Franchisee support is the bedrock of gas-elec’s success. Franchise Director Carol Otway highlights the head office skills that underpin its national network.
‘The whole idea behind gas-elec came from our MD John Davidson who, back in the early nineties, saw the potential for a huge market in gas and electrical safety in the residential sector, made possible by our training which enabled one engineer to combine gas and electrical inspections in one visit.
‘GBS is part of the support structure that our franchisees see as the most important. It is run by a head office team who carry out all the invoicing, payment collection, VAT and debt collection on behalf of our franchisees, leaving our regional management franchisees free to advertise and market the business and our safety inspection franchisees to actually carry out the work.’
gas-elec’s regional management franchisees rely on its exclusive ‘e-cis’, a web-based bespoke IT system. Jay Sachania, Head of e-services, is responsible for ensuring the system is providing what the network needs. Jay, five years with gas-elec, spends most of his time educating and supporting the franchisee network in the ever-evolving world of IT. Harlow-based Safety inspection franchisee Dean Martin, who has renewed his franchise for a second five-year term, says: ‘If I ever win the lottery, Jay Sachania is coming with me! Whenever I have a computer problem, Jay sorts it. Usually I work alone, but people in franchise support and in my regional office are at the end of the phone, ready and willing to support me.’
Jay Sachania explains: ‘When we take on a new franchisee I train them to use the e-cis system. I set up their computer equipment – I can do that remotely from head office - and the IT equipment we supply them as part of their package is set up in-house before it is allocated. I act as an interface between our franchisees and IT development; we can tailor the system to any special requirements to suit their business needs.’
‘e-cis is a superb piece of kit,’ says Dee Curl; she and husband Richard are regional management franchisees running gas-elec in the south and south-west. ‘Without it, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Our franchisor has been open-minded enough to produce something that puts us in the forefront of the market and head office encourages us to come up with ideas for on-going improvements. e-cis allows any form of reporting so I can see exactly how my business is going, any problems, and how I can maximise sales. It even allows head office to pick up on areas where we may be falling down so they can alert us.’
gas-elec’s Website Developer is Daniel Lambert. Daniel is also responsible for the company’s presence on Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In. By creating social networks, as well as pay per clicks and web optimisation, Daniel ensures that a wide section of the market knows about the new products and services. ‘All these elements of web marketing drive sales to our regional offices and our engineers; we can monitor where leads come from and at what cost per lead.’
gas-elec’s technical support is second-to-none. David McVicker has been with the company for 14 years, mainly as a Safety Inspection franchisee, but now as the network’s Quality and Technical Auditor (gas). He supports the franchisees if they have technical queries they cannot resolve or they just need the support of his vast experience. ‘When people start, they can sometimes be quite slow and methodical,’ he says. ‘I help them build their experience and confidence so that jobs go more smoothly and they can move on to the next one quicker.’
David visits all 100 gas engineers in the network at least once a year, carrying out audits in the field. He ensures test equipment is regularly calibrated and that they are carrying out inspections in accordance with Gas Safe requirements. He also deals with the complaints that inevitably occur when a company carries out upwards of 100,000 inspections every year.
Engineer Mick Eldridge in Bridgend, Glamorgan, really rates David McVicker’s experience and skills. ‘It’s very difficult keeping up to date with Gas Safe regulations and technical developments, but David keeps the network informed by alerting us on email of any changes we should be aware of, so we don’t miss anything. He recently audited me; it went well, it’s quite relaxed and you feel comfortable, you can talk to him if you have a problem, so the audit helps us. One of my colleagues recently had a complaint against himself, but it was really a spat between the tenant and the landlord, and David helped him through it.’
gas-elec’s franchisees benefit from on-going product development and new opportunities for sales of products and services.
Auditing the electrical side of the business is the responsability of Marcos Butterwick he ensures the franchisees are updated with new initiatives or developments that impact on the business or affect compliance with the regulations.
The first person any would-be gas-elec franchisee speaks to would probably be Jay Green, Head of Franchise Administration, who has been with the company for 8 years. Jay spends half his time on recruitment supporting Carol, and the other half on making sure existing franchisees have the right insurance, equipment, uniform and the myriad of items that make up the total franchise package.
As for Carol Otway, who has been with gas-elec 12 years, she takes a great pride in the growth of the network and the fact that she has a real rapport with the franchisees, all of whom she knows personally. Franchise Agreements are renewable every five years and Carol is very satisfied that in the past two years 41 of 45 franchisees renewed; of those a dozen have renewed for a third five-year term, giving stability to the national network. Franchisees are further supported by regular regional meetings and an annual national conference. ‘I feel a real sense of pride when I see dozens of gas-elec vans out in the car park at the conferences and it’s great seeing all the franchisees together, networking and being part of a franchise that’s stood the test of time. We have a great support team and gas-elec gives franchisees exactly what it ‘says on the tin’; it makes all the hard work worthwhile.’
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