Being a franchisee isn’t just about running your own business with the help of a franchisor - it’s about having an excellent work-life balance, too. We sat down with Simon Ellson, senior partner of ActionCOACH West Hertfordshire, to find out how being a franchisee has helped him find the right balance.
Having left school at 16 to dive straight into the world of work, entrepreneurialism is something that comes naturally to Simon Ellson. Before becoming an ActionCOACH franchisee in 2018, Simon had started five different businesses and spent time working in France and America. But when it came to taking more control over his work-life balance, he knew he needed to look for a new challenge. That’s where franchising entered the picture…
Balancing work and life
By his own admission, Simon Ellson is a man that loves to work. From his first role as a printing apprentice to starting a handful of his own businesses and working around the world, Simon’s diverse professional career is testament to his ability to thrive and adapt in any setting.
For the majority of this career, Simon dismissed franchising as something that wasn’t suited to someone like him - someone who had started and built a number of successful businesses on his own. But after a number of personal tragedies in 2018, he decided that it was time to find a better work-life balance. So, he turned to franchising.
“Personal issues made me reevaluate my career. I knew that I needed something that already existed to jump straight into and make successful, rather than starting from scratch again.”
Simon decided that becoming an ActionCOACH franchisee would suit him down to the ground, as he recognised that his considerable experience could be used to give back.
“I realised I had a strong philanthropic side, and I saw ActionCOACH as a great way to give back to the community.”
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Turning experience into insight
Bringing his considerable experience to this business coaching franchise, Simon opened his franchise in May 2018 and has enjoyed continuous success ever since. He upgraded his licence to become a territory owner in November 2019, taking on greater responsibility for the other regions in the process. Recently, Simon expanded further into his third franchise territory, making him a multi-unit franchise success.
Despite this impressive expansion, Simon hasn’t lost sight of his original objective: taking greater control of his working and personal life.
“I spend three days a week coaching clients and another day coaching the team. The other day is spent managing the territory or not working at all. I don’t work evenings or weekends, as that’s the time I’ve set aside for my family and doing the things I love.”
Teamwork is the key to sustainable success
Simon admits that he didn’t always have a positive opinion on franchising. Having worked in his own businesses for so long, Simon had rarely, if ever, considered becoming a franchisee.
“If you would have asked me 15 years ago, I would have said that franchising was for people who didn’t have a clue about running a business. Now, I realise I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Having witnessed how the franchisee network works together to ensure everyone reaches their full potential, Simon’s opinion has done a complete 180.
“I never realised how close a community of franchisees could be. In the corporate world, you always have the impression people want you to fail, but as a franchisee, it’s very different. Everyone wants each other to succeed and we all go through the same problems. I’ve never experienced such a supportive environment. If I have a problem, I can get an answer from another franchisee in five minutes.”
And while this sense of community has been a pleasant surprise for him, Simon still enjoys plenty of the freedom that comes with running and developing his own business. In fact, it’s the combination of both personal experience and collective efforts that help make ActionCOACH the successful franchise it is. Every ActionCOACH is different, Simon explained to us, “but everyone can always access a training toolkit when they need it.”
Paying in to get back
Even with decades of professional experience, Simon found the transition to franchising challenging in unexpected ways. Although he had lived in his new franchise territory for over 22 years, understanding the area from a business perspective was an entirely new challenge and one that he had to be prepared for.
“Lots of people who join ActionCOACH have come from a large corporation and are looking to build something for themselves, but it’s hard to do without having the experience of starting a business yourself or knowing your area. Lone rangers that join and don’t engage with the franchise tend not to last.”
It’s for this reason ActionCOACH offers a comprehensive training package to its franchisees. Designed to take new franchisees through the process of starting their business and then continuing to develop it over time, the training is rigorous for a reason.
“Over five days, you go through some intense training with an experienced franchise coach. I started at six in the morning playing volleyball and didn’t finish my day until ten at night - and that’s before you take into account any pre-training work. I didn’t do mine, and it took me six months to recover from my mistake!”
And the development doesn’t stop there. ActionCOACH runs ongoing training sessions that ensure coaches and members of the team are always keeping their skills fresh. Although Simon is often so busy that he can’t attend the weekly sessions, he always checks in to at least one session per quarter.
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Thinking outside the box
The pandemic forced all businesses to change the way they approached their ways of working. Within the first few weeks, ActionCOACH quickly pivoted into running an entirely digital operation. Many of their clients were reacting in vastly different ways, with some expecting the worst, while others planned to ride it out. Recognising this, the franchise started thinking outside the box in order to keep demand for coaching services high.
“We gave 25-30 webinars to businesses needing help in that first year. Very quickly, the franchise kitted us out with all the equipment we needed to make the new way of working a success. We got new cameras, backgrounds, microphones, screens and lots of digital assets. We ran free coaching sessions and did some pro-bono work to help businesses make a plan and now many of these clients have come back and want to work together on a permanent basis.”
Having moved quickly, ActionCOACH was able to quickly start offering businesses something new - the results of which speak for themselves. Simon revealed, “We actually signed more clients in the first six months of Covid than in the previous 12 months put together and that was all thanks to what we did in those first weeks.”
But the franchise is always looking for the right balance going forward. While digital worked for many franchisees, including Simon, around 80% of sessions are now back to running face-to-face - or rather, when clients are happy or comfortable doing so again.
Making a rewarding career change
For Simon, starting a successful ActionCOACH franchisee comes down to having the right skills. “You will need to have emotional intelligence and a knack for sales and marketing to succeed,” he concludes.
If helping businesses achieve their ambitions sounds like the right franchise opportunity for you and you think you have the right skills, find out more about what it takes to become a franchisee by clicking on ActionCOACH’s profile on Point Franchise. Or, if you want to research some other franchising opportunities, have a look at our entire UK franchise directory.
Elliott Fudge, Point Franchise ©