Patrick Burge & Breedon Consulting – Case Study
How to grow a professional services business that is in a high demand market.
Breedon Consulting are experts in human resource management and training services for business owners and managers across the UK. Breedon have been in business since 1999 and had a problem around how to grow a professional services business in a high demand market. Although they work with larger organisations, Breedon focuses on SME businesses as the sector is undergoing somewhat of a hiatus. This is partly due to the myriad of changes caused by post Brexit legislation, partly due to the changes in working practices accelerated by Covid-19, and partly due to the lack of senior HR advisors in the sector offering high quality compliant up-to-date advice that keeps pace with trends, requirements and legislation.
Breedon knew the problem, but how to solve it?
Breedon had successfully recruited two very experienced franchisees to test the water around using franchising as a growth strategy by the time Lime and Breedon started working together in 2022. This foot in the water encouraged Breedon to explore further growth opportunities via franchising; a strategy that has proved successful in many other professional services businesses.
Often HR issues are nuanced, and require soft skills and experience as well as compliant documentation. It is this combination that means many SME businesses are moving towards expert advice, and away from just using one of the several HR platforms.
The other factor in the decision was the high demand for HR services in Breedon’s core SME market, there was a gap in the quality of provision of those services so ‘providing what a business would expect from a full internal HR resource, but at a fraction of the cost’ was proving successful.
The problem the business needed to address was how to accommodate the demand that is best satisfied by experienced HR professionals backed up by all the compliance related documentation.
Breedon saw franchising as a way of finding highly skilled and highly motivated HR experts to deliver the goods under the Breedon brand name who would be very well compensated for their efforts. So the idea that franchising could deliver high profits, full brand control and geographic market penetration had taken hold. However, whilst proving a success, recruiting the initial franchisees without engaging with a professional to advise them had not delivered everything Breedon had hoped.
As part of his network of business contacts in the East Midlands Patrick Burge, the Regional Director at Lime Licensing, had known Nicki Robson, CEO of Breedon Consulting, for around five years and was aware that Breedon Consulting had started their franchising journey and would make an excellent franchise business – and thus the conversations began.
The project took six months between initial meetings and launching the franchise opportunity to HR professionals who might want to become franchisees. Project time can vary with Lime Licensing clients, on occasions it is more than six months before launch, but generally it is much less. With Breedon it was important to get things right, not to rush through the processes, and to take the right amount of time to work with the current pilot franchisees that Breedon had recruited prior to Lime Licensing’s involvement. It was also important to work in collaboration with the client’s external advisors, including their marketing and PR agencies, to get the launch right.
Getting the right fit between the business and the franchisor was more important than simply recruiting franchisees.
At the outset, the work included positioning and protecting the brand, understanding competitors and building a financial and legally robust franchise model that works for both the franchisor and the franchisee. The specialist internal expertise in Government funding that none of Lime’s competitors have also proved an advantage when speaking to potential franchisees as it means we can really understand the opportunity from their perspective.
After all, franchising has to be an even partnership based on mutual benefits for both the franchisor and the franchisee.
Franchising is a long term strategy for Breedon, not a ‘quick sell’ expansion plan, and possibly the most important element was understanding at a detailed level, the best type of person, with what experience, ambitions, attitude and character traits who would fit best with Breedon.
But there were challenges along the way.
The main challenge faced in franchising Breedon Consulting, was that it is a very busy business. It tends to be the main challenge with companies that are set for growth; growing a business will always throw up curve balls, and you need good advice around you to work things through; but it can also take some time to work out the best route.
The pilot franchise programme prior to Lime Licensing being involved, also bought up some challenges around getting the business model knocked into shape, which also isn’t uncommon. Obviously Lime Licensing have long-standing experience, the key processes in place, documentation and the expertise in franchising but for Lime Licensing, the defining factor around franchising is about the franchisor having the right mindset to use franchising to grow their business. With the right mindset, open communication and a determined pragmatic approach tricky conversations, and obstacles can be overcome. There are times when we advise potential clients that franchising might not be the right route for them despite the business looking like a great potential franchise operation, but a client like Breedon with a great attitude, experience and with an intent to get the project nailed always helps.
And the results so far are very encouraging.
At the time of writing we have recently launched the franchise opportunity to franchisees, or licensed partners as we call them at Breedon HR. We are taking a measured growth approach, wanting to attract the right type of experienced HR professionals that want to work with Breedon. Breedon’s marketing has already produced some really interesting conversations with people, some of whom are very senior HR professionals currently working in the corporate world; just the type of person we identified as one of our key architypes when we profiled the best fit franchisees for Breedon.
The other thing that is not always the case in our sector is that Lime Licensing tends to work with our clients over a long period of time. We hope to work with Breedon continuously until the franchise network is built to the right level. Every now and then we may change our role from recruiting franchisees to other forms of franchise support, or suggest a break while Breedon focuses on the operational side of the business to ensure the core business supports the franchise network as it grows. We can then work with Breedon to look towards the next stage of development and eventually help with the exit for the current management team, whatever shape that might take and whenever that may arise.
This is the story of Breedon Consulting’s franchising journey so far. Please do get in touch if you wish to know more, or Nicki Robson, Breedon’s CEO would be more than happy to discuss her experiences of working with Lime Licensing Group.
If you have a business that is already franchising and wants to have an honest and confidential discussion around any challenges you are having, or want to understand if franchising could work for you, please get in touch with Patrick Burge on 07977 984001 or visit Patricks dedicated page here.