Franchising – All You Need Is A Van

Franchising isn’t all about huge fast food chains with big premises, high staffing costs (and a massive initial outlay). All you really need is a head on your shoulders and a van. Here’s how…


Man and a Van’ – surely the simplest business set up of all time. A van full of kit, a man and his skills, driving round, doing the business. That’s it. This stripped down business model has proven highly successful for countless first time franchisees and amongst them Service-leavers.


The usual man and a van model is based around a simple job that needs specific skills to get done, usually with minimal staff using specialist kit and is mobile enough to go from site to site. The skills required can be as simple as cleaning wheelie bins or gardening up to automotive repairs and the like. The choices for franchisees looking to start small in this way are endless.


Former Royal Engineers Corporal, Andy Darby, told Civvy Street about his own story, saying: “Before I left (the Forces) I’d already decided that I was going to work for myself in some way, shape or form. I had pretty limited knowledge of what exactly was available but franchising was top of my list anyway. Before I left I went to a franchise exhibition, originally intending to look at something like the windscreen repair companies I’d seen floating around.


I happened across ChipsAway; they had a pretty good stand up there. I changed my mind when I saw those guys.”


Franchising suits ex-Service personnel very well. The usual scenario is that an individual might leave with a lump sum in their pocket whilst still being of an age where retirement (and state pension) certainly isn’t an option. What they need is a suitable place to invest their cash and a way to make some money once they’ve resettled. Starting up a business is a possibility but at the same time, it’s no secret that in a time of economic uncertainty it may not be the best move. A franchise, on the other hand has plenty going for it.


The franchise has everything that a business strives for, and that’s the point. If a new start survives it’s sapling years it still has to develop a brand identity that will attract customers and be able to compete in a harsh economic season, such as the one we currently find ourselves in. To be specific, a franchise brand will already be well known (and trusted to supply a product or service well and as a good value proposition) helping enormously with drumming up trade and freeing the franchisee from having to ‘sell’ the idea of switching supplier to you by outlining unique selling points and so on.


Finding and converting business leads is part of the franchising role, since your business, within the franchise, cannot grow without them, but brands become brands through knowing their markets and will pass such knowledge on to you. Your franchisor has seen the best and worst of the market and will not only be able to show you how to convert the leads but may also have the clout to advertise in the press or on television, just as ChipsAway do. Part of the fees payable to the franchisor go into a pot for exactly this type of ongoing purpose.


For a man in a van franchise, the lion’s share of the outlay is for the vehicle. This is usually leased, as you would a shop premises, although it’s far cheaper. The cost of a van will depend on the make and model as well as the kit (and/or stock it carries). Franchisors will be able to give you an idea of specific numbers on application but certainly it’s a popular move with ex-Forces people so you can be confident that there’ll be an opportunity in the sector suitable for your own budget. If your lump sum doesn’t quite cover it, some franchisors or banks will lend you the remainder of the start-up capital. (The fact that you are ex-Services and have a brand name behind you will be favoured by the banks and if funding is available from the franchisor, this will tether them to aiding your success!). “I think at the time, with franchising, there was such a vast number of them out there – some of them quite cheap and some of them extremely expensive,” remembers Andy, adding, “I wasn’t exactly rich or anything so there was an affordability factor included as well”.


After the set up it’s a question of hitting the road and finding the business. As with all new businesses, this will mean graft as you set up your operation and get a feel for the ‘need’ around your patch. Although you decide how to run your own business, you have the advice and support of the franchisor to hand. Naturally, given that you’re flying their flag, they’ll want you to do things properly and whilst they will want you to think for yourself there will always be at least a few obligations that you have to carry out to preserve the integrity of the overarching brand.


This support means that you’re free to plough your full energies into making your new business a success. This can even take you to the point of becoming a franchisor yourself and supervising new franchisees through the initial stages as you once did.


Man and a van franchising is about selecting something that suits your skills and experience as well as, where possible, something that you can get enthusiastic about. The rest of the starting process is about listening and learning from those that have done it and made a success of it before you.

For Andy, franchising was also a neat way to get into an area that interested him, saying: “I’ve always been a fan of cars, so the idea of doing something that appealed to me helped. If I was going to do something by myself, enjoying it was going to be a big part.”


Small franchises grow at the rate of your own confidence and ambition, knowing full well that there is always support and advice available to you.

Andy is clearly satisfied that he made the right decision. Part of that was making sure that the process he went through before settling on ChipsAway was thorough. His advice is simple: “Any time anyone’s ever asked me for advice, I’ve always been honest. I tell them to do their research well. I know that lots of the guys that are getting out (of the Forces) are coming away with good golden handshakes and I’d hate to see it squandered. So just do as much research as you can and not necessarily through the franchisors – approach people independently too. Get as much honest information as possible.



British franchise Association:



Pullout 1: To be specific, a franchise brand will already be well known (and trusted to supply a product or service well and as a good value proposition) helping enormously with drumming up trade.


