10 years of success spurred me on for 10 more!
“After 10 years, my business continues to exceed expectations. I enjoy the best of both worlds in terms of earnings and lifestyle and on top of that, feel an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction in my work – what more could you ask for?”
Tracy Follows has been running her Expense Reduction Analysts (ERA) franchise since 2007. Since then, she’s built a substantial, profitable business which continues to grow year-on-year. She’s become a highly respected and valued member of the ERA community and, with her sights set on more of the same for the future, has just renewed her franchise agreement for another 10 years!
Like many others, Tracy came from a working-class background and went straight from college into the workplace. She worked for 10 years with a large American conglomerate and rose to National Accounts Director before being headhunted into a board level post within a London-based manufacturing SME.
“I was responsible for a team of national account managers and £multi-million commercial accounts. My role was all about getting to understand client needs and behaviours to deliver the best service and enhanced relationships. Looking back, this formed solid foundations and helped hone the skills I still use to this day!”
Whilst she thoroughly enjoyed the role, after another 10 years of gruelling commutes into the city and regular overnight stays, Tracy began to reassess her priorities: “The endless commuting and time away from home wore me down in the end. I got to the point, when I was about 40, of thinking ‘do I really want to still be doing this in 10 years’ time?’ I longed for something different and after some soul-searching, my husband and I decided to take a year out – so we sold up and took some time out to travel Australia!”
After a year down-under, Tracy felt it was time to return home and thoughts quickly turned to how best to make a living. By coincidence, a former colleague, and good friend, owned his own ERA franchise. When he found out that she was coming back to the UK, he told Tracy that he felt sure she’d make a great franchisee!
ERA are world leaders in cost management and procurement consultancy. Franchise Partners are trained to offer strategic advice and practical methods which optimise supplier relationships and generate cash. Boasting the highest consulting revenue of any UK procurement franchise, the ERA network has enjoyed impressive sales increases over the past five years, growing by 10% in the last year and projecting a 13.2% growth in the next financial year.
“I’d looked at starting my own business, buying a business and franchising, as possible options. Almost all the businesses I looked at buying seemed overpriced and when it comes to starting a business, there are always gaps in what you know, no matter how multi-faceted you are. I looked at the failure rates of a go-it-alone start-up versus a franchise business – 80% compared to 4% – and that really convinced me to go down the franchising route.”
After some thorough due diligence, including several meetings at our head office in Southampton and speaking to existing franchisees, Tracy was confident that ERA was the opportunity for her.
“For me, ERA ticked all the boxes. The concept made sense and I could see how it could have applied to the organisations I’d worked with and for. I really liked that no-one just gave me the flowery version, they explained the challenges as well as the benefits. You mistrust people that paint the rosy picture and nothing else; ERA didn’t do that. I also spoke to franchisees who worked in the sector I’d come from and I was impressed with their knowledge and excited about the prospects!”
Our award-winning programme of training and support is designed equip you with all the knowledge and confidence you need to successfully launch and run your business, whatever your skills or background. New franchise partners undertake a tailored 5-week course consisting of classroom and hands-on learning at the ERA Academy.
“The training was excellent and I know it’s changed to be even better now. In the early days, I probably drew more on the support that was available but even now, the great thing about the network and group office is there’s always someone there to support you. You don’t get that in your own business.”
“To this day, I’m still staggered by the level and depth of knowledge in the network – it’s second to none. I feel personally involved with every client I work with and I’m responsible and crucially, confident, that as a network we can deliver and delight. You get a real sense of pride from that. It’s great to be proud of your business and that’s a big thing that ERA gives me”
When you join ERA, you join a network of over 140 consultants, each an expert in their own field. Access to this combined knowledge ensures that your business isn’t confined to one or two cost centres or even your own area of specialism. Our Franchise Partners work together to maximise opportunities for collaboration, expansion and guidance.
“The added beauty of ERA is that you come into an organisation that allows you to still work with professional colleagues rather than being isolated. There’s all that knowledge and experience to draw on but you’re still running your own business; it’s a lovely balance.”
When it comes to balance, thanks to her business, Tracy has achieved what she describes as the ideal work/life mixture. She and her husband have been able to indulge their love of travel and interior design which they’ve proudly channelled into their beautiful barn-conversion.
“I love the flexibility that the business offers: we’ve just come back from a month in Spain and yes, I still worked remotely but was able to schedule meetings before we went and follow-ups for when we got back. I actually acquired an important client while we were there!
“ERA really does give us a great lifestyle. We’ve got a big old barn that we’ve converted and done a lot of work on the interior and styling which I love doing! But whether it’s working on the house, being able to walk the dogs in the sunshine, spend time with friends or just be spontaneous and take a day trip here and there; day-in, day-out, what the business allows us to do is truly brilliant.”
At 53, the decision to renew her franchise agreement was an easy one for Tracy to make. Considering her franchise an investment for life, Tracy knows that she can continue to build her business into a serious asset which, thanks to the ERA exit strategy can be utilised as a pension provision.
“Re-signing was a no-brainer. There was never a question that I wouldn’t re-sign, I’m not ready to retire and I don’t want to do anything else. I know that I can slow the pace down a little if I ever decide that I want to but for now, expect more of the same! The business has grown year-on-year, and the last two years have been exceptional. The work is varied, the people diverse and I thoroughly enjoy what I do.”
“I love being in charge of my own destiny and having the flexibility to really make the most out of life. It’s gratifying to get out what you put in and know that you’ve built something you can be proud of. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, I wish I’d done it sooner.”