Green Fingers: Your Own Business Out Of Doors

147050619webIf the office nine-to-five doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of opportunities to establish your own business out of doors.

From Civvy Street, February 2014. Words: Paul F. Cockburn

After 12 years as a Royal Marine, having a fiancé and two young boys prompted Adam Carter to return to civilian life. Yet, while he liked the idea of being his own boss, he was all too aware of both his own lack of business experience and the large proportion of new businesses that failed within their first year.

“That led me to franchising which provides, in my opinion, the best of both worlds – you have the support and systems of an established and working brand whilst being in charge of your own operation,” he explains.

Although faced with a potentially huge range of franchise businesses, Adam was quite sure of one thing; he didn’t want to end up stuck behind a desk or kept indoors all day. Before joining the Marines, he had worked as a park keeper, so focused his attention on franchisors providing garden and landscape services.

Adam Carter-1 webDoing Your Research

Countrywide Grounds Maintenance (which provides an extensive range of services from grass cutting and pruning to landscaping and tree surgery) caught Adam’s attention. “I liked their family-orientated attitude which, combined with the support and knowledge they provided the franchisees, made them stand out amongst the rest,” he says.

Like any good soldier, Adam did his recon first; before committing himself and his money, he spoke with several Countrywide franchisees and shadowed one for a short period to better understand the business – not least its potential to provide an all-year income. “I was impressed by the helpfulness and support they were willing to give their neighbours,” he admits.

The deal-maker, was being offered Countrywide’s Watford franchise; having grown up in North West London, it was close to where Adam and his young family now lived. His business officially started trading on 1 November 2013: “I can’t wait to get stuck in and begin growing the business to its full potential and beyond in 2014,” he says.

The Healthy Outdoors

Nowadays, the range of opportunities available through business format franchising (to use its Sunday name) is vast. Some sectors may seem more obvious choices for Service leavers than others (for example, engineering and IT-based businesses), but arguably any franchise can benefit from the self-discipline, self-motivation, initiative and teamwork instilled in you during your time in uniform.

That said, it’s obvious that the business does need to be something you’re interested in doing; most franchise agreements run for a minimum of five years and you’ll be expected to invest at least some of your own money into starting it up.

Before joining the Army, Guy Lilford had work in agriculture; so, on his return to civvy street, he was determined to capitalise on his experiences from both. “I realised that a self-starting, healthy outdoors job where I could be my own boss would be where I would really thrive,” he says. “I wasn’t scared of hard work and knew I had the discipline to throw myself into my own business.”

Guy Lilford webKeeping Busy

The support and experience ‘on tap’ with franchising can be particularly important when you’re operating mainly outdoors; although seasonal businesses can be very profitable, you’ll likely need to adapt what you do depending on the seasons.

When checking out various franchise opportunities, it was Ed’s Garden Maintenance which caught Guy’s attention. “As soon as I read about them, I knew that this business was somewhere I could make an impact and enjoy what I do,” Guy says. “I am so glad that I had the guts to do this as I feel that it was a brilliant opportunity for me.”

Guy accepts that running his own business has its challenges, but that franchising certainly has its advantages on going it alone. “The great thing with Ed’s is that there is a lot of great experience and support to draw from within the group,” Guy says.

“I’ve been with Ed’s for more than five years now and feel that I’ve come a long way in that time and that I’ve now built a really strong business. However, I still have lots of strategies for where I want to take my business in the future!”