A franchisee Case Study – Mark Stafford, owner of PVC Vendo Worcester, Warwick and North Birmingham
What did you do before you bought your PVC Vendo franchise?
Having graduated from university in 2003 with a degree in business and marketing, I went straight to work in the marketing sector. After three years I realised I wasn’t suited to a desk job and would rather be doing something outdoors, of a more practical nature. Sadly, I then invested in a franchise that went horribly wrong. There was no support and I very quickly realised I had made a mistake and got out.
Your father initially owned two PVC Vendo territories and you bought one, then you took them all over when he retired. Why did you decide to follow in your father’s footsteps and what is it that makes PVC Vendo such a great business to pass down through the family?
When I got out of the first franchise I bought, my father, who bought his first PVC Vendo territory in 1998 and his second in 2004, invited me to work alongside him while I figured out my next step. I found I really enjoyed the work, so much so that when PVC Vendo Worcester came up for sale in 2016, I snapped it up. When my father retired in 2019, I took over his two territories in Warwick and North Birmingham as well.
I think the reason so many fathers and sons work together is simply that it can be a highly profitable business, so why wouldn’t you want to pass that opportunity on to your child? It’s not terribly hard work and anyone can do it so yes, the perfect franchise to pass down through the family.
Is your PVC Vendo business profitable? What are your biggest overheads? How do you get paid?
I’m delighted to say that my business is extremely profitable. I turned over £240,000 last year and expect that to grow in 2023. Not bad for washing lorries.
It helps that a PVC Vendo franchise’s overheads are very low. Our only real costs are our fuel and cleaning products. We don’t even pay for water, we simply plug into the client’s water system at their site or depot.
One huge benefit of a PVC Vendo franchise, over many others I’ve seen, is that there is no waiting time to be paid. Our invoices are dealt with by the franchisor, meaning we get paid our total turnover 16 days after we’ve submitted our end-of-month figures. Yes, we pay slightly more in MSF because of it, but when you think that you don’t have to chase invoices or worry about non-payment, it’s worth the extra.
Is your franchisor at PVC Vendo supportive and if so, how do they support you and your business? Do you feel you can communicate honestly and openly with them? Are there forums for communication with them?
Our franchisor is very good at communicating with us and bringing the franchisees together for regular regional and annual meetings.
They have also started doing anonymous satisfaction surveys through a company called WorkBuzz; they ask us what we think about every aspect of being a franchisee and we can answer as honestly as we like. The great thing about PVC Vendo is that they listen and act on our responses. That’s such a good feeling and makes us feel heard. Equally, if I had an issue I’d have no problem going straight to head office to discuss it. There’s a very open-door policy.
What is the support like from the rest of the franchise network? How do you communicate with them? Do you get to meet up at all, do you ever help each other out? If so, how often and where?
On a day to day basis we have a WhatsApp group where we can talk to each other, which is very useful; if you have a question, there’s always someone with the answer to help you.
I recently had a question about an environmental issue I was having, our marketing team reached out to the network and two or three franchises sent in photos and information that really helped me. There are so many people to ask and that’s a great feeling.
What has changed about PVC Vendo since your father bought his first territory in 1998? Describe any systems that have been updated/new products/processes/standards etc.
One of the biggest changes has been the introduction of a digital system a few years ago called ProWash. It is a bespoke software package that all franchisees use to run their businesses via a phone or tablet. We use it to book appointments, let customers know their vehicle has been washed, issue invoices, arrange our diaries and so much more. It has saved franchisees so much time in admin which leaves us time to wash more vehicles, so we’re very pleased with the job it does; it has thoroughly modernised that side of the business.
Environmental issues have become more important in recent years too, how we dispose of dirty water, what chemicals we use in our cleaning products etc, and rightfully so. Most new contracts we take on have questions about the environmental impact of the service we provide but luckily we’ve got systems in place and use the correct washing agents to ensure we adhere to all environmental and safety standards; we can even remove the dirty water and dispose of it at a registered site if necessary.
As far as the physical job of washing the vehicles, very little has changed. I love it, I find it very mindful and take great pride in leaving my customer’s vehicles clean, and ready to get back on the road again.
Have you ever considered running your PVC Vendo business as a management franchise? Do you think your franchisor would be supportive of this move? How would they help you achieve this?
Not only would they be happy for me to become a management franchisee, but they are actively encouraging me to do it. They are incredibly supportive in this area and I’m already looking at new territories to buy.
PVC Vendo is owned by Taylor Made Franchising, who in turn owns nine other franchise businesses, so there are opportunities to buy from another franchise within the group. I have just bought a Chemex International franchise which I will be running alongside my PVC Vendo business very soon. (more info below)
Having said that, there’s no pressure to expand, some PVC Vendo franchisees are very happy to own one territory and do all the washing themselves and the franchisor is happy with that too. However, the big money comes when you take on more territories and employees; it just depends on how much money you want to make and how hard you are willing to work. They’ll certainly support you if you want to expand.
Who do you think suits being a PVC franchisee? What are the key skills needed?
People often think washing vans is physically very demanding but it’s not so you don’t need to be super fit, although you will be working for eight hours a day, six days a week. So, I’d say you need stamina over strength.
You also need to be able to self-motivate, have the drive to accept the challenge and get out there and advertise your business and find those early contracts. It helps that our head office has a marketing team who find us national contracts which is very helpful and usually very profitable too.
Obviously, as you are running your own business you also need to be good at talking to people and building a good rapport with your customers.
What advice would you give to a friend considering buying a PVC Vendo franchise?
I would strongly encourage them to do it. From my experience, it has been highly profitable, and I really enjoy the work. I also love the flexibility it gives me. If I need to attend an appointment or do something with my family, I can. That kind of flexibility can not be underestimated and I’ve been lucky enough to build my PVC Vendo around my family life and commitments which really suits me.
What will you do with your PVC Vendo business when you want to retire?
I don’t have a family member to hand it down to but, as a highly profitable, multi-territory business, I know it’s going to be very desirable when I do decide to sell. We sometimes sell to another franchisee in the group who is looking to expand their business, which makes life much easier for both parties. If I was to sell it to someone from outside the group, they’d benefit from buying into a national brand, with over 40 years of experience and all the brand awareness and reputation that comes with it, and of course, the great franchisor support.
You said you are buying a Chemex International franchise, can you expand on that?
As I explained, Taylor Made Franchising owns both PVC Vendo and Chemex International so when a territory came up for sale in my area, they asked me if I would be interested in it and, having looked at the profitability of the business, I said yes immediately.
There is a natural crossover between the two businesses, all the depots I visit with PVC Vendo to wash vehicles will have a requirement for hygiene products on some level and when I’m delivering Chemex International cleaning products to care homes, factories, and hospitals, they may have vehicles that need washing by PVC Vendo too. I will also be buying my vehicle washing products from my Chemex International business, so that makes a great deal of sense too. I’m really excited about the opportunity; I am halfway through my training and will be launching soon.
If you would like to know more about owning a PVC Vendo franchise please contact email@example.com or call him on 07450 940 312.
ENDS MARCH 2023