We caught up with Lisa Stead, Franchise Manager at Shuttercraft, to hear more about why Shuttercraft is such a great company to work for.
That's easy, Shuttercraft puts the customer first – there’s no hard sell and our franchisees go above and beyond to make sure the customer is happy.
Why do you prioritise customer service and how do you keep it consistent across the franchise network?
Our franchise partners are in the privileged position of being able to go into prospective customers’ homes. That places them in a position of trust. Shuttercraft is keen to ensure that its surveyors are not seen to fall into the same category as the ‘dreaded double-glazing salesman’ with their “hard sell / buy now” methods.
Over 50 percent of our orders are either from returning customers or recommendations. Great customer service is therefore imperative to the long-term health of the brand and each individual franchise branch.
We also promote the importance of gathering feedback through Trustpilot so we get early indications that a territory is experiencing challenges. With regular contact, training and a vibrant Facebook and WhatsApp community, we make sure communication is two-way and there is accountability, not just from head office but also peer to peer.
Shuttercraft won the Best Custom Window Shutters Provider 2019 at the SME News UK Enterprise Awards last year – what do you think puts the business one step ahead of all the others in the sector?
Quite simply, we strive for excellence. Shuttercraft has been supplying plantation shutters for 18 years. During this time, it has honed its craft and processes, making sure it provides the very best in product standards, delivery times and customer support.
We keep a personal touch with all our partners via our account managers, dedicated customer service team and award-winning training programmes. This means there’s a constant feedback loop that ensures any challenges or issues are dealt with promptly.
This is made all the easier due to our long-term relationship with the factory and our production lines. Shuttercraft listens to the experience of the end users, trade partners and franchise partners alike and has spent years tweaking and modifying both the product specifications and the service delivery to make sure the business performs as well as it can.
What makes Shuttercraft a great business to work for?
It sounds like a cliché, but both the head office team and the franchise partners are considered ‘part of the family’. Building a network of likeminded people who support each other is one of our biggest priorities – and it’s backed by the Shuttercraft strapline: People, Partnership and Pride.
These values direct all our objectives and focus our efforts in making sure Shuttercraft remains a supportive environment where franchise partners can establish and grow a profitable business. We are growth-focussed and build individual relationships with our franchisees to give them tailored support and ongoing training.
How is the shutter market evolving and how do you make sure Shuttercraft keeps up with any changes?
The shutter market is still seeing considerable growth year on year and is an ‘on-trend’ product. To make sure we stay on top, we have a dedicated Product Development Manager with extensive industry experience. His sole responsibility is to find the products that are going to attract a new demographic of customers and bring them to market.
At the moment, automation is a big trend, as well as energy saving ideas to retain heat and maximise sunlight. We’re working to stay at the forefront of developments to deliver the best products to our customers.
Sustainability is also important, so we’re making sure the wood for our shutters is sourced responsibly. The effect that humans have on the environment is increasingly becoming more prominent in the news and anything we can do to reduce this impact is welcomed and considered.
Shipping from China means our carbon footprint could be deemed high, so looking at long-term sustainability and ways we can offset this to have a positive impact on the environment is something we’re keen to embrace and achieve.
You’ve also worked for Platinum Property Partners in the past – what attracts you to working with franchises?
Franchising is an excellent way to start a business with the security of a tried and tested system that delivers results. Personally, I thrive in the challenging and rewarding environment created when people establish and develop a new business. Seeing someone achieve a good work-life balance and free up time to reach personal goals – all while establishing a great future for them and their family – is exceptionally fulfilling.
I get to help people reach both professional and personal targets within a framework that reduces risks and provides them with unlimited support from both the franchise and other franchisees. Facilitating a network of people helping each other to achieve success is the most rewarding part of my job.
The community within the franchise world (especially with the work of the bfa) is exceptionally supportive and contributes to a great sense of job satisfaction that I have not experienced in other sectors.
Why would you recommend Shuttercraft to entrepreneurs who want to open a franchise business?
The key to a great business is a strong financial model, quality products, fantastic training and a first-class support network. These are the principles on which Shuttercraft has built its franchise. As a franchise partner, you get the chance to learn the model and quickly develop a business with you at the helm.
Also, the sector and demand for the product is still growing, the products are evolving and the barriers to entry – when coupled with the Shuttercraft brand, training and products – are relatively low.
Shuttercraft doesn’t just train you to sell and install shutters. It teaches you how to build a business you can develop and manage. It provides you with access to a Power Team of experts to guide you through each aspect of running a business, including management and finance support.
Lead generation is one of the biggest challenges for a young business – where are all those illusive customers going to come from? Shuttercraft has a fantastic marketing team that actually generates leads for its partners through national PPC and marketing campaigns. Our CRM system then makes sure these leads immediately reach the right franchise partner.
Also, this is a high cashflow/low overheads model, which really helps in those first few months when you’re establishing your territory and honing your skills.
What qualities do you look for in new franchisees?
We look for motivated and focussed individuals with a solid support network.
Going into business alone is a daunting and sometimes overwhelming challenge. The franchise network is available to overcome these challenges, but support at home from family and friends can really lighten the load.
Also, a Shuttercraft franchise partner should be a ‘people person’ who sees the importance of customer service. They should also be someone who doesn’t just want to be a one-man band but build a team, so they can work on the business not in the business.
What advice would you offer prospective franchisees?
When undertaking any new business, whether it’s with a franchise or not, due diligence is imperative. Really research the sector and the franchisor; don’t be afraid to ask ALL the questions you have. If the franchisor doesn’t immediately know, it is not necessarily a bad sign – if they don’t find out for you, do a little more research on your own to make sure you’ll get the support you need.
Meet your franchisor in their own environment and get to know the people who will be directly training and supporting you. The last thing you need when starting your own business is a personality clash with your mentor or trainer. Also, speak with as many existing franchisees as possible. Most will relish the chance to share their experiences with you.
Lastly don’t rush, or let a franchisor rush you. This should be a positive and potentially life-changing decision. You need to make sure it’s the right one for you – that way, you’re more likely to see success.
How are you looking to develop the business in the future?
We have spent the last 12 months heavily investing in our training and support network. We’ve introduced new sharing platforms and templates and automated processes, as well as ongoing training days and workshops throughout the year.
We will continue to enhance all these areas in the forthcoming year, while growing our brand reach and awareness through online campaigns. We recently revamped our website and are working with an agency to dramatically increase quality lead generation through PPC. This should help deliver as many potential customers as possible to our franchise network.
The aim is to double our number of franchise partners over the next five years. And we’ll grow our support team accordingly to make sure we don’t lose our personal touch or high-quality training. Our forward-thinking Product Development team will be focussed on keeping up with trends by developing the products we already have and introducing new ones into our franchise network.