My TAB Franchise Story:
Helen Mill (Aberdeenshire-East)
It was the people that drew me to TAB. Having joined they have not disappointed me I have seen how proactive the TAB team and my fellow franchisees are. It is not a question of having a group of people who will come and help when you’re in trouble. It’s actually about keeping one step ahead of the game, looking ahead, and constant innovation. That proves it is a high calibre community.
How did you come across TAB or franchising? When did you decide it might be something for you?
Like many people, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was in a position where I was about to go through my third restructuring in five years. I had a great team who were ready to step up and I had two parents with dementia. So I decided to leave what I was doing, without a clue of my next step. I started looking by looking at my skill set and what I enjoyed doing and searching for opportunities. That is when I came across The Alternative Board.
What appealed to you about the TAB Model?
I just liked the business model – working with groups of business owners and leaders, being able to use my skill set and broad ranging experience, and thirdly, it was the fact that it was a membership model where success would come from fostering long term relationships I would have loved to have been a member of my peer board in my previous roles.
What made you decide on TAB as a franchise?
I was initially sceptical of franchising, I have heard a few horror stories. Apart from liking the business model, the two things that made me decide to get involved were attending a board and seeing it in action and the people. Everyone I met during the process, head office, other franchisees and TAB members gave me confidence that the model works, and that I was capable of delivering it.
So how did working with Chris come about?
I’ve known Chris for 16, probably more, years. I knew that she brought complimentary skills to mine. We’ve been friends for a long time and we worked together in a number of different ways. I knew she had a good network of business contacts and lots of relevant experiences. It wasn’t just that her strengths were my weakness but that I know we share the same values, and that is vital when launching a business. So we entered into TAB as equal partners.
How did the selling process feeling for you and what is the most enjoyable part?
I was concerned about sales, but the process TAB has feels really natural because as an interface between the academic world and the businesses, I was the one that was setting the scene, finding out what their goals and expectations were, then bringing parties together and finding the common ground. It is actually more fun than I thought it would be, it is amazing what people will tell you if you give them space to talk about themselves . You can go into a 20 minute meeting and they give you a potted history of their life story, and you can usually do something at that first meeting that helps them.
What is the training and support like at TAB?
Intensive. There’s always ongoing training. Sometimes it feels like we’ve just finished one set of training and we are onto the next. It is a positive the material is constantly being refreshed. You also know there’s a wider community that if you come across something new to you, there is usually somebody else who has the knowledge or experience.
What is the TAB Community like? Both in the UK and internationally?
The community is very giving, open and honest. In the UK we have plenty of formal routes to interact with one another, we have peer boards, training, Calibre calls and our buddy groups, so we communicate regularly. If you have a specific question to ask and the person you reach out to does not have the answer then they can usually signpost you to someone else.
My interaction with the international community took off during the pandemic when we held our first online international conference. Meeting people there has led to ongoing discussions.
What have been the ‘highs’ of running a TAB Business?
The highs are when our members hit their champagne moment and the board jointly shares in celebrating their success. Just seeing people succeed, that’s where the real highs come from.
What do individuals in the international TAB community add to what you already know?
They have different perspectives and different ways that they apply the business tools. It is always helpful to compare our approaches, whether it is for marketing or for member support. Everyone comes with a different bank of life experiences and wisdom – all of that helps you increase your knowledge and find your own voice.
What difference do you think yourself and TAB are making for your members?
I think it’s been helping them maintain resilience more than anything else. Generally, I think what we do is to help people make decisions faster and with a greater confidence going forward. Sometimes we also stop them in their tracks when they realise that what they think are thinking of doing might not bring the outcome they are seeking.
Being a TAB Franchisee during the pandemic...
WHAT ABOUT 2020 AND HOW HAS THE TAB MODEL WORKED FOR YOU AND YOUR MEMBERS?
Our members fell into to three categories. Those that were hit really hard and had to face a cliff edge, those that were forced back into their business and those that, frankly, it was business as usual.
Maintaining motivation in a board that had members in each of those categories was sometimes tough – but the board members were ready to support one another. For some members, getting time to attend a full board was challenging, so we adapted our model to allow for more frequent shorter meetings.
We also had a series of extra one sessions that were tailored to particular aspects of the pandemic such as understanding the furlough scheme, awareness of mental health and we brought in some panel members to provide specialist advice.
What advice would you give to something looking at franchising or at TAB?
Much the same advice that I would give to anyone starting a business – do the due diligence – do you understand the market, the business model, do you have enough financial runway and the expertise to deliver?
With a franchise, you need to be clear what the Franchisor will provide and what you need to do for yourself. I was also keen to know that there would be continuous development and a community.
Take your time to ask the questions. For TAB it was important to me to experience a real board and to speak to existing franchisees at various stages of their journey.
The one thing you’ll find is that all the franchisees within TAB are very honest about the ups and downs. They won’t do a sales pitch on you the same as they weren’t do their members.
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