Easy Living Mobility’s founder and franchise boss explain why the time is right to launch a new network of partners whose retail businesses will be based on core principles and systems carefully constructed over nearly 20 years trading in the sector.
Franchise models of all shapes and sizes exist across most industries. You only have to look at the likes of McDonald’s and Subway to see that franchising can produce some of the most successful businesses.
In the mobility industry however, franchises have been fewer and far between compared to other sectors. Just a couple of large names have managed to achieve long-term success in what many would agree is a retail market that has been slower to evolve than others.
Now, one company is planning to apply a newly-developed franchise model designed specifically for today’s colourful mobility industry.
Easy Living Mobility, which already boasts an impressive portfolio of company-owned stores, is a key player in the mobility retail market. It officially launched its franchise campaign last month and is now in the early stages of recruiting would-be partners.
Founded in 2001, the company is an established brand in the Midlands and it enjoys both the purchasing power of a large retailer and the capacity to prescribe complex equipment through its ownership of Motus Medical.
Thanks to its knowledge and customer base, position in the market and 18 years of brand building, Easy Living Mobility has long had an enviable foundation on which to build a franchise network. So why, after nearly two decades of operating in the industry, has the business decided to try its hand at franchising?
According to Daniel Griffiths, founder and owner of Easy Living Mobility, the decision was all about timing. In fact, the idea of launching a franchise network is something Giffiths has been working towards for a number of years, he explains.
We’ve got the platform to offer that development in the industry, however that needs to look, however the landscape changes in this sector. I just want people to follow in our footsteps. That person might be the right person inside but they don’t know it yet”
“I’ve always had the thought in my mind about going down the franchise route. I worked with some very large outfits who did franchises themselves in the mid-nineties. The model didn’t work for them for one reason or another. In my mind it was all about timing.
“In my opinion, they had everything right, it was just the wrong time. The marketplace just wasn’t ready for them two decades ago. I think the market has now evolved and is definitely ready for the right type of model and ultimately the model we’ve got to offer.”
Considering the success of Easy Living Mobility’s current own-store model, some observers might question the need to launch a franchise network. They might ask what is the advantage of franchise stores over company-owned showrooms?
“To be blunt, franchisees have got skin in the game,” answers Darren Legg, Easy Living Mobility’s franchise development manager.
“It’s their determination and their willingness to make it work. Trying to find those kind of employees up and down the country and how you manage that from a business point of view is more complex. So it simplifies those processes.”
Waiting for the infant market to develop, Griffiths has spent time planning and laying the groundwork for a franchise concept while the stigma associated with mobility products has gradually evaporated.
All successful franchises work according to a specific formula and it is important that businesses remain within the set parameters so that the brand and model is consistent. But Griffiths believes it is important to allow for a degree of flexibility when it comes to franchising.
“I believe our model is structured enough but also dynamic enough to work in the industry. It’s really important for people to know it’s not ‘just another franchise model’,” he comments.
Agreeing, Legg, says that it makes sense for Easy Living Mobility to simply transfer the trading values and strategies its core business is built on across to its franchise stores.
“The business has always been very dynamic, it’s always grown and moved into other areas of the marketplace as it’s expanded. That’s the business model so why would you change that for a franchise?”
The business has always been very dynamic, it’s always grown and moved into other areas of the marketplace as it’s expanded. That’s the business model so why would you change that for a franchise?”
Legg adds that while naturally there will be an element of control from the top, franchise partners will be able to develop with the business and move into more complex product areas. One of the key points about Easy Living Mobility’s new model, Legg explains, is that bosses do not want business owners to “hit a ceiling” after a few years. Instead, development will be actively encouraged.
However, Easy Living Mobility will retain control over the core stock range and certain processes in each business. Legg says it is vital the brand is reflected consistently and uses the example of Motability to explain the importance of working to a clearly laid-out criteria.
Individuality and sustainability
Easy Living Mobility certainly seems to have the basis for a strong franchise proposition. But what makes it different to the models that have failed in the past and what makes it unique compared to existing concepts?
Crucially, any new retail outfit in the mobility sector needs to have the legs to be able to weather uncertainty and market challenges. According to Griffiths, Easy Living Mobility’s model will place sustainability at its core.
Outlining his commitment to the venture, he says: “It’s the future for us. We’re not looking at getting 100 franchisees and then just looking at what that value is. It would be lovely to have 100 franchisees and maybe one day we could have that or more, but that’s not the vision.
“The vision is to work with people who really want to make a difference in the local community. That thirst and hunger to be the best, we want people with that mind-set.”
Griffiths reiterates that Easy Living Mobility’s management team is not looking at the project solely in numbers terms. When pressed about a timescale for new openings, he says that it will be a case of “seeing what happens organically”.
“We’re not looking at targeting an area or saying ‘we want 10 franchises by this point’,” Griffiths says. “It’s the quality of the people. We want to create a community – an extended family – where we’ve got meetings, awards, events and constant communication.”
More practically, Easy Living Mobility’s new network will use the same systems the core business currently uses to ensure that all members of the community are connected and each partner can develop along with the parent company.
Some years back, Griffiths had a bespoke piece of software built for Easy Living Mobility that delivers everything a mobility retailer needs to run effectively.
Believing it is the only truly successful piece of software currently in the mobility retail sector, Griffiths says the daily activities of everything the franchises do will pump through the system digitally, ultimately aiding the efficient running of each business.
An additional USP for Easy Living Mobility is Motability. New franchisees will be able to benefit from the firm’s association with Motability, which is a highly sought after string to any dealer’s bow and a strong source of revenue for businesses. Another important feature of Easy Living Mobility’s franchise offering, Legg says, is its ability to work simply and smoothly.
Detailing the support and training from a ‘key management team’ as well as suppliers, Legg says: “It takes away all that pain. Dan has built this over 20 years. There are a lot of statistics about the success of franchises opening compared to other businesses. A very small percentage of franchises don’t make it.”
Legg and Griffiths are certainly confident in the longevity of their concept but for Easy Living Mobility’s management, the future of the business will not rely solely on franchises. For Griffiths, keeping all options on the table – including expanding Easy Living Mobility’s company-owned store portfolio – is the key to future business growth.
“It’s really simple,” he says. “Don’t just focus on franchisees. If there’s a potential acquisition presented to me, then let’s talk. If someone in my team comes to me and asks whether I’ve considered opening a store in this place, then let’s talk. It’s just being open to ideas. What do we want the future to be? It’s difficult to say, I suppose. Let’s just continue being open. I don’t think I can forecast that far forward, considering how much the landscape is changing.”
Griffiths is certainly wise to ensure Easy Living Mobility remains diverse moving forward and retains multiple channels by which to sell its goods and services. Company-owned stores form the foundation of the entire business and they will certainly remain important in the future.
However, when you consider that the company was awarded British Franchise Association accreditation in just a couple of days, rather than the several months it usually takes firms, you cannot deny the potential the model holds.
Not only the potential to make Easy Living Mobility the next dominant player in the market but also to shake the industry and perhaps even usher in a new blueprint for the ‘ideal’ mobility retail concept.