A business I’m proud of and a lifestyle I value.
“My business has allowed me to be more involved with my children as they grow up and the flexibility means my wife has been able to start and run her own business too. I have a less stressful, healthier and more balanced lifestyle – all since joining Expense Reduction Analysts UK (ERA UK)!”
Andrew Beer launched his ERA UK franchise in 2013, less than a year after being made redundant. Now, almost five years on, he says it’s the best thing he ever did. He’s replaced the stress and commute of city working with a flexibility that allows him to be a hands-on parent. He’s become a valued member of the ERA UK network and hopes that his business will provide for his family in retirement; though being only 46, that’s a way off yet!
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in five years. You have to build a business yourself – success comes from your own effort and I’m on course to achieve my goals. I expect to be with ERA UK far beyond my original 10-year agreement and it’s nice to think the business could provide a good retirement in years to come. But right now I’m passionate about growth!”
After being made redundant in 2012, Andrew felt uncertain about his future. Whilst experienced, he admits his equity trader’s skillset wasn’t easily transferrable. And with an ever-decreasing jobs market, opportunities to find similar roles with comparable salaries were limited. It just so happened that Andrew also had experience of running his own business. In 2003, he took a short break from the world of investment banking to launch a security company which he successfully sold three years later to return to the city.
“I was an equities trader in global investment banking and spent 20 years in the industry all-in-all. My last position was at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) but they shut my whole department down at the beginning of 2012. Many thousands of us lost our jobs as a result of the fallout from the financial crisis. The skillset that you have as an equity trader isn’t very portable and many similar roles were becoming automated by trading computers. It wasn’t a nice position to be in.”
Faced with these prospects, Andrew decided to take matters back into his own hands. He already knew he had the drive and determination to start a new business but he also knew first-hand how hard it was to do so alone. After discovering franchising some year previously, he started to research the concept, and was inspired by what he found.
“I definitely had an ‘I’ve done it before I can do it again’ feeling about starting my own business but I really didn’t relish the prospect of going it alone again. It’s so hard and there’s no one to turn to if things start to slow down, let alone actually go wrong – which it can do, particularly if the reality differs from the business plan. The more I found out about franchising, the more appealing it became. Having a team there to lean on and ask for advice can make the difference between success and failure.
“When I started researching franchise opportunities, I found ERA UK almost straight away and it instantly appealed to me. The fact that it was white collar and required me to utilise my knowledge and experience in an intellectual capacity meant that it felt very familiar. I’m a people-person and I’ve always worked in roles where that was an advantage – I could see that ERA UK was a relationship business and my skills would be useful. Overall, ERA UK felt like it would be a career progression rather than buying into a job or something more labour-based like some of the van-based or owner-operator franchises on the market.”
ERA UK are market 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 cost management and procurement franchise.
To his surprise, not long after making an initial enquiry, Andrew discovered that a former colleague had also joined the franchise. Nick Robinson launched his franchise in 2011 so could give an insider’s view on the ERA UK training programme and the support from head office! Backed up by his own due-diligence which involved online research with the British Franchise Association, telephone calls with the franchise team at ERA UK, speaking to existing Franchise Partners and attending a discovery day at Head Office in Southampton; Andrew felt confident in his decision. He signed his franchise agreement and officially joined the ERA UK franchise family just eight weeks later.
“Having Nick on the inside was brilliant – it really shortened my decision-making process. I could verify that everything I was being told was true and wasn’t a sales tactic. It wasn’t, and in the end I stopped checking because I realised that the people I was dealing with, Matt and the team, were just honest, genuine professionals. I was happy to be going into business with them.”
ERA UK’s award-winning programme of training and support has been refined for 20 years and is designed to 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 UK Academy after which they receive 1-2-1 field-based support for at least 18 months.
“In the early days, I relied on support from the Academy and other Franchise Partners. Both were brilliant and it’s probably one of the prime reasons why people are successful. Nowadays, I’m fairly self-sufficient but still go to Head Office if I need things like admin or IT help or for help marketing to a specific company. I also sit on the Network Advisory Board now, we advise the Franchisor of the views or needs of the network. It’s a really collaborative franchise and there’s a genuine desire to support and provide what Franchise Partners need to succeed.”
After years working in London, work/life balance was something that Andrew was keen to achieve from day one with his new business. His two young children were both under the age of three when he launched his franchise and so working from home and being more of a hands-on parent was a top priority. It’s something Andrew is proud to say he’s achieved and, what’s more, it’s meant that his wife can pursue her own business aspirations too!
“The best thing about this business is the flexibility and being in a situation where we can run two businesses. My wife runs her own HR recruitment company and if I were still working in the city or even had a 9-5 job, I don’t think my wife would be able to run her business. I see far more of my kids than I’m sure most fathers do – I take them to school and can organise my days around their routine. Financially, my wife and I are both earning now but the payoff comes in other, frankly more important areas – like spending time with my family.”
Andrew was once a keen sportsman but says that these days, other than being an avid golfer, he’s more of a spectator! But when it comes to business, he’s front and centre. He aspires that his business will provide for himself and his family in his retirement but knows that means a lot of hard work still has to be done in the here and now.
“When I joined ERA UK, I felt I had 25 years left to work and I wanted something that I could throw myself into 100% that would last me to retirement. I have a grand plan for retirement yes, but right now I’m focussed on building my business and continually improving the job I do for my clients. I recently signed one of the biggest universities in the country as a client and have delivered successfully for them – that makes me incredibly proud. Our business, ERA UK as a whole, continues to take on more and more complicated projects for customers and I’m passionate about our commitment to delivering an ever more professional approach. That is, ultimately, what will make me successful in years to come.”
As someone who has experience of starting a business with and without the help of a franchisor, Andrew has plenty of advice on what to look out for and some questions to ask. But he says, in the end, you should follow your instincts!
“If I had to choose three words to describe what ERA UK has done for me I would say: balance, contentment and lifestyle. To go from being at my desk in the city at 6:30am to now taking the kids to school before my meetings is a massive step change and one I wouldn’t trade for any amount of money.”