In stark contrast to many of his colleagues who spent years in the corporate rat race, Stephen Heathcock joined Auditel almost straight from university. His father, John, had bought an Auditel franchise expecting imminent redundancy but then found out his job would last another 18 months. He offered Stephen the opportunity to launch the business in his stead and, nearly 20 years later, his company has been valued at £1 million.

“After graduating from the University of Portsmouth with a degree in Geography and Economics in 2000, I took a sales job with an energy supplier. It was by no means a dream job so when my father suggested I take the lead with his Auditel business, I thought it was worth giving it go. I trained at Auditel’s head office in August and got straight to work. The initial training has obviously changed since then but the one thing I found most useful is still happening today – it is delivered by practising affiliates. I had no prior experience but even the most experienced of professionals is going to be missing some knowledge or skill which the training or ongoing support can provide. I never saw my lack of experience as a negative, it made me hungrier for success.”

“We launched with an office – albeit a broom cupboard – and planned to grow a team over the years to create a sustainable business. I had been with my wife, Rachel, since high school and we both wanted to secure our careers before starting a family. My first goal was to be able to take home a salary of £35,000 a year from the business – that seemed like an amazing amount of money at the time.

“It was a challenging role to begin with. As a business owner, I was also the credit controller, the salesperson, an analyst and account manager. After 12 months, we had signed a few clients and the business began to go places. By year three, we were turning over £64,000 – I was enjoying the partnership opportunities the network and the rewards that afforded us.”

Joint ventures with other Auditel Consultants are what Stephen now pinpoints as the single most valuable part of the Auditel franchise. Some Consultants choose to secure contracts with clients and then enlist the services of cost category specialists in the network to deliver the work. Our team of 12 manage procurement projects for over 100 clients, some of which is referred to us by Consultants in the network.”

“The support from Auditel was instrumental in our success in the first few years. As my team began to expand, I decided I wanted to give back to the network. Just as I’d benefitted from the training by practising Consultants, I began to deliver the energy training for Franchise Partners new to Auditel. The support is still available to me from Auditel’s team at head office but it’s my team who really benefit now from the relationship rather than me. It’s a credit to my team that we were recognised as the top performing Auditel business at their latest annual conference, receiving the Highest Income Award (Practice).”

Stephen is the first to admit that procurement wasn’t his passion even though he has come to love the business over these last two decades. In his spare time, he’d rather be mountain biking in some tough terrain.

“I’ve taken many holidays to places like Morzine, Whistler and the Alps to be able to enjoy the physical challenges and freedom you feel out in the open air. In fact, that’s what started my interest in owning a bike shop which quickly grew to be a life goal. In 2014, the success of my Auditel business allowed me the flexibility and finances to fulfil my ambition, opening C6 Bikes in Cambridge. Five years on, I have two people running the shop for me while I spend about one day a week managing the business. Because I can spend this little bit of time on a passion project, it gives me a renewed dedication to growing my Auditel business.

“My Auditel franchise, based in Ipswich, has recently been valued at £1 million but my plan is to take it much further by reaching £1 million annual turnover. This year, we hit £550,000 with 40 per cent net profit. My five-year plan is to double the size of the business, investing in the staff and premises to make that a reality.”

Even though Stephen has built a mature business, he hasn’t neglected family life. He and Rachel have two children, Luke and Lucy, who keep them both busy. Luke shares another passion of his dad’s in supporting Ipswich Town football club. “You can often find me ferrying Luke to training with Cambridge United’s development team. It’s really important for me to spend time with my family and that’s another benefit of my Auditel business. My father is technically retired but still keeps his hand in as our Financial Director. It will be some years before I look at retirement myself although I do have plans to bring in a Managing Director which would be one step towards an exit plan.

“It’s rare to start your own business straight out of university or without significant work experience but franchises like Auditel mean more young professionals are choosing that route than ever before. I can’t imagine my life having done anything else.”

