last updated 30/01/2019
WORK TO LIVE - don’t live to work
last updated 30/01/2019
As the weather improves at last, some people are already having to return to work. Would owning your own business give you more of what you desire? Here's an article from December 2012 about how to get the five F-words that most people actually want in their lives: Family, Flexibility, Fun, Freedom and Finance.
Bevin Hayward believes in working to live, not living to work. He and his wife Carlin have three children under four, he teaches guitar, plays in a rock band, and spends time helping out at his local church at Judea in the Bay of Plenty. He’s also studying theology and philosophy. That wouldn’t seem to leave a lot of time for work, but Bevin also runs his own successful business as a V.I.P. Home Services franchisee. ‘My business is there to serve me, not the other way round,’ he says.
This summer, as people enjoy time with their family away from the stresses of everyday work, Bevin’s philosophy will strike a chord with many people. But how do you manage to combine work, family, hobbies and lifestyle? In the following pages, you’ll find plenty of examples of franchisees talking about their businesses and you can be sure that every one will approach their business in a different way. Some are working every hour they can to achieve financial security as fast as possible. Others are looking to create more income to buy their own home, educate their children or indulge in their favourite sports or passion for travel. Younger people are buying franchises to help them become established in a business career, older people to keep working or re-invest their savings to create a semi-passive income. In every case, though, they will be hoping to achieve the same as Bevin – a business that meets their needs and works for them.
We decided to look at why Bevin chose the business he did and how he makes it work for him, and then offer some suggestions on how you can achieve the same – whatever your goals.
Bevin came to the business world by an unusual route that involved a couple of false starts. After leaving school in Christchurch, he moved to Tauranga to attend Bays Bible College. ‘I’d just become a Christian and I wanted to learn more about it,’ he says. ‘I worked at a tenpin bowling place for a while, then went to the Philippines on a church mission, which was a real eye-opener. After I returned I worked as a food technician and did a food microbiology course, but what really interested me was people. I like helping people and wanted to learn what makes them tick, so I studied counselling.
‘Carlin and I were married by then so I took a job helping out our local V.I.P. franchisee while Carlin worked as a chef. I loved the counselling course but I didn’t want to be surrounded by other people’s problems all the time and when the franchisee decided to sell up, it was too good an opportunity to miss. I’d already been doing quotes and invoicing as well as the actual lawnmowing and gardening, so I knew the business well and the timing was perfect. Our son Lennon was a year old, Lydian was on the way and having the franchise enabled Carlin to become a full-time mum. Now we have Gavrielle as well; she’s just five months old.’
While some people enjoy fixed hours that enable them to plan ahead, his young family is number one priority for Bevin so one of the attractions of this particular franchise was the flexibility that it offered. ‘You know what it’s like with kids, so it really suits me that I don’t have to start work at an exact time – I can be around, help get them dressed and fed, or if they are sick I can re-arrange things to help look after them. Some days I might be home by 2pm, others I’ll work till sun-down. That really is my choice and once I’m home, I’m home and can focus on my family.’
Bevin admits he doesn’t like doing bookwork and Carlin handles most of it, but they take the approach: ‘It’s got to be done and when it’s done, it’s over. For a business to be successful you have to look after every aspect of it – customers, accounts, invoicing, growth – and that means taking the time to manage it properly.’
Bevin says he does whatever he can to please his customers. ‘As a result, most of my new business comes from referrals, friends and neighbours of people I’m already working for. The great thing about being part of the franchise is that you’ve got a lot of people around you to offer help, support and advice, and take on a job if you can’t do it for any reason. Our local master franchisees organise monthly meetings that bring a whole team element to what we do.
Bevin says he works to live rather than living to work, so he likes to turn his work into fun too. ‘It’s therapeutic, like going for a walk every morning – except that you do it all day,’ he says. ‘The healthy lifestyle is a bonus: it gets the endorphins going and I’m able to do other things I love at the same time. I’m studying logic at the moment, so I download lessons and plug in my iPod while I’m pushing the mower. There’s a lot of free material on the internet from some of the best tutors in the world so by the time I come home from work, I can have spent hours in the classroom.’
Twice a week, Bevin turns tutor himself, teaching guitar to local students. Music is another big part of his life: he works as a session musician for recordings and plays in a local band as well. ‘We play a wide variety of stuff but mainly progressive rock – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Rush,’ he grins.
