Armed forces to B2B consultancy may not be a career change that instantly springs to mind. But three men, with decades of military service under their belts, did just that and each found a new, rewarding career with Expense Reduction Analysts UK (ERA UK).
48-year-old Chris Wardle and 46-year-old Simon Webb have a lot in common. They both served in the Royal Air Force and both launched their franchises in late 2012 after training together in September that year. Since then, they’ve not only built successful businesses, they’ve become firm friends and now officially consider themselves business partners, taking on multiple joint ventures.
“I joined the Royal Air Force after graduating from university in 1994. I’d always liked the idea of doing something more than a 9-5 job! After 18 years, I began to think it was time for a new career – something different. I started looking for opportunities, found franchising and was excited at the thought of running my own business,” explains Simon.
When both Simon and Chris found ERA UK, they were struck, not just by the concept and business model, but the people too: “I went to an exhibition, saw ERA UK and was really impressed,” says Chris. “I liked the fact that it was a tried and tested model but on top of that, the people I spoke to were open and honest and no-nonsense. It prompted me to want to know more. I went to a Discovery Day at Group Office and spent weeks talking to other Franchise Partners in the network. I think all in all it took me about 18 months to decide but once I was committed that was that. I finished at the MOD on the Friday and started my ERA UK training course on the Monday!”
Giles Collighan, 49, launched his franchise in 2013, just one year after Chris and Simon. He served in the Royal Navy for 23 years, tirelessly working up to the senior rank of Commander, second in command of a Destroyer, before choosing to take voluntary redundancy in 2012.
As well as a new challenge and change of career, Giles had an important motivator in the shape of his young family. Married with four children, he was keen to find a way of working for himself whilst at the same time, addressing his work-life balance:
“I spent a lot of time away from home during my career so more time with the family was a big driver for me. After that, it was about how could I ‘de-risk’ the opportunity. That’s why looked into franchising – for the support and proven model. ERA UK are particularly good with the support they offer franchisees, there’s always someone to turn to with any issues. Add to that the strength of internal network and you can always find help or get the support you need.”
Chris, Simon and Giles all agree that franchising was a fantastic vehicle to achieve the dream of business ownership but feel that military personnel can often be daunted by the prospect – perhaps unnecessarily so.
“Ex-forces people always think they’ve got a weakness in terms of business acumen but I came out with lots of transferable skills around communication, attention to detail and confidence. I’d always been part of a team so the thought of working from home terrified me at first but it’s never been an issue,” says Chris.
“Lots of skills you use in the forces are applicable in the business world – they’re just called different things. I think ex-forces are well placed to follow a plan and a structure and would certainly appreciate a strong internal network, the likes of which we have in ERA UK,” adds Giles.
From hindsight to forward planning, as you would probably expect, these businessmen are dedicated, ambitious and are chasing their own personal ideals of success, whether that’s financial, personal or both!
“I’m incredibly ambitious so I say my business is going well. I’ve had year-on-year improvement but I’m keen to progress more and see just how successful I can be with it. At the same time, my business allows me a level of flexibility to do what I want… like skydiving! So, it’s about getting the right balance!” says Simon.
Advice from Chris, Simon and Giles for those considering a franchise includes how to prepare yourself professionally, questions to ask during the recruitment process and even a little tough love. Unsurprisingly, they’re happy to share their personal knowledge and experience for the benefit of others – it’s an ERA UK thing:
“When choosing a franchise, look carefully at the model and earning potential to make sure you know how long it will take for the money to start coming in. Then be honest with yourself and make sure you can support yourself until it does. A great strength of ERA UK is they will let you speak to lots of people in the network and everyone is entirely honest. No one sugar-coats or shies away from these more sensitive subjects.”
“The challenge is becoming commercially aware quite quickly. Business language and a lack of commercial exposure is a thing but there are enough courses you can do as part of your resettlement to overcome these hurdles. The biggest assets I’ve brought with me into the business are people skills, self confidence, determination and a good work ethic. Remember, you haven’t bought yourself a job you’ve bought a business that you are responsible for. You have to make yourself accountable and take advantage of the support from head office and your peers,” advises Simon.
Reflecting on his journey from forces to franchisee, Chris has a one final piece of food for thought: “When I meet old pals, they always hark on to the old days but you know… although I had a brilliant time in the RAF and I miss the people, I just don’t miss being in the Service. Everything I do now is for a purpose. If you’re conscientious, reliable, honest and have a bit of capital behind you then, why not?”
For people from all walks of life, franchising can represent a great opportunity to join a supportive group of like-minded peers. At ERA UK, our Franchise Partners don’t just work together; they rely on each other to deliver for their clients. Without working together in teams, the ERA UK offer just wouldn’t work. Camaraderie, a sense of belonging, working together for a common good and relying on each other to get the job done; it’s no wonder that former service personnel find a sense of home from home here.
For more information on how you could join others in making a success of an ERA UK franchise, please contact us.