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It’s a testing time for agents, with multiple pressures on agents. So, asks Sheila Manchester, if your business is more of a worry than a joy, could a franchise be the right route for you?

Sheila Manchester

Franchise image

Belvoir won Franchise of the Year at The Negotiator Awards 2017. The judges said, “Largest doesn’t always mean best, but Belvoir supports franchisees, developing offices and people, building business so that they all reap the benefits.”

The protection that Belvoir offers in terms of a strong brand, operational support and outstanding marketing tools, creates a continued strong business. Dorian Gonsalves, CEO Belvoir.

Dorian Gonsalves imageEstablished in 1995, Belvoir now has 300 high street offices. Acquisition is their main growth strategy, with 23 independent businesses secured in 2017. CEO Dorian Gonsalves says, “In this market there is much uncertainty. Many agencies are considering selling or acting to protect them from a negatively changing market.

“Rather than trying to weather the storm, with a significant increase in financial risk, an independent owner may sell or seek the protection of a larger brand by conversion to a franchise. The protection that Belvoir, as franchisor, offers in terms of a strong brand, operational support and outstanding marketing tools creates a continued strong business, an owner with their investment intact and a great opportunity to grow.”

Andrew Bushell at Hunters, says, “For all sales and lettings businesses, no matter the size or how long established, the industry is facing many challenges which can be costly and time consuming. With numerous changes in compliance and the welcomed future introduction of regulation, independent businesses that are part of the Hunters franchise network can rest assured that these areas are provided for.

“All Hunters partners receive access to our accredited training academy, providing nationally recognised qualifications, the cost of which is included in the franchise. We provide the latest technology, full marketing assistance and hands on support to ensure that all businesses can compete/ grow in any market conditions.”

Alex Morrison, is a Director at Open House – a smaller business but, they say, their model is a unique concept compared to other franchise models with very clear USPs. “Open House agents remain in charge of their own business models, indeed, each agent sets its own pricing strategy with no minimum performance criteria and each agent controls 100 per cent of their own cashflow and invoicing. One of those USPs is unlimited access to Rightmove and Zoopla for £295 per month.”

Winkworth won Website of the Year at the Negotiator Awards 2017. A family business, with the Chairman and CEO being father and son, it’s a well known brand with 100 offices.

If a franchisee wants to open a new office, we work with them and are also very willing to aid portfolio acquisitions as the business is already ‘there’. James Campbell, Winkworth.

James Campbell imageJames Campbell, New Franchising Manager says there are many reasons to join them. “At Winkworth you still have ownership and are free to operate your office(s) as you wish. We have brilliant franchising support to help with everything that you need to get your office launched and keep you at the top of your game.

“We have worked with many independent agents who have found strength in converting to the Winkworth brand. For example, if an agent struggles to compete on fees and instructions, we can help them to achieve these with the long heritage of our brand, large network and strong London presence, which all help to gain more clients. If they struggle with marketing, our experienced team helps them to run successful local campaigns.

“If they don’t have the right staff, our recruitment team and the training academy can help find the right team. Our client services team support franchisees by acting as an extension of their office.

“Winkworth also offers an excellent IT infrastructure so anyone rebranding from their existing business has all the support they need to flourish.”

The largest group of franchised brands is The Property Franchise Group. Led by CEO Ian Wilson, with multiple brands for a potential franchisee to choose from.

Ian says, “A franchisor can provide the discipline to effect changes in a business that the proprietor, left to their own devices, will put off. Also, the franchisor will have national class experts and group deals on matters such as pay-per-click, search engine optimisation, website optimisation and customer relationship management tools, which are prohibitively expensive for even large local agents.”

One of their brands is Ewemove, a hybrid agency, with trusted franchisees delivering a personal service on a local level – building relationships with customers – whilst their dedicated team at HQ (the Sheep Pen) supports franchisees with everything else, from lead generation and book-balancing to viewing confirmations and portfolio management.

Sarah Makin, Marketing Manager says, “Any new franchisee is able to hit the ground running, without the initial need for an office or staff. HQ expertly undertakes (almost) all of the administrative tasks, removing overheads, giving franchisees the freedom to do what they do best. Our training programme starts at the beginning of the franchise journey, with an intensive eight-day induction at HQ followed by ‘Success Summits’ where franchisees share experiences and challenges.

GOOD TO GROW

No business should stand still and even in difficult trading times, the best get better.

