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Franchisee Focus: Meet Fiona James from the Leeds North-West Branch

Tags:
  • career,
  • Fiona James,
  • Franchise,
  • Leeds,
  • working from home,
  • Yorkshire

How did you first hear about NLG? What was it that appealed to you about them?

The NLG franchise was on a business website called Daltons which I came by in late December 2014. Initially it was the name that appealed to me as it’s a double negative which is usually a marketing faux pas. I liked the fact that it was counter intuitive so thought the company would be original and open to input from a range of different people and ideas. I’ve also done property development on a small scale since 2002, so have experience and knowledge of how the sector works.

Have you owned your own business before?

Yes. I’ve had a bakery and two retail shops in the early 90s. More recently, over the last 15 years, I’ve worked as a self employed business consultant and project manager. I’ve been involved in a range of things from sourcing products for TV shopping channels to helping to set up a local branch of Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food. In the last four years I’ve worked on the launch and promotion of luxury Alpaca and Mohair coats and jackets from Steiff Schulte in Germany, under the Teddy Bear Coats brand.

Obviously taking the plunge into self employment is a big risk, what made you do it?

This actually didn’t pose a huge risk for me, having been self employed for a long time and working from my own office at home since 1999. Most of my work has been customer facing and service orientated so I have a wide ranging skill set which is transferable across different industries. You need to be self motivated and self reliant with an attention to detail. It’s not just being able to do the job; you need to be able to talk to people when you’re out selling yourself and your business. Then there’s the back office function, carrying out administrative duties and accounts. I guess you could say I’m a Jill of all trades!

What have been the biggest lifestyle changes you have noticed since becoming a franchisee?

Having been self employed for such a long time, the changes to my lifestyle haven’t been wholesale. My working week has changed as I will be working at weekends but it is important to be flexible when you work for yourself, especially in the initial stages. I intend to develop the business to the point where I can employ people to work for me so that I can concentrate on expanding my operation. I prefer to be an entrepreneur rather than simply ‘self employed’. There are no plans though to take over the world (yet!), the Yorkshire region is plenty to keep me busy for now!

Is there any particular way you are going about things or is it just a case of hard work and perseverance?

It’s a mix of both really. The key thing is local marketing; it’s all about networking and this can turn on the smallest thing. A phone call, chance meeting, someone leaving and moving to a new company can all generate a lead with the power to transform your business. Businesses like to deal with local suppliers who they feel know their area so this should always be considered a USP of ours. It’s a relationship building exercise and that’s where the perseverance comes in. It is important to not take a knock back as a rejection as you never know where work will come from again in the future. In my own experience, work can come from the most unlikely source. You never know the person’s situation that you are talking to; while you may think they don’t want to know about you, they may just be having a bad day. I don’t take it personally, it’s business not a popularity contest after all!

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