The Auditel network is made up of over 100 Franchise Partners who have differing levels of career experience when they join us. One thing they do share, is the desire to control their own future and build profitable, scalable businesses with real longevity.

“The Auditel model is truly scalable – that’s why we’ve ended up heading for a million-pound turnover business.”

After launching his Auditel franchise at the tender age of 26, Stephen Sowerby has built a highly successful Auditel business. Despite having no prior self-employment experience, the former Chartered Accountant always wanted to be his own boss. In 2011, he took the plunge and now enjoys the best of both worlds. A rewarding, profitable business which provides a work-life balance he values dearly.

In recognition of all that he had achieved, Stephen won Franchisee of the Year in both 2014 and 2018 at Auditel’s annual conference. And he’s now the proud recipient of a new title, after receiving Silver in the Highest Income Award. New for 2019, the award celebrates those who have achieved the highest income as a sole consultant. It was designed to reflect the increased focus on sales and marketing which has seen Auditel propelled to new heights within both the franchise and procurement industries. Stephen was presented with his award by Auditel founder and Executive Chairman, Chris Allison, at a black-tie gala event in Solihull.

“Stephen joined Auditel at a relatively young age – and doesn’t look much older now,” announced a jovial Chris. “He has built a solid business which continues to demonstrate steady growth. Stephen does a lot of work himself but works closely with other Affiliates and is very much a team player, offering support and encouragement to his fellow Consultants. Stephen also offers help and support to the recruitment process, speaking to prospective franchisees and showcasing that, with hard work and determination, they too could build a successful business just like his.”

“Being singled out as a top performer is obviously very satisfying,” said Stephen. “It’s nice to win and it’s always nice to be recognised in front of your peers. This is my fifth award since joining the network and gives me encouragement that I must be developing my business in the rights ways.”

“For me, the best thing about owning my own business is the flexibility. I work hard and I work long hours when needed but I have much more freedom now. I have a little girl and being able to arrange my work around spending more time with my family is very important. Yes, it’s been hard work, and it continues to be. But with how it’s all worked out for me, I would do it again without doubt.”

The ‘right ways’ are a combination of consistent hard work, a team-player mentality and a business development strategy that is optimised for Stephen and his clients.

“The success that you see today is very much a product of the hard work I’ve put in over previous years. It’s not just one good year that gets results – it’s the last three to five coming to fruition. And it was the same when I won awards in the past. The nature of this business is that you have to put a lot of effort in up front to see returns down the line. If you do that consistently then you’re actually ensuring the longevity of your income stream, profitability and growth for many years to come.

“One of the great things about Auditel is that you can choose to structure your business in any number of ways to work best for you and your clients. I’ve had another very good 12-months and winning a new award this year was great. Not only is it personally satisfying, it increases your profile in the network and the level of credibility you carry which opens doors for collaboration too. Joint venture work with my fellow Consultants is important as a way to leverage the knowledge of the network and increase my bandwidth to grow the business further.”

When it comes to plans for the future, Stephen is clear that his strategy is simply more of the same. The ambitious business owner says that it’s important, no matter the level of success you achieve in the here and now, never to become complacent and to always keep striving for more.

Keen to support the growth of its Consultants, throughout 2019, Auditel introduced of a new suite of marketing collateral and sales tools. The development comes hand-in-hand with the promotion of the brand’s former Marketing Director, Chris Aston, to Managing Director. With over 20 year’s in the procurement, marketing and franchise industries, his knowledge and experience is unparalleled. Stephen plans to utilise the newly available resources to propel his business forwards.

“We’ve had a complete revamp of everything marketing related over the last 12 months which is brilliant for business. It’s refreshed everything and made it easier to approach larger companies. The approach to sales and marketing has been particularly professionalised and it’s moved the Auditel brand up a level in terms of the size and scale of firms we can now target.”

