An ever-increasing number of parents are seeking a more flexible way of working so they can juggle all elements of a family life, and many see franchising as the perfect solution – it’s the ultimate business in a box model and 93% of our own franchisees are earning enough to live on within 12 months of setting up their franchise with our tried and tested business model.
‘Franchise experts report a rising trend in women entering the world of franchising. In the UK women now account for nearly 25% of franchisees… Women owned 27 percent of franchise locations in 2017, it says, compared with 20.5 percent in 2007 – and that doesn’t include another 17% of the population where men and women operate franchises together as partners.’ Like our branch owners Zoe and James who cover Calne and Chippenham, and Mike and Jayne who cover Abingdon, Didcot, Wallingford and Wantage.
We caught up with Tracey Alexander, mum to one (William), wife to one! and owner of our Reading East branch who had been in business three years before her and husband Bobby extended their family.
How far in advance did you start planning the management of your business before you took time off / had baby?
About six months – I had my team in place already, but I was still doing some dog walking so wanted to make sure customers were aware that someone else would be walking their dog, that the team was stable and able to cope without me, and that everything worked not only without me being around but also while other team members were on holiday so we had enough cover.
What plans did you put in place to ensure the business kept going while you were on maternity leave?
I made sure that all my admin was right up to date. I had an arrangement with a neighbouring franchisee who helped with new enquiries and changes to bookings etc during the first couple of weeks, so she needed to be able to access my documents such as rotas, booking register and customer details in case of emergency, so it needed to be up to date. It was also around the end of year so my end of year accounts needed looking at. I made sure all the relevant info was with my accountant so I didn’t have anything outstanding. My home boarder kindly managed boarding enquiries that came in and dealt with them, and I trained some of my team to carry out customer visits as I wouldn’t be in a position to do them for a while.
So how long did you give yourself for maternity leave, and we mean a total shutdown of your involvement in the business?
Hmmm, a week! I cut my level of involvement right down for a while after William was born – I had to, but I started managing all the team, rota and customer contact stuff again fairly early on. Looking back, it was probably a bit mad, but I managed and luckily, I was in a position to be able to. That’s not to say there aren’t other ways of doing it – many franchises employ a manager or two which would be ideal for being able to pass such managerial duties on during maternity leave.
How old is baby now?
William is 2! More a toddler than a baby.
Does running your own business provide that ideal flexible working lifestyle?
It’s perfect. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with William in the early days, and I can still spend time with him on the days he’s not in nursery, while being able to keep on top of managing the business. I’m in a position now where I am gearing up for the next level of growth, and I feel lucky to be able to manage everything. I’ve never had such a great work life balance.
Can you think how much harder it would be to start a family if you were an employee?
I think the big difference for me would have come at the time when you need to go back to work after maternity leave. There are big decisions to be made about full time, part time work, childcare arrangements, financial considerations etc, and I think this was all made a little easier with the flexibility that comes with running your own business that’s flexible by nature and having a team in place to support you.
Please give three tips of encouragement to anyone considering starting their own business but are worried because they may want to grow their family in the future.
If you start your business already knowing that then you’re already a step ahead. You can plan your business growth and team with this goal in mind. You’ll be working towards putting in place a stable team and growing the business in a sustainable way so you can know at every step of the way that it’s manageable with all aspects of the business in mind. It’s absolutely doable! This is the busiest, most demanding, yet flexible role I’ve ever had. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s your business, you’ll be passionate about it and so you’ll make it work. There is a big family of other We Love Pets franchisees, staff and the head office support team there to help with advice on how to grow and reach your goals.
The biggest tip is to recruit, recruit, recruit! The earlier you can get the right people in place to support you when you go on maternity leave, the better and you’ll have peace of mind that you’ve got a committed team making sure things are running smoothly while your attention is on your new family for a while.
To find out more about running your own dog walking and pet care business with We Love Pets download our brochure.
To get in touch with Tracey to find out more about the services she offers in the Reading East area visit her personal web page here.