Alastair Baker

Teamwork makes the dream work!

“In all honestly, one of the best things about being a franchisee, for me, is that I really enjoy what I do. Don’t underestimate the value of enjoying your work – not many people can say that and mean it!”

In true ‘lifelong business-owner’ style, Alastair isn’t planning on settling back into retirement any time soon. Though his plans for the future include plenty of sailing, his love of his ERA business and the intellectual stimulation it provides mean he’s planning on success for a good number of years yet!

53-year-old Alastair Baker has been running his Expense Reduction Analysts (ERA) franchise since January 2014. After a career spent launching and developing his own successful event management company, he was looking for a way to maintain his business-owner status but without the stresses of staff, property and fleet management that often go along with it.

“I established my own event management company in the 1990’s and built it up to be a fairly significant player in the UK industry. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of and the skills I gained along the way have transferred brilliantly to ERA.”

With his 50th birthday approaching, Alastair sold the business to one of his suppliers, and stayed on for three years to help manage the transition as a Board Director. However, with no desire to retire and an active mind to keep busy, Alastair knew this wasn’t the end of this professional career. But he was torn, having spent the majority of his life building a successful business from the ground up, he didn’t want to start from scratch all over again. Luckily, Alastair was no stranger to the concept of franchising!

“I didn’t want to retire because my wife Colette was still working. I wanted some kind of intellectual stimulation and I like being busy… but truth be told, I didn’t really feel that I was employable! Nor did I want to be; I’d owned my own business since I was in my 20’s! The big thing for me was, I didn’t want to employ people – I’d been there and done that. And I didn’t want to spend years and years building up a business again.”

“I knew about franchising through the event management business, I’d worked with franchisees in all sorts of industry sectors over the years. The more I thought about what I did and didn’t want; franchising seemed to be the perfect option for me.”

After researching several white-collar franchise opportunities, Alastair found ERA, and all the pieces clicked into place.

ERA are world leaders in cost management and procurement consultancy. Franchise Partners are trained to offer strategic advice and practical methods which optimise supplier relationships and generate cash. Boasting the highest consulting revenue of any UK procurement franchise, the ERA network has enjoyed impressive sales over the past five years and are projecting a 13.2% growth in the next financial year.

“ERA was a great fit for me, I could tell that almost immediately. It offered flexibility, needed little in the way of equipment save for a computer and printer and, best of all, I wouldn’t need to employ anyone if I didn’t want to! The recruitment process was very honest and transparent from both sides and I felt very comfortable with the team and everyone I met along the way. The more research I did, the more impressed I was with the knowledge and strength within the network, that was a real draw for me in the end.”

When you join ERA, you join a network of over 140 consultants, each an expert in their own field. Access to this combined knowledge ensures that your business isn’t confined to one or two cost centres or even your own area of specialism. Our Franchise Partners work together to maximise opportunities for collaboration, expansion and guidance.

“I found the initial training to be focused and practical. And to anyone who would worry about it, I don’t think business ownership gives you an advantage at the training. It’s structured in such a way that everyone is on a level paying-field and you learn how to run an ERA business the ERA way.”

Our award-winning programme of training and support is designed equip you with all the knowledge and confidence you need to successfully launch and run your business, whatever your skills or background. New franchise partners undertake a tailored 5-week course consisting of classroom and hands-on learning at the ERA Academy.

“In the first year or so I reached out to head office for support, but I’m more self-sufficient now. I think what is very good, the big strength of ERA, is the network. If you immerse yourself in the network with your fellow franchisees then all the answers you could ever need are out there in the network with people who are doing what you do, every day!”

“The difference between a franchise partner and being self-employed is that you’re part of a team and you have resources beyond yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise have. There aren’t many days that go by without me being with, or talking to, other franchise partners. And, there’s the ERA Academy, quarterly regional meetings and three annual conferences so we’re always getting together to network, share best practice and generally have a good time!”

You may be surprised to hear that sailing is a popular pastime in the ERA network – not just with franchisees but with the team at head office too! Alastair is no exception and, as well as having some rather enviable trips to recall, spends his weekends sailing at the Pennington Flash in North West England.

“I love sailing, my dream is to spend more time doing that. I’ve sailed the Caribbean, across the Atlantic as part of a team and I’d love to do the Pacific! Colette isn’t quite as keen as I am, she definitely prefers the warmer waters!

The flexibility of the business means we can make the most of our holidays and get some time on the water at least once or twice a year. The next planned trip is a couple of weeks sailing in the Canaries in June – I can’t wait!”

“I want my business to be a success for many years to come. I’ve paid off my investment and plan to keep building. I would always say to people, and in fact I do, “if you’re in this for the long term and happy to put the effort in, you can earn a good living out of it.”