Mark Quinlan, OPC franchisee offers some sound advice
15 Dec 2014
Before purchasing the Huddersfield greeting card franchise territory from The Original Poster Company (OPC) in 2009, Mark Quinlan had been in retail management for over 20 years working in fast food, supermarkets and department stores. He shared his story on how he came to join OPC, what life as a franchisee is like and what his plans are for the future now he’s not only renewed his franchise agreement for another 5 years but also purchased a 2nd resale territory complete with customers, stock and cash-flow.
“During my 20’s I worked as a store manager for McDonalds and it was during my time at the Wakefield branch that this restaurant became a franchise. It was this spell working in someone else’s franchise coupled with my desire to be my own boss that made me chose this route some years later. Franchising gives you the freedom to be your own boss but with the peace of mind that you have plenty of back up and experience at your disposal when you need it.”
“Choosing OPC was easy, it was the perfect combination of affordability and a ready-made business with income from day one and that I could run from home. The people I met at OPC were much friendlier and straightforward than at every other franchise I met with and they concentrated on what they could do for me and how they would help me develop, whereas most others just seemed to talk about how good they were and what they had done in the past.”
“I was fortunate in that savings and borrowing from family funded my purchase. I started out on a 2 day training course at OPC’s Support Office in Walton on Thames. From there, the then regional BDM Paul Butler did a series of one to one development days covering prospecting, time planning and various other topics, initially providing guidance with my business plan, the set-up of my home stockroom and with my ordering.”
“My main issue early on was a lack of confidence when prospecting and the BDMs have helped greatly in this area. Without them my business would not have grown at the rate it has and my confidence in talking to potential new customers would still be low.”
“We meet monthly and the days are always based on what I feel my development needs are at the time. Paul was always available for help and support and my new BDM Sean is exactly the same.”
“Merchandising obviously takes up the bulk of my time. Time in store is precious to me as it’s so much more than just putting some stock in and taking some different stock out. The time in store is the only time you get to find out what people think so I try to use it wisely. I enjoy banter with owners, staff and customers alike. If you don’t ask owners how they are doing, what they are thinking of changing or simply what they think of the cards then you don’t know if you have missed any opportunities. Often the staff have the best idea of what customers are asking for so it may be you can change your ranges or titles so that sales can be gained. Feed this back to the owners is vital so they know you care, again a good way to increase space in stores."
“During the day there may be time to pop into that shop you always drive by but think might do well. I generally prospect on full days separate to merchandising days as I need to “build myself up for it” but either works and there’s no black and white. In a way though there isn’t such a thing as a typical day as all merchandising calls are different and you have days prospecting, delivery days or days with BDMs to mix things up.”
Asked what other challenges Mark had to face in his new venture, he said, “For me, the main challenges for me were time planning and sales. I have never had a business before so it’s one thing knowing how much work you have to do but it’s quite another knowing how long it takes and how best to structure it. You learn on the job quickly though.”
“To begin with you may get home early having done everything you planned in record time or you may get home late having not got everything done. It’s ok, you are your own boss. Don’t feel guilty - just tweak those days next time the shops come around to even the days out.”
“Gaining new business was, and still is, the most daunting part of my job. Talking to busy shop owners who see plenty of reps walk in off the street every day can be difficult and the rejection can get you down but you’ve got to remember it isn’t personal - try and remember the massive sense of achievement you get when you are successful! New accounts are the life blood of my franchise and thanks to the BDMs I am less daunted by prospecting than I was.”
Mark’s franchise has changed his life completely, “As a retail manager I was doing a 70 hour week, more often 80, and it was getting me down. I was seeing very little of my son and wife except when I was tired and grumpy. I still work hard but because the stockroom is at home I can break off when I want. We actually have meals as a family again and my son was able to join the local junior football team with his mates as I am at home weekends rather than being at work. Even 5 years on I still wake up with a smile on my face Bank holiday mornings.”
“The quality of the cards, the regular change of designs and I hope the quality and regularity of my service sets me aside from our competitors,” Mark reckons, “If you want to be successful in this franchise, you’ve got to be the kind of person who’s not afraid of hard work, is persistent, friendly, dedicated, committed, a good communicator, has great motivation and someone who is never satisfied and wants to strive to continually improve.”
If you are considering joining the OPC greeting card franchise, Mark advises, “Do it! Take the plunge and you will wonder why you didn’t do it years ago. Don’t however expect something for nothing. It’s great having the support of OPC but remember it’s your business and it’s down to you to drive it. Enjoy it and build a good working relationship with the shop owners, the more fun you have the bigger your business will grow.”
Asked if he would do it all again, Mark responded, “Yes, I would! I plan to work on making the Huddersfield area a Top 10 OPC area, and now I’ve purchased West Yorkshire – well, who knows from there, the sky’s the limit!” says Mark.
Established in 1991, OPC’s franchise network has had complete UK coverage for over 20 years and is a full member of the British Franchise Association.
Some franchisees are now selling their existing territories as they retire or move on to new business opportunities, creating huge potential for new owners to step in! So if you would like to find out more about an OPC resale territory, please call 01932 267300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.