Sue Jamil and her husband Neil Sansom first took on a Countrywide Signs franchise in 2010, later moving territories. In 2017 they made the decision to sell their business when a new opportunity in their former love of property development arose.
Here, Sue discusses the couple’s franchising journey from beginning to end, and her highlights along the way…
In the beginning
We bought the Bury St Edmunds territory in January 2013 from a neighbouring franchisee, who was looking to reduce his area, and sold our original territory.
We got involved with Countrywide Signs because we were looking for a ‘bread and butter’ business and had a young family. We’d previously been involved in property development and decided after the market crash in 2008 it wasn’t something we felt confident enough in to continue investing; we wanted a steady business with income we could rely on as a family.
A history of highlights
We’ve been able to get the balance right between a steady income and a really busy family life. My husband has been able to work often on only three, sometimes four days per week. Even with that, through natural price increases and enhanced service provision to agents, we’ve increased the turnover considerably. We’re now running in excess of £70,000 turnover per year from a part-time business.
The franchise has worked so well for us. We’re a very busy family, with children from eight to 19 years old, and over the years that we’ve been involved in Countrywide Signs we’ve found the business has always given us the flexibility to enjoy family life on our terms. When we’ve had school events we wanted to go to, or on the other side with situations like family illnesses, we’ve been able to run the business around whatever else is going on in our lives. That flexibility to us has been absolutely invaluable.
It was important for us to retain some independence and control for ourselves. We’ve been given very much a free rein – as long as we use the systems correctly and maintain exceptional customer service, we’ve enjoyed the freedom to run the business very much as we see fit and build it up to suit our own circumstances.
We’ve never sought to gain the competition’s agents and there’s a large part of our territory we haven’t ever developed, so there’s still a lot more to come for the new owner!
It’s quite difficult to run a business like this from scratch without the brand and reputation of a set up like Countrywide Signs, let alone the online systems collating everything from workload to invoicing. I think the agents appreciate that we’re not just a ‘man and his van’, we have professional corporate backing. Then we put our personal touch on things, with the service element that we’ve promoted very strongly in our area.
A word of advice to potential franchisees…
It’s really important to do as much due diligence as you can so you know exactly what you’re getting into – the parameters within which you’ve got to work, but also the freedom element; there’s nobody telling you what to do, so you need to be very self-motivated! As we’d been self-employed before, we found that transition quite easy.
Buying an established area with good service and good reputation is a really great opportunity. It allows you to hit the ground running but there’s still so much potential to go after, not only for new agents but also more business from existing agents.
Opportunities through family circumstances will lead us back to property development, now that our children are older we want to return to something we’ve always been passionate about. We’ve had a very fulfilling time with the business, and we know the new owner will too.