Jill Jeffery, OPC Reading shares her journey on why she became an OPC Franchisee
05 Dec 2016
My husband and I bought this franchise over 15 years ago, when things were very different to how they are now. We wanted a business that I could run which provided enough flexibility for me to be around for the children when they needed me. We had never run our own business and thought that a franchise would give us the support of a proven successful business model and access to help if we needed it. After much research, we decided that greeting cards were an ideal product to sell being a growth market and a business we could run from home so we looked at all the franchises in this sector. We attended the British Franchise Exhibition and the product from the Original Poster Company really stood out. Hence our decision to buy the franchise.
Before we bought the business, I worked as a Resourcing Manager for British Airways. I loved my time there but it was long hours away from home which I no longer wanted to do. I had no previous experience in the greeting card business but I was assured this would not be a problem and it wasn’t. I just picked it up as I went along.
We bought the business as an undeveloped area so the cost was low and we were able to buy the business with our own money. The downside of this was that there was only a very small income to start with, whereas if you buy a ready developed area, even though you may have to raise more money initially, there is a substantial income available from Day One.
Fifteen years ago, there was no formal training provided by the Original Poster Company, it was more of a handover and help at the end of a phone. It’s a lot different to how things are done now, with several days training at their head office and support out in the area being given. On an ongoing basis though there was, and still is, help whenever you need it whether that’s just a phone call to check a delivery query or a visit from your support manager to help you develop a business plan. It’s available if you want it.
To ask me what a typical day is, is a difficult question to answer as for me, the greatest benefit of this business is the flexibility it gives you. So, whilst it’s a full-time job I like to vary my days as much as possible. I work out in my area three days a week and those are the days that are most similar. I will have already planned a route where I can visit between six and eight of my shops to restock them. A shop visit can take anything from half an hour to two hours depending on the size of the display. It’s also an opportunity to discuss the card sales with the owner or manager of the shop.
The rest of the week I will be working at home either preparing the new packs of cards for my visits, unpacking returned cards into my home stock or doing admin tasks. This is where the flexibility comes in as there is no need to do this at any particular time. You also need to spend time each month visiting new prospects (mostly supplied by our national account database) to develop the business.
The biggest challenge of running this business is time. You need to be organised so that you can be as productive as possible. For example, bad journey planning can leave you with unnecessary mileage which wastes time and money. Badly packed cards can mean lots of time wasted at each shop.
Other challenges are competing with rival suppliers and persuading your customers to give you enough space for a good display and a good position to put it in to maximize your sales.
These challenges can be overcome quite easily though if you build a good relationship with your customers, spend time talking to them and understanding their needs.
I wouldn’t say franchising has changed my life but it has enabled me to continue working as well as be at home for my family as and when they need me. I like the responsibility of having my own business and have enjoyed the flexibility and independence it’s offered.
The benefit of a franchise is that you have the support of your franchisor who have good display materials and promotional product you can access. For example, it’s very useful if you are going to a potential supplier to leave them a brochure and a few sample cards. The Original Poster Company also raises the profile of the company through their national account agreements with many of the convenience store buying groups.
There are, I think, two things that differentiate my business from my competitors. One, of course, is the product which is very carefully tailored to suit the types of customers we have as well as being regularly updated with new designs to keep it relevant and fresh. The other is the service I provide. Not many of our competitors provide a merchandising service which ensures they have the right product at the right time without having to do any ordering themselves. I also make sure I am reliable and friendly, willing to work with them to grow their cards sales.
I think to be a successful franchisee you have to be self-motivated and have good business awareness. You need to get on well with people, have good communication skills and be able to provide a friendly, reliable service where nothing is too much trouble for your customer.
My advice would be to make sure you understand what the day to day job entails, what the time commitment will be and what the potential for growth is. If you know that, then you can decide whether it will suit you and whether you have the finance and practical facilities to take the business on.
After 15 years of running this franchise I have to face up to my aging body and recognise that I can’t continue to look after this business as well as it needs. I would therefore like to find someone who will look after my existing customers and go on and develop the business even further but, if I was twenty years younger I would definitely consider buying a franchise again. It is a very reassuring way of owning your own business.