Like most who choose franchising as a route to business ownership, Stephen had aspirations of achieving personal and financial freedom: “I came into the business with some specific goals – things that knew I wanted to achieve though this business. Firstly, there was a financial figure I wanted to earn; one which I knew would ensure my family were supported and our financial future was secure. Secondly, there was a certain level of work-life balance that I wanted and of course, I wanted to not have to be in someone else’s employment ever again. That was my grand plan and I’m incredibly pleased to be able to say, almost eight years later, that I’ve achieved exactly that. The important thing for me now is to ensure that the status quo is maintained and protected for the future.”

“For me, the best thing about owning my own business is the flexibility. I work hard and I work long hours when needed but I have much more freedom now. I have a little girl and being able to arrange my work around spending more time with my family is very important. Yes, it’s been hard work, and it continues to be. But with how it’s all worked out for me, I would do it again without doubt.”

Daryn Dodge launched his Auditel franchise in 2001 and is the proud owner of a business which rewards him both personally and financially. Daryn has well and truly achieved his mission to take control of his own destiny. Able to regulate his work-life balance in a way which sees him make the most of his coastal lifestyle, Daryn revels in both the security and the flexibility his business affords.

His strategy for growth has seen him win and undertake work personally, as well as joint venture with fellow Auditel Consultants, following the ‘Generalist’ business pathway with Auditel whereby he manages most of his own clients and undertakes project management too, ‘joint-venturing’ certain projects with other Auditel franchisees (affiliates) where specialist sector or category knowledge and experience is required.  Fees are shared in this way, allowing all affiliates to work closely and play to their own strengths whilst harnessing the expertise of others.

“I wanted to control my own destiny and I do. I’ve never felt more secure than I have done for the last 15 years. My work life balance is very important.  Taking the dog for long walks on the beach and being able to play golf in the afternoon is as significant to me as making good money. My business affords me the opportunity to do both.”

Prior to joining Auditel, Daryn’s career spanned several industries and saw him delivering IT systems across the world. His roles culminated in a senior management position with BT before, finally, becoming the head of European Development for an American telecoms service provider. Frequent international travel and an uncertain market eventually led the logical, analytical businessman to an inevitable conclusion.

“I enjoyed the job, but I was sick of the travel. It was also apparent that the bottom was about to fall out of the market. I’d experienced redundancy once before and I didn’t want to fall victim to it again, so I decided it was time to take control. I felt the only way to do that was to start my own businesses. At that time, the biggest hurdle was getting the buy in of my then wife due to the fact that we had three young children and she was, understandably, concerned about the risks of going it alone. Franchising became the obvious choice because of the high success and low failure rates.”

Ever methodical, Daryn compiled checklists prior to investigating what opportunities were available. With a clear roadmap to follow, his preferred option soon became clear: “I made several lists, including niceties and necessities for my new business as well as personal objectives. I included things that I did want, as well as things that I didn’t. I then looked at franchises and completed the checklists for each one – that allowed the head to control the heart and not the other way around. I always knew that I wanted a white-collar franchise because I wanted to be able to use my skills and experiences. There were two that ticked all the important boxes and Auditel came out on top.”

Founded in 1994, the Auditel consultancy service was pioneered to help UK organisations make effective and informed procurement decisions. Auditel Affiliates work closely alongside FDs, CEOs and business owners throughout the UK as a trusted business advisor. Delivering new perspectives and insights for clients, they help to drive change and increase profitability, competitiveness and growth.

Whilst he knew that his background would serve him well as an initial starting point, Daryn planned to build his business through a combination of his own skill and utilising the collective knowledge and experience of the Auditel network. Something which he’d heard about and bought in to – but had a hard time fully believing until he witnessed it in action!

“I felt my background advantageous but my long-term plan was to build multiple revenue streams. I work across a wide range of categories and I’ve joint ventured where necessary to achieve that. In my first five years, I was expanding at such a rate that the majority of what I did was joint venture! Nowadays, what I enjoy most is client management – delighting them with service and outcomes. I pride myself on the fact that two thirds of my clients have been with me for more than 10 years.

