New Franchise Interview: Driving Miss Daisy, Sutton Coldfield
Name: Andrew Foley and Lucy Chiles
- Location: Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham
- Franchise: Driving Miss Daisy – Sutton Coldfield and Surrounding Areas
- Date launched the franchise: Launched 16th January 2019; Operational 8th April 2019
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to buying a franchise business?
Andrew – I studied English and American Literature at The University of Manchester, then made the move into the Energy Sector, working briefly for British Gas followed by a 12-year career at E.ON. I started as an administrator in 2007, working my way up through Sales Account Management, 3rd Party Compliance and then onto Operations Manager within B2B. I opted to take voluntary redundancy in April 2018 and enjoyed 6 months off with my family last summer. Outside of work, I’m a sports enthusiast and specifically enjoy Football, Golf and Tennis. I’m fairly well travelled, having been lucky enough to backpack Australasia and South-East Asia in 2012/13, doing a bungy jump, canyon swing and skydive in the process.
Lucy – After completing a degree in Business Management I decided to specialise in Human Resources. I worked in HR for around twelve years in various sectors including manufacturing, laboratory testing and Energy. I took a career break when I had my two children and have loved every minute of the past six years watching them grow and develop day by day.
A little-known fact about me is I’m fully trained in hypnosis!
Can you also tell us about the franchise you have bought? For example; how many cars are you starting with? Who are you targeting as your clients to start with?
We have started the franchise with one vehicle, which we bought already branded from another franchisee. This enabled us to get a head-start with our pre-marketing, as the vehicle has been a big part of us growing our business in our local area, both in regards lead generation and brand awareness. We began pre-marketing to our local B2B community, via leaflet distribution in coffee shops, charity shops, GP surgeries and community centres. We also tailored our conversations with each business to meet their need…i.e. GPs – reduction of Did Not Attends (DNAs); Hairdressers – DNAs and assisting their elderly clients/clients living with Dementia; Coffee shops – bring groups of customers for afternoon tea. Now operational, we are actively prospecting Care Homes in our local area, Domiciliary Care Providers and Private Healthcare Providers.
Why did you go down the franchise route?
We had decided that we wanted to start our own family business following Andy’s opportunity to take voluntary redundancy from E.ON. That said, we had both worked in Corporate environments for most of our careers and, as such, felt that we would like the added support/insight of a Franchise and the proof of concept that goes with it, for extra security. When we spoke with Driving Miss Daisy, we swiftly knew that we were dealing with like-minded people, who want to help people whilst also acknowledging that this business needs to be profitable to support our young family.
What made you choose Driving Miss Daisy?
We found out about Driving Miss Daisy purely by chance, drawn in by the eye-catching branding at the NEC Franchise Expo in August last year. Andy had watched a BBC documentary on loneliness earlier that week and thought “how is nobody offering a service to tackle this scourge on society?”, saw a TV advert for the Franchise Expo, booked a ticket and whilst perusing the exhibitors quickly realised there was…Driving Miss Daisy. We discussed it that weekend and after doing all the required due diligence, we bought our Sutton Coldfield Franchise in December 2018. We both wanted to do something which gives back to our local community, that our children can be proud of and hopefully, somewhere down the line, get involved with.
What difference in your community, do you hope to make?
The response from those in our local community, and beyond, has been immense so far. You don’t feel like you need to sell the Driving Miss Daisy service…it’s so very much needed and well received, that most people respond with platitudes about what a great service/idea it is before you’ve even finished your “pitch”.
In our first month operational, we’ve already helped a lady in her 30’s get to the MoD Barracks to present at a workshop on Equal Opportunities in the Workplace; a 90-year old grandmother visit her 89-year old toyboy in the hospital whilst her family were on a week’s holiday; a daughter to take her mother, who is living with Dementia and resides in a Care Home, for a surprise Good Friday lunch with her sister; and a 73-year old lady with Cerebral Palsy to the Garden Centre to spend a couple of hours and her birthday vouchers, on some new bedding plants for her beloved garden. Hopefully that gives a snapshot of the variety of ways in which Driving Miss Daisy helps people of all ages and needs. We also have a number of journeys booked in via our Alliances to assist people to get to Birmingham Airport, Birmingham International Railway Station and even to Llandudno on their assisted holidays.
How did you raise the finance?
We financed our purchase of the Franchise through savings and we also purchased our first vehicle outright too.
From the training you received, what have you found helpful to-date? The training was all extremely useful, from the technical expertise provided by MCG Training (1st Aid, Positive Handling etc), to the Dementia Friends training on how to support someone living with Dementia, to the insight on customer demographics and the wide-ranging needs of prospective clients.
What challenges have you faced in setting your franchise up?
In a word…Licensing. We have faced a difficult and lengthy licensing process with our Local Authority. We were given incorrect information at a number of junctures which led to the postponement of our go-live date on a couple of occasions, which in turn meant having to turn down the opportunity to help people during that period. We eventually had to present our exemption requests to the Licensing Committee at the Town Hall but gladly the Councillors on the Committee were delighted with our service and permitted all the exemptions we required in order to operate. Our biggest piece of advice would be to identify exactly who your Principal Licensing Officer is and ensure you are definitely speaking with the correct person, as they should be able to make your life a lot easier.
In your initial weeks as a franchisee, what type of activities will you be doing in your day-to-day role as a franchisee?
In the first 90 days as a Franchisee, you will be doing a lot of form-filling. Licensing Documents, setting up bank accounts, creating your Social Media presence, registering with the ICO etc. But you should be balancing this with an effective pre-marketing plan. Identify your places of high footfall within your local community and go speak with people of influence within the local community (Church Leader, Community Centre Manager, PCSO, Chamber of Commerce). Also make a list of networking events in your local area and surrounding areas…many of these are free and provide an interesting spectrum of B2B and charitable organisations. Walk your local area distributing leaflets daily…it works.
How do you believe becoming a franchisee will change your life? Not only do we believe that this franchise will be a success financially, providing economically for our family over the next 5 years and beyond, we also believe that it will be the most rewarding business to be leading. You cannot replicate the feeling you get whenever one of your clients tells you that they would not have been able to do the thing you’ve assisted them to achieve without you. Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work and you feel tired after a day of back-to-back customers but you also feel great about the difference you are making to other people’s lives.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy their first franchise?
Don’t fear the unknown! It is never as bad as you tell yourself it will be and failure is an opportunity to grow, as long as you learn from it.
Oh, and always have leaflets and business cards on your person…ALWAYS! Everyone knows someone who could benefit from Driving Miss Daisy!
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Passion and authenticity. In any successful business, we believe that you must genuinely care about your customers and live the experience they receive, even more so when it is your own franchise. You are your company – eat, sleep and breathe your brand and its values. Self-awareness is a vital skill, it isn’t always pretty or pleasant to analyse your words and actions, but you’ll learn invaluable information about how you are perceived by others, including prospective customers.
Where do you see your franchise a year from now?
We hope to exceed our initial expectations, following a strong start to our operation, by having a fleet of 3+ vehicles operating. We have already engaged with Birmingham City Council in relation to Home-to-School Provisions across the region and have made initial enquiries with the NHS about supporting their existing Patient Transport Service from a number of local hospitals. We have also recently completed our first recruitment drive and have found some outstanding candidates to join our team over the next few months, which will be very exciting for all concerned.