Jeff Whittle had enjoyed a successful career in industry but by 2007 he knew it was time for a change. Having been based in Poland for a period with his US employer, he was also keen to work closer to home.
Jeff had a degree in engineering, but his career path had taken him through roles in quality control to top-level management positions. With an MBA also under his belt, Jeff had studied small business management. He decided it could now be time to be his own boss and so investigated franchising.
His wife, Lise, who was a qualified silversmith but was working as a teaching assistant to fit work around family life with three children, was also keen on the idea of running a business together. Jeff attended a franchise event in Glasgow where he could meet different franchise brands in person.
“Face-to-face interactions with franchise brands early on in your research are crucial, because you can go online and do a bit of investigation, but you really need to understand the people that are running the company, the franchisors, and how they look after their franchisees.”
Jeff went to the franchise event with an open mind as to what sort of business he and Lise could take on and came across business services provider, Minuteman Press. At the brand’s exhibition stand he had a lengthy conversation with George Holzmacher, the company’s Vice President.
Jeff was drawn to many aspects of the brand and its business model. Jeff explains:
“Even in that first discussion I could tell that Minuteman Press was family orientated - it had a real family feel, and that in turn gave me a warm feeling about the opportunity.”
“At a more practical level, my previous work in industry had given me a strong appreciation of the benefit of a customer relationship management (CRM) system that integrates with a production control system.”
“Minuteman’s proprietary system at the time was very impressive, offering a seamless end-to-end solution that would follow an initial enquiry all the way through to sale and production of the customer’s order. I thought, wow, this is exactly what someone who’s new to the business needs!”
Jeff was further convinced that the franchise was the right one for him when George returned to the UK to accompany Jeff on visits to several established franchisees in Scotland. Jeff comments:
“As well as candid discussions with the franchisor before you sign, it’s also very important to speak with existing franchisees. I was given ample opportunity to speak freely with franchisees on their sites to get a real feel for the daily operations and also to quiz them on how they were looked after by head office.”
Having decided that Minuteman Press was the right business for them and confirming that they could open a centre in their hometown of Ayr, Jeff and Lise began the process of finding premises and getting all the training needed to launch and operate their new business.
The couple benefited from extensive training at Minuteman Press’s headquarters in the US, while their site in the UK was fully fitted out with everything they needed to get up and running. Jeff says:
“The initial training was intense, and Lise and I made sure we completed all the homework each day. We were investing our life savings in this venture and knew we had to give it our full effort.”
“When we returned to Ayr, our centre had been kitted out with all the equipment, supplies and branding we needed to open our business.”
“For the first three weeks after launch our area manager was with us every day, familiarising us with daily tasks and working with us to attract customers. It could not have been a more thorough and supportive launch process.”
Jeff explains what it’s like running his established business as he approaches its 10th anniversary:
“After nearly ten years in business we are a firm part of the local business community with many long-term repeat customers.”
“We still enjoy the support of the franchisor and enjoy the annual meeting with the rest of the franchise network. We also have the opportunity to attend an Expo in the US every two years where further training is available on everything from motivation and understanding customers to the latest innovations in marketing and printing.”
“I’ve often been often asked why I don’t go it alone with a business, but from the outset I was looking for an established franchisor. I enjoy the support of Minuteman Press; they are always there at the end of the phone, and from the off I’ve benefited from their superb system and ongoing training.”
“I still work full time on the business and Lise works part time. Our three children have also all worked here!”
“My two sons would work here in their university holidays while my daughter, the youngest, actually continued to work here part-time after completing her college education. Two years ago, at her own request, she became a full-time member of the team and is pursuing her career as a graphic designer.”
“It’s been very satisfying building a business that has served our family so well in many different ways. We’ll be continuing to run the business for many years to come and it’s brilliant that the next generation of our family are part of that.”
If you would like to find out more about a franchise with Minuteman Press, come and meet them at Franchise Opportunities Scotland in Glasgow on 12 September, or at Birmingham’s NEC on 4 and 5 October at The National Franchise Exhibition.