And as far as the Haywards are concerned, being part of a franchise adds to the fun. ‘ V.I.P. feels like a family here in the Bay of Plenty – at Christmas, for example, there's a big party for everyone and there’s always presents for all the kids. The effort they put in is amazing.’
It’s a fact about franchising that a franchisee doesn’t have total control over their own business because they have to work within the format laid down by the franchisor and apply the franchisor’s system – a McDonald’s franchisee, for example, couldn’t suddenly start selling pizza, and while Bevin does lawnmowing, gardening and all sorts of outdoor work, V.I.P. wouldn’t be happy if he started to clean carpets under the V.I.P. name. In both cases, it’s not a service that the brand provides and they haven’t developed systems that would ensure the quality of the product.
Despite this, Bevin feels that working within the franchise actually gives him more freedom rather than less. ‘It’s a superb system that streamlines the chores and helps give me time for all the other things I want to do, which is what I want from a business. I do have the option to expand it – when things get busy, my father-in-law helps me out, and I’ve also had a lad with me doing work experience. It seems that these days you need to have experience before you can get a job, but of course you have to have a job to get the experience, which is pretty difficult – it’s good to be able to help someone that way.’
Many small business owners find that, if they aren’t careful, the business can take over too much of their lives – especially if they are working from home. There’s always ‘one more thing’ to be done before you can leave work for the night or the weekend, and the advent of mobile phones has only made this worse.
Bevin had the advantage of knowing the business well before he bought it, so he was confident from the start that it would provide the income he wanted. That’s not the case for most new franchise buyers of course, but talking openly and honestly to the franchisor about what you want to achieve from your new business, as well as to your banker and accountant, can provide some reassurance and reduce the risk (see How to Choose the Right Advisor). Another valuable lesson is to spend some time working in the business before making the decision. Bevin knew he liked the work, the customers and the lifestyle so that was another risk removed.
He was also clear about his financial goals from the start. ‘We wanted a business that was going to pay the bills and then some, so that Carlin didn’t have to work while the family was young.’ This sort of clarity is vital for anyone going into business. A good franchise can generate income in three ways: a fair salary for the hours you put in; a reasonable return on investment for the money you put in; and, if you have grown the business during your ownership, a tax-free capital gain when you sell it – a return on the effort you have put in.
In Bevin’s case, although he has considered expanding his business, he’s not going down that track for now. ‘Later on, though, when the kids are a bit older Carlin might come out with me so we can serve more customers and take longer weekends. Alternatively, I might employ someone, or I might build up the business a bit more then sell off some of my customers to another franchisee. I’ve got options.’
If you’re sitting on the beach or the boat this summer, enjoying the family or the fishing and thinking, ‘I want to spend more of my life like this,’ Bevin’s story might be a bit of an inspiration. After all, we all want to work to live, rather than the other way round.
Achieving that balance may take some time, though, and it starts by choosing the right business in the first place. There are plenty of opportunities in the following pages, along with profiles of successful franchisees in all sorts of different businesses. Read through them and see what appeals. As you read about others, make a list of what you are looking for from a business of your own: investment level, income and return, location, hours, type of work, type of people you want to work with, and so on. That will give you a basis for evaluating any opportunity. Here are some questions to get you started.
- Does the business you are looking at suit the hours you are prepared to work? This is not just a question of overall hours, but when those hours are. Some franchises offer Monday to Friday operation only, retail businesses often have set trading hours, others offer free afternoons in return for early starts, or late nights with late starts. What works for you?
- What kind of environment do you enjoy working in? (outdoors, mobile, indoors, home). Does the franchise allow you to do that? What are the downsides? (eg, outdoors work can be weather-dependent or seasonal).
- No matter what time you spend with customers, you’ll also have to put in additional hours on paperwork, administration, tax and so on. How long does this take and have you got someone prepared to help you? Ask existing franchisees for real figures.
- What support systems and templates does the franchisor provide to help you manage your business better and more efficiently? Will you find them easy to use?
- If your new business means working from home, are you prepared for what this will mean? Have you got a distinct work space available which is suitable? Is your family supportive of your plans? Research shows that a supportive family is a huge contributor to franchisee success.
- Can you spend a day or two on the job with existing franchisees to experience the lifestyle and customers and discover whether it really is something you want to do?
Of course, there’s a lot more homework to do before making your decision – see our tips on How to Research A Franchise – but by comparing each franchise you see with the original list you made, you’ll stand the best possible chance of finding one that offers you all the right F-words.
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