Time Benjamin, Fitness Space founder

After spending 12 years in commercial banking, Richard Cotton took redundancy with clear ambitions for the next chapter of his career.

Why franchising?

Richard had always harboured the desire to be his own boss and, as a Business Banking Manager, had plenty of experience dealing with franchise businesses. He was interested in the property market and after considering investing in a rental property, assessed that a franchise would be a better option.

In October 2017, Richard and his wife Diana attended The National Franchise Exhibition in Birmingham. They went with the intention of speaking with franchisors in the property sector and had a target list of brands they wanted to approach on the day.

Why Belvoir?

As the couple began speaking with Martin Bunney, Acquisitions Director at Belvoir, they were immediately impressed with his approach. Martin carefully listened to their story and motivations before sharing any information on the Belvoir franchise network. This led to the quick identification of an ideal opportunity for the pair in their hometown of Spalding in Lincolnshire.

An existing portfolio of managed rental properties was available. The rental properties had been managed in-house at Belvoir’s head office but were all in or around Spalding and just needed a new franchisee to take them on.

Richard reflects: “Martin’s approach of really listening to us, plus his extensive knowledge of the Belvoir business, meant we could enter a constructive conversation immediately at the exhibition. The fact that a ready-made business was available on our home turf really felt like fate had played a hand.”

Next steps

The next step was to attend a Discovery Day at the brand’s central office. This gave Richard and Diana valuable insight into the business and an opportunity to meet with the key teams behind the scenes – from business development and marketing to IT and accounting.

Belvoir’s open approach in these initial stages gave them total clarity on the franchise business model. They were even given access to the complete list of current franchise owners to contact so that they could investigate the daily reality of being a Belvoir franchisee.

Employing a lawyer with specialist experience in the franchise sector helped them review and finalise the franchise agreement while they underwent intensive training.

Richard comments:“The training was second to none, and essential in enabling us to operate this business. We not only received input from members of head office but also experts from across the country who came in to deliver skills and knowledge. This level of support is exactly why I chose franchising.”

Launching their franchise business

Richard and Diana became the proud owners of the Belvoir Spalding lettings portfolio in early February 2018.

With their ambitions stoked, the couple’s attention was drawn to an estate agency that was for sale in the area. In line with Belvoir’s strategy of growing the property sales side of the business, the couple acquired Munton & Russell estate agency in April, gaining them premises and a property sales business. After more than 50 years in operation, it will soon be a town centre presence under the Belvoir name and Richard and Diana’s ownership. The original lettings portfolio acquired from Belvoir will move under the wing of this business. Richard comments:

“The acquisition of this existing estate agency not only boosts our position in the market with an expanded lettings and management portfolio plus a sales side to the business, it also gives us ready-made premises and an existing team of experienced staff.”

In business for yourself but not by yourself

When asked about the process of working with Belvoir, Richard comments: “There is always someone available at the end of the phone to help. From marketing to the little nitty, gritty details, Belvoir was very open about the process and willing to help every step of the way. Even after you are operational, business development managers come out to advise on ways to grow your business. Access to these experienced resources is another thing that attracted me to franchising versus going it alone.”

“That said, you are very definitely your own boss. You’re the decision maker. I won’t deny there’s a definite transition from being an employee to being master of your own schedule, and as a business owner you have to wear many hats at once. I still draw on the skills I acquired in my banking career and Diana has a different set of skills to bring to the business. We complement each other, and this adds to the potential success of our franchise.”

As for the future, Richard and Diana look forward to the re-brand and re-fitting of their Spalding estate agency this summer and have their sights set on further growth.

Follow in their footsteps

If you are interested in following in the footsteps of Richard and Diana, you can meet the Belvoir team at The National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC Birmingham on 5 & 6 October 2018.

Belvoir operate the largest franchise network of high street residential lettings and estate agents with over 300 outlets nationwide.  

Find out more about the upcoming Franchise Exhibitions held in exclusive partnership with the British Franchise Association, and book your free tickets today using promo code CAS1 here. 

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