Winkworth encourages franchisees to grow, says James Campbell, as long as it’s right for themselves and for the Winkworth network. “If a franchisee wishes to open another office, we work with them to see how it would function and help them grow. It’s a great way to expand our network, as existing franchisees know our business model, services, people and procedures.

“We are also very willing to look into and aid acquisitions of portfolios for our offices, another good way to grow and quite straightforward as the portfolios are ‘there.”

Andrew Bushell at Hunters says they can provide franchisees with financial support, rebranding and help to identify suitable acquisition targets, whether it’s a new location or a purchase of additional income streams via portfolio purchases. We actively work with our partner branches to ensure that these opportunities become a successful addition to their businesses.

“As a hybrid,” says Sarah at Ewemove, “we provide on-the-ground agents with the ability to provide a personal face-to-face service on a local level whilst benefitting from cutting-edge technology and comprehensive support via our national operations centre. “The phenomenal successes of our franchisees is testament to the exceptional support they’re offered for being part of EweMove, and we’ve seen numbers of businesses grow exponentially. Earlier this year, the brand completed on its biggest acquisition, when EweMove Sheffield took over local agents, Castle Estates, adding 350 properties to the EweMove portfolio and five new members.

Managing Director of EweMove Sheffield, Bob Brown, said, “As a former property owner-landlord, I was determined to set up my own business. When the pilot scheme with EweMove was announced in 2013, I immediately said I’d take the Sheffield territory. Five years later, we’re proud to be amongst the top performing EweMove branches.”

The Open House model is, says Alex Morrison, “Transparent and scalable allowing our agents to grow organically or through acquisition. We offer interest free payment plans for new agents and we have finance and marketing support available to support their growth agenda.”

Dorian Gonsalves at Belvoir says that acquisition is the most efficient way to grow a business right now. “If this acquisition supports the opening of an additional office, ensuring continued profitability and opportunity, then this represents a premium transaction. Belvoir constantly research opportunities and then tests viability in order to offer growth and security for our franchisees.

“Notice that I mention viability, it is important that growth is measured, so that our network of franchisees is protected from poor decision making, posing future threats to their business.”

Martin & Co takes a liberal and inclusive view to actively growing franchisees’ businesses. “We pay cash back to franchisees who acquire competitors’ lettings businesses, in 2017 we paid out £300k and we expect to pay out £500k in 2018,’” says Ian Wilson. “These are gifts not loans. We don’t see our role as a banker, so we have a panel of supportive lenders, and we can access alternative sources of funding which means that even franchisees with no cash of their own can buy businesses. “Crucially, because we have a multi-brand strategy, we allow franchisees to own more than one brand, and we allow one brand to takeover the assets of another brand, so in Bristol for example CJ Hole took over a failing Martin & Co business.”

WHY WE CHOSE OUR FRANCHISOR

Ben Jesty imageBen Jesty, Senior Partner Winkworth Westbourne:
“We’d been trading in Westbourne for 16 years and although we were perceived as one of the most successful agents, this wasn’t enough for us. We wanted to take our business on – buyers were coming from London, the Home Counties and overseas, to buy a second home – we wanted to capitalise on that. Winkworth, with the London link and many offices inside the M25, marketing and PR support and enthusiasm to grow the network, was the perfect option to take our business to the next level.”

Caroline Murgatroyd imageCaroline Murgatroyd, Hunters, Tring and Leighton Buzzard: 
“We aim to deliver a more personal tailored service with the customer at the heart of everything we do. The brand, the training, the system and support helped me grow my business and income, allowing me to open my second branch.”

Belvoir imageJohn and Sue Warburton, Belvoir Leamington Spa:
“Belvoir is a very powerful franchise and never fails to inspire their franchisees. On a business and personal level you feel that your investment is safeguarded; there is no doubt that our lives have been enhanced financially by becoming part of the Belvoir ‘family!” John and Sue Warburton and son Conor.

Richard Brooke imageRichard Brooke Open House Eastbourne:
“Open House shows how you can benefit from a supportive infrastructure without it being overbearing and too demanding. They allow you to run your business your way without interference whilst benefitting from a full support network.”

EweMove imageJames Hillier, Director, EweMove Bexleyheath:
“We’re all experienced agents, having grown a successful high street agency, Apex Residential, since 2003. We built our reputation for delivering outstanding service, but after 14 years, we simply weren’t sure how to drive further growth of the existing business. The opportunities as EweMove franchisees was hugely attractive and we’re already seeing immediate financial benefits.”

July 10, 2018

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