume control of his working life and be in a position to adapt his hours of work to fit around his family commitments, so too would he be able offer his children a new standard of high quality child care which he felt was currently lacking in the immediate locality.
Once the nursery was an established business – and as the children began to head towards school age, Chris began to feel the need to not just flex his business muscles in a new sector, he also wanted to craft another enterprise which would enable him to combine the responsibilities of after school child care with running a profitable company. The franchise route appealed to Chris although at this stage, he was unclear what type of franchise he was looking for and in what market sector. An advertisement for the Kent Franchise Show in the Kent Messenger newspaper caught his eye and having been drawn into the article, he then spotted an advertisement specifically promoting the newly launched No Letting Go franchise opportunity.
Chris visited the Kent Franchise Show with the specific aim of finding out more about No Letting Go. Since purchasing a second buy to rent property, Chris already fully appreciated the absolute necessity for a thorough, detailed and fair inventory report to protect his property investment and could identify strongly with the No Letting Go proposition. His background in quality management seemed a natural fit with the nature of the inventory management business and straight away Chris felt that this franchise opportunity would suit not only his skills and experience to date, but would also fit around his aspirations to grow a property portfolio and most important of all, could deliver the flexible working arrangements that were imperative to maintain his family commitments.
After the initial meeting with No Letting Go at the show, further discussions simply highlighted to Chris the synergy between this new franchise opportunity and his business / personal requirements and it took just a few weeks for him to make the decision to take on the Medway franchise. Part of the appeal of the No Letting Go business was the smooth and speedy transition from training to trading and having completed his initial desk training session with the company's training director, followed by practical in-the-field shadowing of an experienced inventory clerk, Chris was ready to launch his latest venture.
"I specifically chose the Medway territory as I feel it represents a genuine growth area, evidenced by the regeneration of the Chatham / Rochester / Strood docklands, the planned redevelopment of the Chatham shopping centre and the arrival of a new hotel to service the region. All these factors bode well for a company looking to provide an essential service to the residential lettings sector and I am confident that over the next five years, this area will have been transformed – providing significant commercial opportunities for a business such as No Letting Go" says Chris.
The new business kicked off in January 2008 and Chris is confident that once the company is up and running, he will be looking to recruit additional inventory management clerks to cope with the anticipated demand for the new generation of inventory management services exclusive to No Letting Go.
For Chris and his family, the future looks rosy – an exciting new business venture, on track to deliver a healthy return in year 1, the scope to grow a profitable company with minimal overheads – and that all essential flexibility to enable a truly independent lifestyle that enables commercial success – whilst still undertaking vital family responsibilities.
ANN BACKS 'BEING YOUR OWN BOSS' SECOND TIME AROUND!
As a successful regional administrator for an estate agency franchise, Ann Ennis already had a good grasp of the workings of both the property and franchise industries prior to joining the No Letting Go network. Her previous employment had brought her into direct contact with Nick Lyons, managing director of No Letting Go and she had been secretly tracking the success of Nick's new venture whilst working as an administrator.
When rumours of a potential redundancy first surfaced, Ann made up her mind that she wanted to run her own business rather than seek out alterative employment. Ann was no stranger to 'being her own boss' having previously run her own property management business undertaking a wide range of assignments for the London Borough of Hackney.
Synchronicity is a word that springs to mind for the events that followed confirmation of Ann's redundancy. The No Letting Go franchise was going from strength to strength, Ann's prior business dealings with Nick and his operations director Adrian meant that she already felt comfortable working with them both and had total faith in their ability to maintain the growth and success of No Letting Go. And Ann wanted to start her own business in North London which had been identified as a potential new territory for No Letting Go. Here was a golden opportunity that was too good to pass up and it took literally one month between Ann expressing an interest in the franchise and signing the paperwork before she was the proud owner of No Letting Go Walthamstow.
In just three months Ann has developed a thriving business "I've no regrets whatsoever and of course I am very relieved that things have turned out even better than I thought they would" comments Ann, "the advice and support from head office has been brilliant, I know there is always someone at the hand of the phone who can help me with difficult business decisions, and far from feeling 'big brother' is watching over me waiting to pull me up on a mistake, I know the team is willing me to succeed and are with me every step of the way – yet I never feel like an employee and this is still very much my own business" continues Ann.
With such an established background in the property sector there were no surprises for Ann in terms of the day to day running of the company, but even Ann was staggered to find out during her extensive training, that there was so much detail entailed in creating the exemplary standard of inventory pioneered by No Letting Go. Armed with her new found knowledge of the inventory sector, Ann found the best way to develop new business was cold calling backed up by one to one visits. "Although I was fortunate to secure a sizeable chunk of work through the preferred supplier deals set up by head office, I am conscious of the need not to 'place all my eggs in one basket'" says Ann. "I've found literally walking around my territory and visiting all the agents in the area to gauge their reaction to the No Letting Go offering – whilst assessing the competition at the same time - has proved to be a valuable investment of time and energy" adds Ann.
Having made such an early success of the business, the future certainly looks bright for this determined franchisee and in time Ann already has her sights set on extending the territory and bringing in additional inventory clerk support. Watch this space!
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