Insight into Will Gavan's journey in franchising

Many people say that once you get into franchising its very difficult to leave the franchising world. And none can say that is truer than Total Cleans Franchise Development Director Will Gavan. We share the insights from Wills 22, and counting, years in franchising.

FS: Will, you’ve had a long successful career in the UK franchising sector but what was your background and experiences before the last two decades?

Will: I graduated in the late 80’s with a Degree in Business Studies and went on to join the Industrial Relations Department at British Steel’s Head Office. Following decentralisation of bargaining in the early 90’s, I became HR Manager at a plant in Birmingham. This was a great role as I was part of a management team helping run a ‘small business’ within British Steel. I gained a lot from that experience and enjoyed the much broader remit.

FS: Even while at British Steel you were gaining the experience of running and managing businesses?

Will: Yes and I loved being in heavy industry, the constant background thump of punching a hole into a steel ingot to make a tube – it was like the business's heartbeat. But what I really enjoyed was the breadth of the work and the experience it gave me. I had to understand and get involved in all aspects of running the business, not just HR. This is what really excited me and I went on to have similar roles in small businesses within British Airways and GE Marconi.

FS: When you decided to join Jani-King did you want to get involved in franchising?

Will: No, not particularly, but it felt like a good next step. I was intrigued to learn about different ways of running/growing a business. JK (Jani-King) had a real buzz about it, and being the HR lead within an entrepreneurial business with a heavy focus on sales, was new to me.

FS: Your time at Jani-King saw changes to how the operation ran, can you explain how your role evolved and how the business did too?

Will: Quite quickly I took on responsibilities in other areas of the business; Sales, Operations, Account Management, Customer Service and Finance. I was part of a small team running the business doing whatever role was needed and building a broad skill set. I eventually became MD 2008 and oversaw growth to over £20million in revenue with over 2000 employees in the in-house operation. When the UK Master, moved on, he was enjoying life in Dubai by that point, the US parent organisation bought the business. I successfully oversaw this transition, divesting of the hotel business and stabilised the franchise business. We did not lose a single franchisee nor customer. We increased the number of national contracts and began successfully recruiting new franchisees, recruiting 10 new franchisees in one year and subsequently winning a prize for the largest ‘Franchise Sales Revenue’ across the International network at the Annual Conference of 2017.

FS: Sounds like your time at Jani-King was a great success, what was your reason for leaving?

Will: The new US owner saw things differently and wanted to implement their standard world wide strategy. In practice this meant becoming London centric and changing the focus to selling large numbers of small franchises. I did not believe that this was right for the UK market, and for me personally it reduced my level of autonomy and demanded a more tactical day to day sales role which was less satisfying.

FS: Once you become part of the franchising sector its often where you choose to stay. What was it about franchising that appealed to you?

Will: To be honest, I just believe in the franchising model for both end user satisfaction and growth. I believe that franchisees, as a business owner is far more motivated than an employee and performs better because they have invested their own money, and their reward is directly dependent on their own efforts. They have skin in the game.

I enjoy the simplicity of it. Follow the proven system with a good dose of energy and enthusiasm and success can be achieved. The more detailed the system the better. The best franchises are not those that just give you a brand and then tell you to get on with it. A franchise should have systems, processes and strategies that address every element of running a business and that specifically target the KPI’s for success. I am interested in helping people build real businesses that become saleable assets. It’s not just giving them a “different type of job” I want to provide them with the systems, training and mentoring to allow them to grow and develop as their business does.

FS: It really is that simple, follow the model provided. What was your next role?

Will: I joined Total Clean in June 2019.

FS: Did you have a clear plan to achieve what you wanted with Total Clean?

Will: Very much so. New product, new Franchise Agreement, new Operations Manual, and new Training, and we are about to launch a new website and new prospectus.

FS: With your experience, and especially within cleaning, how has this impacted your approach to Total Clean recruitment?

Will: My mantra is “don’t sell”. If I have to persuade someone to join, that is unlikely to be a good decision on any one’s part. Investing in a franchise is a very big decision and it will impact every part of their life. 

I try to give them all the information they need to make the most informed decision they can make for themselves. I am very clear about what their role will be and what it takes to succeed in our business. Candidates know themselves better than I will ever know them, let alone after just a few meetings. Obviously during those meetings, I am assessing them too – are they a people person with a good, work ethic and willing to follow the system?

Ultimately, after being given all the relevant information and requirements for success, “if they think the can, or if they think they can’t, they’re probably right.”

FS: What is it about Total Clean that sets it apart from the rest?

Will: What sets Total Clean apart. A complete cradle to retirement system and support, beginning with guaranteed, paying commercial customers. We win commercial contracts for our franchisees through our dedicated sales team and will continue to win business for them, growing them to whatever size they want to be. We deliver on the first success criteria for any business - turnover! If you don’t have customers you don’t have a business – we guarantee to get you off to a flying start and continue to support your growth.

FS: No one likes to talk about it, but how has Total Clean and specifically the recruitment been affected by Covid-19? How did you navigate through?

Will: We recruited two franchisees during Covid. One franchisee started trading just as lock down happened and was ahead of plan by the end of the year. Cleaning is the top of everyone’s agenda now and businesses appreciate the importance of hygiene at work to reduce absences and improve productivity. Overall all our franchisees ended 2020 with bigger businesses than they had at the beginning.

FS: Fantastic achievement to get through the pandemic but to recruit during it as well is even better. After 22+ years involved in franchising is there anything you would like to change about the industry?

Will: Not really, I don’t tend to be hide bound by industry norms and received opinion. I think there needs to be room for individual thought and innovative ideas. Franchising is all about the system, but the system needs to continuously evolve. We shouldn’t keep doing the same things just because they’ve always been done that way in the industry. Shows are far less important than they were, and I feel its more important to be on portal sites throughout the year. One thing I don’t like is that many franchise offerings claim a range of common, generic, benefits - they don’t really mean anything.

FS: We agree, hopefully we will slowly see that phased out of the industry. So, what are your plans for Total Clean in 2021?

Will: I briefly mentioned it earlier but re-launch the website and the prospectus and continuing to recruit a limited number of like minded individuals who want to grow a significant business and then provide training, mentoring and support for each stage of their growth, up to and including saleable assets and exit plans. A true partnership.

FS: Thank Will, it was great to catch up with you, and here is to more successful years in franchising!