Great British Franchisee Award Winner 2023

We’re very proud to announce that Mark has been recognised as an award winner in the Great British Franchisee Awards 2023.
The awards recognise franchisee who can demonstrate the ability to perform exceptionally well in all areas of their business.

In honour of Mark’s award, we thought it would be a great excuse to give you a little more insight into the background of his role as a digital marketing consultant for activ digital marketing Kingston.

Read on as Mark answers questions on his journey as a franchisee.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?
I spent 25 years working in corporate jobs for major blue chip companies across a range of disciplines including Operational Research, Programme Management and latterly as a senior manager in HR. I always wanted to work with small businesses and utilise the wealth of experience and knowledge gained over the years in large companies to benefit small business clients.

Can you also tell us about the franchise you have bought? 
I bought into the activ franchise which was originally focused on web design back in 2008 but has since developed into a full digital marketing agency business offering SEO, Social Media Management, Pay per Click and traditional marketing such as planning and branding. I am the activ Digital Marketing consultant for the Kingston and Wimbledon area and so provide a 1-1 service for all my clients.

Why did you go down the franchise route? What made you choose your industry? And why did you choose your franchise?
The prospect of starting my own business was a little daunting having spent 25 years in secure employment.  I liked the idea of starting with an existing business model and processes and having the support of the franchise team. I have always been involved in utilising IT to support business and had experience in British Airways of online learning development and managing a team responsible for HR Intranet content. The activ franchise gave me the opportunity to have a very flexible business which could develop over time.

How did you raise the finance?
I was fortunate enough to be able to take a voluntary severance package from my previous employment and invest that in the franchise.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
There was induction training in the business processes, marketing and obviously the technical requirements for web design.  There was also ongoing regular follow ups to determine progress in developing the business.  Over the years, the franchisor has developed the offering and provided more ongoing support and training.

How would you describe your day-to-day role as a franchisee
You wear many hats when running your own business which not only includes the day to day service to your clients but also the business management and ongoing sales and marketing activity. It provides for a lot of variety and the opportunity to learn new skills which I enjoy.

Provide information on challenges overcome as well as your key successes to date.
I started the franchise at the end of 2008 as the economy went into a financial crisis and so it wasn’t the easiest time for a new business. We have obviously had the COVID period to deal with during the last few years.  Being in a technology industry has also meant a lot of change in what I have needed to provide for my clients over time. I have found that being consistent in your marketing efforts does payoff over time and at the same time adapting to new ways of doing things including a much greater focus on social media. I have managed to consistently grow the business over time and bring on new clients with a fuller digital marketing service offering. I am increasingly taking on clients that will engage activ for a range of integrated marketing services like Space at Kingston, a business unit within Kingston university responsible for the external use of their facilities for conferences, classes and events. 

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Being a franchisee has become the longest period in my career which I never expected. It provided complete autonomy over my working life and the opportunity to focus on work I have enjoyed.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I am quite disciplined to make sure I have regular working hours but can also flex this when I need to either support clients or to allow time for my personal life in a way that employment would never match. 

If you have staff, how do you retain your best staff and keep morale high and productive; how do you incentivise your staff and recognise success?
I try and be clear about responsibilities and priorities and work with staff to resolve any issue or problems. I look to provide opportunities that make the most of their individual skills and areas of interest where I can.  I believe in providing flexibility that suits them and in return receive great support for the business when needed.

Can you tell us about any community involvement, including any local partnerships, incentives or charity work you are involved in?
I have been involved in a number of local organisations and initiatives over the years including developing a local residents association website, supporting charity event promotions and an annual business donation to a chosen charity.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise? 
Choose an opportunity that really interests you and you can be passionate about. Appreciate that it is as much about running a business as providing the service and be prepared to learn a lot.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee? 
You need to have good processes and systems and be disciplined in your approach.  You have to be prepared to learn a lot and step out of your comfort zone as we all have strengths and weaknesses. If you work consistently at doing the rights things then it will pay off in time.

What are your plans for the future?
We have so much more to offer clients these days than when we first started in 2008 and I’d like to work more with the existing clients to help develop their business with the opportunities in products and services we now provide.

If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
I probably wouldn’t change a lot but with hindsight I could have developed the business a little quicker but then you learn so much along the way.

If you would like to learn more about activ, and how we can help your business with your online presence, take a look at our digital marketing services.

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