17 Edition – Wired Up! 17th Edition

If you’re looking to work as an electrician, you’ll need to show you’re up to speed with the current Wiring Regulations. How can you get qualified, and what are the options afterwards?


So, what is the ‘17th Edition’? Technically, it’s the latest version of the ‘Regs’, the British Standard (BS7671) “Requirements for electrical installations”. Or, to put it another way, it is the technical legal standards applying to the design, erection and verification of electrical installations in the UK (as well as countries ranging from Mauritius to Sri Lanka); it covers domestic and commercial installations as well as everything from amusement parks and circuses to marinas and swimming pools.


So, as you can guess, it is pretty much essential reading for all electricians, electrical contractors and their managers, installation designers and students in further education and professional training; anyone, in fact, who wants to get the job done right, first time.


More prosaically, the 17th Edition is a large green book (though, of course, it’s also now available as an ebook—see box) consisting of nearly 500 pages full of rules and regulations which electricians are expected to follow. Latest editions will include a few changes (ranging from new fuse standards to new sections on issues such as electromagnetic disturbances) brought in by Amendment 1, which became effective from 1 January 2012. (Yes, there are Editions, and Amendments of Editions, as technology and practices continue to develop; you either get annoyed with the regular changes, or ‘go with the flow’!)


Now, it’s fair to say that the content of such a book could well be quite daunting and certainly not make much sense, at least initially. An effective training course, however, will show you how to fully understand and navigate your way through the book. Don’t worry, you’re not expected to commit the whole thing to memory before you sit an exam. You’re allowed to take the book in with you; the City & Guilds 2382 exam is as much about knowing where to find information from the Regs as how to apply it.



The most universally recognised 17th edition qualifications are the EAL Level 3 Award in the Requirements for Electrical Installations BS7671 or City & Guilds 2382, also a Level 3 qualification. Most training courses covering the 17th Edition have no formal entry requirements, although many will expect you to have at least a basic knowledge of electrical science and installation (perhaps by already possessing an appropriate NVQ/SVQ); you’ll also need to show a reasonable chance of successfully gaining the qualification. After all, it is aimed at practicing electricians with relevant experience, and other allied professionals looking to update and enhance their understanding of the wiring regulations.


However, as Service-leavers, your first option can be to take a course (focusing exclusively on the 17th Edition or incorporating it as part of training in the likes of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology) through the Career Transition Partnership as part of your resettlement package. Alternatively, there is a wide range of courses available through commercial training companies and numerous further education colleges across the UK. The choice of courses means that, depending on your learning preferences, you can opt for either for an online course (which certainly offers convenience and flexibility, and these days are likely to include video tutorials and social media communications) or one that provides old-school teacher-led delivery within a classroom environment.


Courses will not generally cover every single regulation in BS7671, but they will cover broad topics and draw attention to the most important areas; as we’ve already said, you’re not expected to commit the whole 17th Edition to memory. Nevertheless, taking time to study the regulations will help your understanding of how BS7671 applies in particular circumstances. Depending on the format and nature of the course, the exam will either be completed online or at an agreed, invigilated examination centre.



It’s important to remember that having a 17th edition qualification doesn’t, in itself, make you a competent electrical installer—arguably, all it shows is that you’ve passed the test! So be extremely suspicious of any training providers that suggest you can become a ‘fully qualified’ electrician in a couple of weeks; chances are they’ll be more interested in your immediate cash than your long-term future. To be able to competently install, test and maintain electrical systems you should have at least some vocational training under your belt; if you haven’t already gained that through your Military career, it will be worth investing in a proper vocational course, perhaps even an apprenticeship if appropriate.


That said, both the ECA and City & Guilds qualifications are pretty much ‘benchmark’ qualifications in the trade; most employers will expect you to have them, and will be unlikely to take you on if you don’t. However, they’re also a necessary stepping-stone to more progressive qualifications, such as

City & Guilds 2377 (Certificate of Competence for the Inspection and Testing of Portable Electrical Equipment), 2394 (Certificate in the Fundamental

Inspection, Testing and Initial Verification of Electrical Installations) or

2395 (Certificate for Inspection, Testing and Certification of Electrical



Proving you are competent to inspect, test and verify electrical installations will increase the range of work open to you; not least because (after completing a short training scheme), you will be able to certify your own work in accordance to Part P of the Building Regulations. Being able to do so will potentially save your employer time and money waiting for local building control inspectors to check every installation.




020 7313 4800;


The Institution of Engineering and Technology

01438 313311;;


City & Guilds (UK Learners)

0844 543 0033;;

 17th Edition e-book

It’s the 21st century, you know, so (of course!) the 17th Edition volume, along with other IET publications such as their Guidance Notes and On-Site Guide, are available as downloadable e-books. These editions can be accessed on any desktop, laptop, iOS (Apple) or Android device, making them easily portable to take on-site as well as all in one place at your desk.


Unlike the dead tree original, advantages of the ebook editions include being able to find any reference or regulation instantly using keyword searches, the ability to follow links within and between books, and being able to “cut and paste” information into other applications.


More information is available from the IET.