Robert Stearn

A better work/life balance and a comfortable retirement.

“I couldn’t have done what I have without the people in this business; the combined knowledge and experience of the people in the ERA UK network are its greatest strength.”

After 11 years, Robert Stearn is not only a successful franchise owner, he’s an inspiration to many in the Expense Reduction Analysts UK (ERA UK) network. Thanks to his relentless hard work and dedication to his business, Robert has signed over 100 clients, been a mentor and trainer for his fellow Franchise Partners and won the prestigious ‘Consultant of the Year’ award at ERA UK’s national conference. Now, he’s enjoying the fruits of his labour as he eases into semi-retirement in a way which, crucially, is very much on his own terms.

“I’ve signed over 100 clients in my time with ERA UK but I’m now semi-retired, working a 3-day week and will be dropping to 2 days in the New Year. My business has allowed me to plan for a gradual retirement, on my own terms and enjoy a better work/life balance along the way.”

Prior to joining ERA UK, Robert spent 33 years in Sales and National Account Management. His impressive career has seen him hold high-level positions in multi-national companies including Mars, London International, Playtex and Sara Lee. After 17.5 years in his final role, the business was bought by a Venture Capitalist and Robert realised that redundancy was looming. Taking the initiative, he began to investigate options for his future and, when the time came, took voluntary redundancy in 2006 with the intention of using any monies received to realise a long-held ambition of owning his own business.

“Everything I’ve ever done has been in Sales in one way or another. I started out as a Sales Rep, then progressed to Account Management positions, before taking on more senior roles. At the height of my career, I was managing about 70 people and handling national retail accounts. When that business was eventually sold, I knew that redundancy was on the horizon. Having spent 33 years in the corporate world, I felt that I wanted to do something for myself – own my own business and be my own boss.”

ERA UK 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 UK network has enjoyed impressive sales increases over the past five years.

“What I liked most about ERA UK was the fact that I could be a one-man business but within a corporate structure. I could see the value in the collaborative nature of the network; 150 consultants all working together, backed up by head office. That level of co-operation and support is very powerful. The earning potential also appealed to me; I’d earnt a lot in my corporate positions and ERA UK would allow me to match and exceed that. I didn’t want to manage people as I had done that for so long and thinking about what skills I had, I knew I could use my Sales experience to my advantage. When I met Rob Allison and the team, it became clear that ERA UK was for me.”

“I’ve signed over 100 clients in my time with ERA UK but I’m now semi-retired, working a 3-day week and will be dropping to 2 days in the New Year. My business has allowed me to plan for a gradual retirement, on my own terms and enjoy a better work/life balance along the way.”

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 12 months.

“The training back when I started was good but it’s nothing compared to how it is now! I’m proud to say I’ve even delivered some of the new Franchise Partner training modules over the years. I really enjoyed it, it was wonderful. I did that for a few years and I’ve also delivered specialist training seminars for the network in the past on things like ‘Winning More Business through Successful Prospect Meetings’ and ‘Effective Follow Up and Momentum’. That’s something that ERA UK are good at, getting the people who actually do it, and do it well, to deliver training and mentor new members of the network.”

As part of his business growth strategy and as testament to the collaborative nature of the ERA UK network, Robert has spent the last eight years working with fellow consultant David Keating. Robert exercises his considerable sales skills in his role as a Business Development Manager (BDM) whilst David, a Client Relationship Manager (CRM), manages the delivery of programmes of work for the clients Robert signs. The pair offer a seamless, turnkey solution for clients.

“After a while, I realised that I didn’t want to continue with client management – I’m just not a detail person at heart. David and I were both looking to develop our businesses in a way which suited our working styles and personal preferences. Part of the reason we work so well together is that we can both play to our strengths. He prefers the analytical side of the role whilst I’m stronger at acquiring new business. We’ve been really successful working this way and it’s just another advantage to being part of ERA UK.”

“What I liked most about ERA UK was the fact that I could be a one-man business but within a corporate structure. I could see the value in the collaborative nature of the network; 150 consultants all working together, backed up by head office.”

After 11 years in business, Robert has a lot to be proud of. But when asked about his proudest moment, it’s not a financial milestone or a sizable client that makes the top spot, it’s the recognition from his peers that really means the most: “Winning ‘Consultant of the Year’ in 2010 at our national conference is still something that means so much to me. The award is based on not just financial performance and business success but on how your fellow Franchise Partners, the Board and head office perceive your efforts and your contribution to the network as a whole. It was, and still is, an honour to be recognised by my peers.”

Now almost 64, Robert is putting his plans for retirement into action. Already semi-retired, he intendeds to further reduce his hours and has been working with another member of the ERA UK network who will take over his BDM role and continue to work with David as he winds down. And with less time spent working, Robert is looking forward to doing more of what he loves!

“Living in Folkestone, we’ve got the stunning coastal views and an amazing coastline to enjoy. I love going on long walks, I probably walk between 20 and 30 miles per week. I enjoy real ale, too – I regularly combine both and make some pit stops along my walks… but I do that on my own as my wife doesn’t enjoy it as much!

“This time next year I shouldn’t be doing anything with ERA UK, aside from the odd bit of support for David, if he should need it. My plan is to spend lots of time doing the things I love; I’m a trustee of the local sports centre which has a community feel to it and hope to be more involved as I retire.”

Stamford Bridge - Robert has had season tickets for the same seats for 20 years now
Robert with his wife Kim.
Malta – watching an England match in his favourite holiday destination for 28 years

“I did my research and it became clear to me that the odds of success with franchising were much higher than if you tried to go it alone. That’s still true today, as far as I’m aware. So, I went about researching franchise opportunities and I found ERA UK.”