What were you doing at the tender age of 23? For most of us we were just setting out in our careers, trying to find that perfect job that we both enjoy and can progress in. Well this is not the case for Pierre Goodwin from Guildford, who has just become the youngest ever franchisee to open a Wilkins Chimney Sweep business.
Why has Pierre opened his own business at such a young age? Well, he says after watching his dad run his own business for over 35 years, and then discussing it with his girlfriend’s father who runs his own successful chimney sweep business, that it was just too good an opportunity to miss.
Previously, Pierre did a degree in engineering, and although he enjoyed it he knew he did not want to pursue a career in this area. He had also watched many of his friends try and climb the corporate ladder in London, and again knew this was not something for him.
He explains: “I’ve had some pretty interesting jobs in the past, from waiting tables, gardening, working at a Gin distillery and even considered becoming a full time fitness instructor. My Father has had his own IT programming business for 35 years, so I’ve always had a good understanding of what it takes to build a company and the kind of hours you need to work to stay successful. The idea of being my own boss has always appealed to me, but to have your own company you have to have your own idea. Franchising stood out as an obvious way to start a business with a huge leg up the ladder in terms of initial training, mentoring, and ongoing support.
“Wilkins Chimney Sweep appeared on my radar due to my girlfriend’s father. Nick, is a Wilkins Franchisee, in-fact he’s their highest earner and it’s been impossible not to notice just how much he loves what he does every day. There was no big push from him to consider Wilkins necessarily, but he encouraged me to look into franchising as a serious option and pointed me in the direction of the British Franchise Association website. I liked the idea that the franchises in membership had been independently assessed and accredited, so to me that felt like a very good place to start, especially given how many franchises there are out there.
“I did a lot of research before I decided to try and take the franchise on. Louise and her husband Peter (the other co-owners) were really approachable and keen to meet with me, but wanted to hear about how much research I had done and how serious I was about coming on board. It’s easy to miss the point that this is very much a business partnership, whereby the franchisor has to believe in you just as much as you believe in them. Yes, you have to pay for the franchise, but they are investing heavily in you too in terms of training, trusting you with their brand and believing that you will be doing everything you can to grow your business better than someone else could in your territory.
“I was fortunate enough to have money set aside from my parents, grandparents and my own savings, which was admittedly intended to be a deposit to get me on the property ladder. Some people might think it’s crazy to take that risk, especially given how hard it is to get a house these days, but if I didn’t believe 100% that I could instead use the money to start a successful business that would allow me to recoup the investment, use it for its original purpose, and then be left with a house and my own profitable business, I would never have done it. For me, the rewards just outweighed the risk.
“I don’t think starting any business is risk free, but there’s no doubt that franchising, if you find the right one for you, greatly reduces the risks normally associated with start-ups. Wilkins is a well-known brand, loads of heritage, great training and support, and I was able to speak to the other people in the network before signing up. No matter how strong the model, I still have to put the work in, but I’m someone that thrives on a challenge and doing the best job possible.”
Pierre adds: “To make any business a success you have to be prepared to work very hard, and this exactly what I plan to do. I have the support of the amazing Wilkins team behind me, a proven business model and a highly professional national brand. I’ve got over 100,000 houses in my exclusive Guildford territory and plenty of assistance to market my services to them. I’ve been trained by a steering committee member of APICS (The Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps), I’m now Ladder Association qualified and we all undergo a rigorous annual assessment to make sure we are always exceeding industry standards.”