“I was told about the benefits of the network before I joined – but I didn’t really believe it. I’ve been astonished at how supportive and collaborative the network is. I thought I would be competing with other Franchise Partners, but we don’t, and the wealth of knowledge you can leverage as a result is incredible. Auditel has a very unusual culture that I have never seen anywhere else. There’s a genuine ethos where everybody is eager to help. People give; you put into the network because you take out of it as well. I found it strange that people were willing to give up their time to help me when I first started but I realised that it’s because they got help when they came in and want to pay it back.”

For Daryn, ‘paying it back’ has included supporting new affiliates by being a mentor and even delivering a specialist workshop on client retention at the annual conference. Over the years, he has channelled his passion for business not only into his own franchise, but into the Auditel model too – helping to develop the brand’s Partnership Programme which he then piloted with a client. Something which now, in its maturity, directly benefits the entire network.

“Auditel has many benefits, and it’s true that they evolve over time as you grow your business. I personally have been able to relocate from East Anglia to Cornwall with no disruption to my clients or my income. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how much freedom we have in the model. In fact, it’s something that I now discuss with people looking to join the network. Auditel is what I call a true entrepreneurial franchise – you get the training, the tools and the support to build a hugely successful business, and then it’s up to you to get out there and do it. You make the decisions, you have the autonomy and therefore, you get out what you put in.”

Thanks to a solid client base and well-earned reputation amongst his peers, Daryn now balances his time between running his business and supporting his local community – of which he has become a key member. A published Author and regular public speaker, Daryn uses his own inspirational story to raise money for charity.

“I’m actively involved with the Chamber of Commerce and as a volunteer Enterprise Advisor with my local school, Bodmin College. For the last 18 months I’ve been working with their SEN children too – it’s incredibly rewarding. In 2017 I wrote a book called ‘The road to hell via the A194’ which is a true story about how, after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I decided to turn my life around – and upside-down! – by signing up for the Great North Run. I use the money from the book sales to raise money for charity. Of course, all of this is made possible by the flexibility I have in my business. 

“My plans for the future are more of the same! I’m 59 now but the thought of retiring just doesn’t sit well. Maybe in a few more years I might look to scale back to three or four days a week but that would simply be to enjoy more golf, more holidays and more walks with the dog on Bodmin Moor – all of which I happily do now!”

The Auditel network is made up of over 100 Franchise Partners – professionals who, like Daryn, come from all walks of life. One thing they do share, is the desire to control their own future and build profitable, scalable businesses with real longevity.

“The satisfaction I get from Auditel is multifaceted – my income, my lifestyle, my relationships with clients and fellow franchise partners. After 18 years I still love what I do and the opportunities it provides.”

Auditel Franchisee Ravi Khakhria has been running his own Auditel consultancy since 2007. Over the last twelve years, the former accountancy professional has built one of the most dynamic and well-respected businesses within the Auditel network. Driven by a determination to provide a great lifestyle for his family whilst having the flexibility to enjoy it, Ravi has utilised the opportunity for Joint Venturing with his fellow franchisees to maximum effect. He’s now also developing a secondary revenue stream by bringing a new partner into the business. For Ravi, professional and personal success are intrinsically linked; and he’s proudly achieving both.

“My definition of success will always be different to someone else’s. I don’t simply define my success by a monetary value. I’m happy, my business offers me a good income, a lifestyle with my family that I always wanted and a level of professional variety that I love. For me, the future is about more of the same!”

After completing a Post Graduate Degree in Accounting, a young Ravi launched into his career in the financial industry. Initially working for small, independent practices, he worked himself up the corporate ladder, culminating in a position as a Senior Manager at one of London’s Top 20 accountancy firms. By his own admission, no one thing led to Ravi’s decision to leave the industry. But, at the age of 33, whist planning for the future, he knew that in order to achieve his dreams, making change was essential.

“My wife and I had just decided that we wanted to start a family and, living outside of London, we knew that the commute and the long hours weren’t really suited to new family life. I didn’t want to miss out on my children growing up! I was also looking to progress professionally but had started to become a little disillusioned with the industry; it wasn’t what it had once been, and I’d lost the love for my work. That’s something that I’m very passionate about: there has to be an element of fun and enjoyment in everything that you do. So, it was time for a change.”

