Franchisee network spotlight interview: Lorraine Ellis & Satvir Saran – Vodafone

Lorraine and Satvir are two good friends in London who found they had the common ambition to run their own business – one that could provide a balance with family life.

Each a mother to three children, both women had enjoyed successful careers: Lorraine in IT management in the City, and Satvir in property development and land acquisition.

The friends decided that their individual knowledge, experience and skillsets would make a good combination to run a business together – they just had to find the right one.

Today the women have three Vodafone Franchise stores in south east London as part of Vodafone’s successful Partner Programme.

Having recently spoken at the Multi-unit Franchise Conference, the franchisees spoke further to The Franchisee Network about their experience of being women in franchising and the qualities needed to be a successful multi-unit franchisee.

What was it about franchising that appealed to you?

Satvir comments:

“Running a franchise with an established brand offers a tried and tested business model that is up and running quickly with a greater probability for success. In many ways it is a “best of both worlds” scenario – the flexibility of being your own boss with the marketing and support of a strong brand.”

You spoke at the Multi-Unit Franchise Conference about ‘Finding the right fit.’ What led you to choose a franchise with Vodafone?

Lorraine comments:

“Between us we have business experience as well as a background in telecoms and technology, so as a franchise option, Vodafone was the perfect fit.”

Satvir says:

“We are also experienced in building stakeholder relationships and have always found that transparency and open feedback builds a solid foundation for an ongoing relationship.  Vodafone’s approach and work ethic felt in line with our own, and a Vodafone Franchise felt like the right fit for us.”

Lorraine Ellis

Lorraine and Satvir are passionate about promoting women in business and aim to be good examples of what women can achieve. Satvir comments:

“Becoming Vodafone Partners has given us the flexibility and autonomy of being business owners, whilst at the same time having the support, backing and weight of an iconic British brand behind us.”

Since becoming Vodafone Partners, Lorraine and Satvir have grown their team and seen their vision come to life.

In what ways does your chosen franchise brand continue to be a true partner? 

Lorraine and Satvir describe the support they have had from the start from Vodafone:

“At an on-the-ground operational level, you’re given access to elite store systems and support teams, as well as a fully staffed store from day one.”

“We’ve also had access to a financial and business planning workshop.”

“After taking on the stores we’ve had ongoing access to Vodafone management as well as Vodafone systems and reporting analysis, which makes for a dynamic partnership. We can respond quickly across all the stores to any changes, so customers receive the same experience wherever they go.”

What are your short- and long-term ambitions for your business?

Short-term, Lorraine and Satvir plan to change the structure of their store teams to make for a more robust management team. Lorraine comments:

“This will provide us with the capacity for succession planning and will allow us to put into place our longer-term plan to expand roles across sites and to generate promotion opportunities.”

“The idea is that this is will then allow us time to expand the customer base in the local areas and to look for additional opportunities to grow the business.”

What, in your opinion, are the qualities a potential multi-unit franchisee needs in order to build and run an empire of several, or many, outlets/territories?

Lorraine emphasises that a multi-unit franchisee needs the ability to delegate and manage people upwards. She says: “You always have to keep in mind that everyone who works for you has the potential to one day do your job!”

Satvir adds:

“Handing over roles and responsibilities that you have historically done yourself can be an art you have to learn. You need to be self-aware enough to know when to get out of the way to allow your team the space to grow.”

Satvir Saran

“As business owners its key to invest in our people and their wellbeing, as that will allow them to grow as individuals and we can be successful as a broader team.”

Lorraine comments:

“A key aspect of running several outlets or territories, is to create a strong team in every location, with a reliable and motivating leader. As Satvir says, you need to be able to step back in order to allow others to step up.”

“Each team needs to be very clear on their goals and way of working. Once that structure is secure and reliable, it is then straightforward to use that template in each site. Most essentially that structure needs to be scalable.”

Lorraine and Satvir have also found that always being open to feedback is an essential quality. Lorraine says: “You have to keep the lines of communication open, with clear dialogue to ensure we are responsive to the needs of our teams and customers.”

Satvir adds: “This approach encourages a safe space for new ideas and suggestions, which we are willing to execute. We’ll then evaluate the outcome and, if it’s successful, will roll it out across all sites.”

Lorraine summarises: “I think that key to being successful at running multiple franchises is to have that mindset of seeing challenges as opportunities.”

The Multi-Unit Franchise Conference has been designed to inform and support aspiring and existing multi-unit franchisees. What new information or things to consider did you take away from your attendance at the event?

They answer:

“The conference provided a great opportunity to hear best practice from franchisees in different sectors. It was interesting to see that regardless of the industry a franchise operates within – whether that be food & drink, retail, care or fitness – the recurring theme throughout was always people.”

“It’s so important that everyone involved in your business in on the same journey as you. To achieve that, you have to look after them, empower them, and reward them in ways that matter to them.”

“The more franchises you have, the more people you lead, and this needs to stay at the front of your mind.”

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The Franchisee Network

What is The Franchisee Network? 

The Franchisee Network is a new initiative designed to help existing franchisees build connections with other business-owners from a diverse mix of franchise brands. It will allow you to learn from and collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs as you navigate the challenges of running your own business. Find out more about joining The Franchisee Network here. 

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