“I couldn’t go back to working for somebody else again”
When sales director Clive Cowan found himself out of work, a victim of downsizing at online recruitment giant, Monster, a career spanning almost two decades in sales came to an abrupt halt. But something else stopped that day too. Being made redundant marked the end of any corporate restraints. And now, reflecting on five years as an Expense Reduction Analysts (ERA) Franchise Partner, Clive relishes all of the freedoms he’s attained from self-employment.
“I would find it hard to work for somebody else again,” Clive says. “It’s great not having a boss anymore. Now I get to choose where I go every day, and I’m in control of my diary. I used to spend hours traveling for work, and too much time away from home. And then when I wasn’t in the car it was endless conference calls. So it’s great that there’s none of that anymore either!”
An under-nines rugby coach and keen snowboarder, Clive finds it far easier to balance his hobbies with his business commitments now that he’s the boss. He does admit it’s important to keep regular business hours, though, and says the financial rewards he’s enjoyed wouldn’t be as high if he tipped his work-life balance too far into the latter. “I’ve earned good money from my ERA franchise, but I believe that’s because I’ve run it like a job,” says Clive. “I’d worked from home before and was all too aware of the need to be disciplined. That said, I coach rugby every Wednesday and don’t feel guilty leaving the office early. I make sure I put in enough hours to make the business a success, but it does allow me to take on other activities outside of work.”
Like many of the 3.7 million people to lose their jobs since the start of the recession – one in seven of the UK’s employees has experienced redundancy in the last five years – Clive turned to franchising to fulfil a desire to work for himself. And as befits a recruitment industry stalwart, he quickly assessed his own skills and requirements to find, in ERA, a franchise to match.
“I can’t make anything, and I didn’t have a revolutionary idea of my own. But what I did have was vast experience in sales,” Clive says. “I’d run sales teams, I could sell a concept and I was used to selling to Financial Directors. And that’s why, for me, ERA stood head and shoulders above everybody else. It’s the same selling style that I’m used to, and it’s to the same audience.
“What clinched it for me in the end, though, was the people,” he adds. “They were incredibly professional throughout the recruitment process and, importantly, they weren’t pushy. Once I’d passed ERA’s selection criteria it was then left for me to decide if I wanted to join.”
Clive, who’s based in Yorkshire, officially launched his ERA franchise at the tail end of 2008. Since then his business, which provides procurement advice to organisations with turnovers from £5million to £100million, has saved its clients hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s met Clive’s own financial expectations too, as well as giving him the blend of support and independence that he was looking for in a franchise. “I’m working for myself, which is exactly what I wanted,” he says. “But, in the best possible way, it really doesn’t feel like it. There’s a fantastic support structure here at ERA. And there’s a network of other partners going through the same experiences. We all work together, and we understand and help each other. And that’s what’s so great about franchising.”