Already familiar with the concept of franchising, Ravi decided that business ownership was the one career path that could offer the financial prospects, the future flexibility and the personal satisfaction that he craved. Careful not to rule out any options, Ravi’s due diligence saw him research aspects of both B2C and B2B franchising. However, he soon confirmed his initial belief that a B2B franchise was where he could best utilise his knowledge and skills. It was then that he found Auditel. And the attraction was instant.

“What I liked about Auditel was the proposition of being able to demonstrate value and deliver tangible savings. It very much appealed to the analytical side of me and it suited my background. Investing into a B2B opportunity was key for my requirements and the best way to support the lifestyle that I wanted to achieve. I didn’t want to be driven by the consumer model. I felt that with Auditel, things would be very much on my terms and, whilst the work would undoubtedly still need to be put in, there was the opportunity for more flexibility – which was crucial for me.”

Founded in 1994, the Auditel consultancy service was pioneered to help UK organisations make effective and informed procurement decisions. Auditel Consultants work closely alongside FDs, CEOs and business owners throughout the UK as a trusted business advisor. Delivering new perspectives and insights for clients, they help to drive change and increase profitability, competitiveness and growth.

Despite completing his initial franchisee training over a decade ago, Ravi continues to utilise the ongoing support and training offered by Auditel head office. In fact, he believes doing so is essential for maintaining Auditel’s market-leading position as agile and insightful consultants.

“The nature of our business, as strategic procurement consultants, means that the challenges our clients face are constantly evolving – as are the technologies and solutions we can offer. This knowledge is assimilated and results in new tools and procedures or is disseminated via training courses and seminars to the network by head office and even other consultants themselves -especially those who specialise in niche areas. All of which means we’re able to stay ahead of the competition as franchisees and offer a cutting-edge service to our clients. It’s win-win.”

Auditel franchisee Ravi now specialises in working with Theatres and multi-sited clients, but his business plan always included collaborating with his fellow Consultants on Joint Venture projects; a unique benefit of the Auditel franchise. More recently, he’s expanding further by targeting the hospitality sector with the help of a new business partner.

“My model for growth has always been to diversify. I recently had an opportunity to bring someone into the business who could help develop a new revenue stream. He has a background in hospitality, having been COO and MD for in International hotel chain. He’s got the experience and credibility behind him; knows the language and can speak to stakeholders on their level. It’s very exciting and demonstrates the flexibility of the franchise model and how you can, within reason, diversify for growth.”

Now, Auditel franchisee Ravi is truly reaping the benefits of his own hard work – living the lifestyle that he’d always hoped to achieve. But he says it’s important to remember, as with any business, you have to work hard, and you only get out what you put in: “This business gives me the flexibility to choose when I do the work… not if! I can enjoy family life – time with the kids, holidays etc. In reality, that means being able to decide to take the afternoon off if needed and then doing a couple of hours work one evening to make up for it. Or taking my laptop on holiday so that I can keep my finger on the pulse.”

 And the best thing about being a franchisee? For Ravi, it’s something that he actually underestimated during his decision-making process!

“The Auditel network! You’re working with a lot of exceptionally talented and genuinely nice people. I totally underestimated this side of the franchise during my due diligence. But working with other people is so valuable. The opportunity to learn from them and constantly develop your own skills is fantastic. Also, no two days are the same! Great if, like me, you’re someone who doesn’t like being stuck in a routine and enjoys variety.”

The Auditel network is made up of over 100 franchise owners – professionals who, like Ravi, come from all walks of life. One thing they do share, is the desire to control their own future and build profitable, scalable businesses with real longevity.

“I personally think I get the best of both worlds through the balance I have in my business. The work that we do has a genuine impact on businesses and their teams and that makes me very proud. It’s been a wonderful twelve years and I think that being able to say I’m still very excited for the future is very special.”

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