From stay at home mum to top female franchisee


From stay at home mum to top female franchisee

Jan Chidley, owner Recognition Express Hull and East Riding

After over 28 years following my husband round the world with his job, In 2007 I decided it was time for me to do something I wanted to do - be my own boss.

I set up Recognition Express Hull and East Riding as a new territory. Ten years on I am one of the top performing female franchisees in the network.

It has always been important to set my own goals as well as work to the targets set by my franchisor. Year on year I have met and exceeded them all.

I hope my story will inspire other women to consider taking on a franchise – at 40 and as a stay-at –home Mum there was much for me to learn as I entered the working world for the first time. It took courage and a great deal of organisation but I’ve achieved everything I set out to do – and more.

Early Days

I’d taken the decision early on that I wanted to take time out to raise our three children. But when twins Sam and Sophie were 16 the time felt right to focus on a career. As my husband Chris had been running the Driver Hire franchise for four years I understood the concept of franchising and felt that buying a franchise would enable me to have the best of both worlds  – a business of my own backed up with  the confidence of a proven model and support from the franchisor team.

We talked about it as a family and the children were very excited about me setting up a business.

I was introduced to Recognition Express at a franchise exhibition. I liked the product and the high level of business support provided was ideal for me.

Building the business

It was both scary and exciting at the same time. I wanted to keep work and home life separate so chose to rent office premises that was halfway between home and school.

I had never been in a working environment before. I bought myself a whole new ‘work wardrobe’ and when it came to office skills I was like a dinosaur. I wasn’t computer literate and couldn’t even send an email. The children showed me the basics – and from there I taught myself. Now I have most of my records on the computer but still keep a handwritten diary.

One of the first things all new Recognition Express franchisees have to do is ‘walk the territory’ -cold call on 350 customers in five days to gather names for a telemarketing campaign. To my surprise I found the transition from Mum to business woman came naturally.

Contacts I made still make up over 25% of my existing customer base which stands at over 450.

Comfort Zone

I got my first big order for £3,500 within 2 months. I was so excited. It helped spur me on and gave me confidence to go out and secure more business.

Establishing and maintaining good relationships with customers is key to my success. I have demonstrated that I deliver a high quality service and am a reliable and trustworthy supplier.

As a working woman I can honestly say I have not met any barriers because of my gender. I juggle my time so that I can be as involved as before in my children’s life and learned very early on that professionalism was the key to doing business. I employ an excellent answering service to cover the phones when I am out of the office. A real person answering the phone to customers says ‘this organisation is professional’.

Networking is an important contributor to my business growth. I was a member of the local BNI for five years and now belong to several other groups. All of those early morning starts were hard – but running a business is all about determination and working towards pre-set aims.

Family Support

“When my mum first set up the business I felt very proud of her for taking on such a huge challenge. Starting a business is an enormous task, and having three children to look after at the same time is something to aspire to! ”

Sophie Chidley (daughter)

Seeing me working hard is good for the children. From day one my husband and children have been fully supportive and they quickly adjusted to life with Mum working.

I learned a lot about running a business from my husband. We have a policy of ‘shutting the door’ on work when we get home enabling us to focus on the family and each other.

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