the_tortoise_and_the_hare

The decision to start your own business is a life-changing one, but it’s important to realise that it’s unlikely to be a get-rich-quick option. Creating a successful business, franchise or otherwise, requires a lot of dedication, determination and hard work.

When my wife, Tracy, and I decided to start our own business 11 years ago, we agonised over which business model to follow. Do we start from scratch and build a brand on our own? Or, do we go down the route of franchising – working with an established brand and experienced franchise partner?

In the end, it was the latter that won us over and so in 2004 we took the plunge and became franchisees of Whitbread’s Costa Coffee brand. Since then, we’ve grown substantially – starting out in our family home, to now having just opened our 25th Costa Coffee store, as well as setting up headquartered offices in a business park. We’ve also been expanding our portfolio and now own and run two stores of healthy Canadian food brand, Pita Pit.

Evidently, we’ve experienced success and a lot of growth in the past decade and it looks set to continue. In fact, we’re likely to be a £20 million turnover business by 2018. But, for us, growing steadily and sustainably is vital in order to have longevity.

With this in mind, there are two key things that we feel are crucial in steadily building a successful business – securing the most appropriate funding, and investing in the training and development of employees. I will now explore both of these in more detail.

Securing fundingFunding is, without doubt, a company’s bloodline. It is crucial to the start, and ongoing survival, of any business.

If it is the franchise model that you decide to follow, it’s important to remember that despite the fact you’re operating under an established brand, you are still essentially a brand new business. This means that it is still of extreme importance for you to create a working and profitable business plan in order to secure funding from lenders.

When you have a solid business plan in place, with goals that are achievable, if not exceedable, you can shop around for the best deal. Rather than settling with the first bank offering your new business investment capital, explore the market and give yourself options. Make sure you opt for the bank and funding package that is most suited to your business needs.

Once you make your choice, secure that all-important funding for your business and begin to get things off the ground, you then need to think about your investment priorities. For us, as a family-run business, it is the people that work for us which we consider our most valuable asset – without them we wouldn’t be enjoying the success that we are. And, it’s for this reason that we place so much emphasis on investing in their training and development.

Investing in your peopleGiven the very nature of the franchise model, and particularly if it’s a growing retail or hospitality business that you’re operating, it’s crucial to deliver a uniform and consistently excellent customer service. In our view, happy customers are the result of happy team members.

It is this ethos which has shaped our approach to training and development – we know that if our staff feel valued and like they are adding to the success of our business, they will be much happier in their roles. And, with a clear sense of direction as to where their career could head with us, they’re more likely to be motivated.

This is why we have placed a lot of importance on the training division of our business – in late 2015, we opened our Sim Trava Academy. This has meant we can roll out standardised training for employee inductions, as well as for individual staff members working their way up through the ranks.

The Academy has given us the opportunity to develop qualifications that are tailored to our business needs, including a bespoke 12-month apprenticeship programme and NVQs in team-leading and customer service, with a our own stamp. The Academy has helped us give staff members the necessary tools to go onto become managers and members of the senior team – should that be a route they wish to go down.

By growing our staff with our business, we’re adding longevity and putting people - our colleagues and customers - at the heart of what we do.

Growing steadily fosters sustainabilityIf, like us, you want your business to last then it’s imperative you grow it steadily. Creating a sustainable business means that it is more likely to have the ability to withstand any changes or shocks in the market.

Go with the funding you feel is best matched to your individual business needs, review your priorities and invest money where you think is most appropriate. If you can do all of this while maintaining steady growth, you’re well on your way to building a business that will last.

By Simon Vardy, director, Sim Trava