In conversation with Sean Taylor, the Managing Director of The Forces Group about his career, the challenges and benefits of owning a franchise.
Tell us a little bit about the events that led up to you and Paul Smith forming the business in 2014.
We had met playing cricket for the same club (Henley CC) and we were both working in the Service Sector. I was in the Cleaning / FM sector and Paul was providing consultancy services to the Defence Sector.
I was FD in a Group that had a franchising division and we made an offer to buy the division when the Group decided it was not core to its future.
Having been No. 2 in a few businesses it felt like the time to see if I had what it takes. It was over Sunday lunch that I chatted to Paul about my idea and he said he would be keen to get involved.
We acquired the first franchise business in 2010 before buying the “Forces Group” in 2014.
I believe you already had experience in the franchise industry before creating the brand. What is it about franchising that suits businesses like Lockforce so well and facilitates their national success?
My experience in franchising dates back to 1999 when I was involved in the purchase of a franchise business called Ecocleen. Funnily enough this exactly the same business that Paul and I acquired in 2010 and then sold in 2017.
We formally formed “The Forces Group” in 2017 after we sold. The name is more of an umbrella name for the 3 brands that we own.
I fundamentally believe in the model of franchising for a service business as it sits between the big boys with employee teams and the sole trader who operates in isolation.
The franchise model is a fantastic blend of local service delivery (by owner managers) with National Standards and back up for additional peace of mind for the customer.
The industry is quite fragmented with lots of small independent businesses so when a larger company is looking to find a contactor with national coverage there is limited choice.
How has the Lockforce brand and locksmith industry evolved since you launched?
The Lockforce brand was a fledgling business back in 2014 and it has taken time to build credibility and infrastructure. From our experience the locksmith industry is very fragmented with lots of small independent businesses. Lockforce now has good coverage across the UK and is growing month on month. The industry is ripe for change and more regulation, which we embrace.
What sets Lockforce apart from other locksmith businesses?
I often get asked this and it makes me smile. In all honesty there is no one answer to this question as it all depends on what is important to the person looking!
Is it the credibility from 5,000 online customer reviews, is it financial certainty through our fixed monthly management fees, is an image thing with a good logo and brand colours, is it about the individual moral view point and our brand ethos and values, is it the success of those already in the network to dispel the fear of failure, is it the size of our network because someone wants to join a thriving and growing network as opposed to a bigger network or a fledgling network…… the list goes on……… BUT none of those sets as apart from other locksmith businesses if it is not relevant to the customer / prospect. And everybody is different.
What has been your proudest moment since starting the Lockforce brand?
I am proud every time someone I hear the words “the best thing I’ve ever done” and “ I wish I had done it 10 years ago…” from our franchisees.
Who is your ideal franchisee?
An “ideal” franchisee is one that is achieving what they want from joining but also understands that they are representatives of the brand and are responsible for supporting the development and building of the brand.
Our process for recruitment has a strong element of “self-deselection” built into the 9 stages of our selection system. We talk to around 80 people before we recruit someone.
The key attributes we are looking for is attitude and resilience…. Previous business experience can be useful but many people underestimate the “journey” that they are embarking on.
As one franchisee once said….”I do get stressed and it’s much harder than I thought, but I wouldn’t change in for the world”.
What are the biggest challenges for your franchisees and how do they overcome them?
Typically, the biggest challenge is the complete freedom the new franchisees have when they first start trading. A lot of people are moving from a paid job where you tend to have structure and routine. And in many cases when working, they have someone telling them want to do. They also have work colleagues who they can chat to on a regular basis.
Learning to build a structure and routine in your new franchise is important. We try and help put this in place but it is down to the franchisee to take ACTION.
In terms of growing a business the next major challenge is Lead Generation and understanding the maths. We focus on a small number of marketing channels to get new franchisees off to the best start.
Building a business takes months and years. A franchise will give you a warm start and accelerate your progress but you cannot expect IMMEDIATE success. There is no such thing as immediate and sustainable success.
What are the biggest perks of owning a Lockforce franchise?
I am not really the best person to ask and to bring some balance to all the positives you must consider there are also challenges to owning any business in any franchise.
From talking to some franchisees the words they have used are; good earnings, more time to do other things, “I can go fishing every Wednesday”, I love the look on peoples faces when I get them back in, being part of an expanding and developing business….
What’s next in store for Lockforce? Any exciting business developments you’d like to tell us about?
It’s exciting times at Lockforce. The network continues to grow with interest from some great prospects. On a commercial aspect we have also been chosen by a key manufacturer in the industry to help install their new SMART Lock system (opening your door using a phone). We are also looking at expanding the service offering in certain niche markets. Early days but watch this space.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We have been in the franchising business for many years and can see the huge number of franchises offering fantastic offers / guarantees around earnings. This is particularly seen with new brands but we have seen it in more mature businesses. We call it Marketing BS. We refuse to do such offers as they tend to attract the wrong people and / or misleading (not quite how they appear).
There are absolutely no guarantees in business when it comes to earnings. If I could predict and guarantee your earnings then I would be sitting on a beach in Mauritius, or somewhere else that’s nice and warm. 😊
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©