John Parker, 47, purchased his Wilkins Chimney Sweep Franchise in September 2011. He had previously spent 10 years working as a Police Officer before emigrating to Australia where he did a variety of manual labouring jobs. On his return to UK he worked for 16 years as an Enforcement Officer with the Trading Standards Service before taking voluntary redundancy. He is married to Ruth and they have two children, Michelle 14 and Sam 12. He lives in Malvern, Worcestershire.
I was fed up with my working life being constantly affected by cuts and pay freezes so I took voluntary redundancy. I knew that when buying a franchise I would benefit from training and business advice from someone who was already a success in the field and in a job I thought I would enjoy too.
Having looked at several franchises I decided I wanted to buy into a relatively new organisation. I’d spotted some difficulties with the territory sizes offered by some more established franchise businesses operating in my area; joining a new business with larger territories made sense to me. I also liked owners Peter and Louise Harris and felt I could trust them; with such a big decision that initial feeling of trust was very important to me. Being a new and relatively small franchise I have direct contact with the bosses when I need to ask them a question, which is very useful; in addition the nature of the business and their professional aims suited me perfectly.
As we have young children and because my wife wanted to learn how to use all the systems as well, Louise kindly offered to come and deliver the training package for us both at our home, which made life really easy for us. We spent that week learning about marketing, IT and the accounting side of the business which was useful even though I’ve always hated paperwork! Following that I spent 2 weeks with Peter initially just watching him sweep chimneys and then, under his watchful eye, learning to sweep them myself. Who’d have realised sweeping a really sooty chimney could be so satisfying? I also had a half day Ladder Association course, plus training on cages caps and cowl fitting.
Naturally you need good training and professional accreditations to enable you to professionally sweep chimneys and fit cages caps or cowls. You need to be professional both in your work and in how you treat customers and be happy to get hot and dirty sometimes. On the practical side you need to pay close attention to the safety of chimneys and wood burners for the benefit of your customers and a healthy dose of determination and fitness are needed to complete those particularly busy days we sweeps often get.
First and foremost I think you need a willingness to take and follow advice from your franchisor, after all that’s why you chose a franchise. You need good attention to detail and to be efficient at dealing with accounts and documents; an aptitude for marketing is also useful. I’d also say you need a certain amount of ‘nerve’. Starting up any new business is scary stuff and luckily with a franchise the risks are that much fewer, but it can still be a daunting experience. I’m fortunate that Peter and Louise give me such great support.
I plan to establish a good customer base that generates a solid and sensible income. I’d like to think that in year 2 the business will have developed and grown to such a point that I can consider taking on an additional sweep.
Yes, I do because it’s so important from a fire safety point of view to have your chimney swept. The cost of fire damage to your home caused by a chimney fire is so huge that it’s a totally false economy to skip on the sweep and most home owners do understand this. Also, many people have invested large sums of money in their fires and wood burning stoves and are keen to maintain their property; add to this the fact that many insurance companies now require a certificate of sweeping to validate a home insurance policy and this ‘need not want’ service becomes as recession proof as you can get in 2012.
I’m thoroughly enjoying being in charge of my life again, knowing that my efforts will mean my rewards. I also love sweeping chimneys and look forward to meeting new customers every day and giving them a first class service.
I speak with them most days of the week; being able to ring Peter about any practical issues whilst out on a job has been invaluable and I’ve rung Louise so often with admin queries that I’m surprised I haven’t been told to ‘leave me alone’ yet!
I’d like to see every franchisee in every franchise receive the same tremendous level of support I get from Peter and Louise. I’m now moving confidently in an area of work I enjoy and I believe the future of my success is up to me and the only question is, how big do I want my business to be?
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Meet former Police Officer Mark and his wife Justine, owners of Wilkins Chimney Sweep West Suffolk
Dave Connolly spent over 20 years running his own woodworking business before buying his Wilkins Chimney Sweep franchise.
Meet Mark Frost and find out more about Wilkins Chimney Sweep franchise.
Meet Steven and Anne Gallacher, Wilkins Chimney Sweep franchisees
WILKINS CHIMNEY SWEEP have been very supportive in providing both practical training, and also advice on how to run a business with accounting and tax information.
I liked the idea of working for myself doing something more hands on than I had been used to as an ex-surveyor. Franchising gave me professional backup, training and an established name to use.
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