Leadership & Productivity

The inspiring business growth story of Driving Miss Daisy

6 min read

21 December 2017

Former special projects journalist

From Antipodean beginnings to operations throughout the UK, Driving Miss Daisy is a franchise operations giving business builders great flexibility.

Previously in our Scale-up Hub series, Real Business has looked at how businesses can scale up using a franchising model.

Franchising is where a business owners allows someone else to operate another branch of their business, with the same business operations, branding and trademarks etc., for a fee. The idea behind this is that it should be mutually beneficial.

The franchisor gets to scale up their business faster than they might otherwise have been able to, and makes more money, while the franchisee gets to open their own business, without a lot of the initial associated startup risks.

The fairly common business model, involving using someone else’s brand to build upon, can aid entrepreneurs with fast growth. Driving Miss Daisy is an inspiring example and provides insight for those looking for a franchisee’s perspective.

The Driving Miss Daisy story in a nutshell

Years ago, in New Zealand, Melanie Harper had the idea for a business venture when she realised her aunt who no longer drove was paying a companion to drive her to various appointments.

This gave Trish, Harper’s aunt, the independence and control she wanted, and removed the feeling of indebtedness she felt from relying on the kindness of relatives to give her a lift.
While researching her business idea, Harper discovered that a similar business already existed in Canada. She and her husband travelled to the country so they could meet with the owners and learn the workings of the business – launching their own branch in New Zealand in 2009. The pair now operate across the country.

It was while on holiday in New Zealand that the next pair of franchisees spotted an opportunity – Paul and Ada Nuth saw a Daisy car and were intrigued by the possibility of launching in the UK.

The first Driving Miss Daisy franchise in the UK opened in 2015, and is expanding rapidly. There are now 37 UK-based branches.

Strength to strength

So, what is it about Driving Miss Daisy that works so well? Each of the franchisees has had scope to grow the brand in their own territory, and achieve scale in their own right, despite working on someone else’s origins.

“Driving Miss Daisy fits into franchising very well. It is vital to have a structure to operate within but we encourage franchisees to be as entrepreneurial within it as they wish,” explained Chris White, director of business development.

“If they would like to go outside of the structure it is not necessarily a no, but simply ask and talk it through to get approval. New ideas are created by franchisees all the time which are then shared throughout the network.”

Of course, as with any franchise, training is required to make sure no matter what branch you go into, the service and standards remain the same. For franchisees scaling up and opening several branches, they will need to ensure consistency across each new venture.

“We have an initial three-day training course which covers everything from answering the phone, scheduling and marketing to dementia training, first aid and positive handling. This is ongoing once trading in the form of local hub meetings and one to ones.”

“This ensures that all franchisees are trained to the same high standard and service is consistent in Scotland or in the South of England.”

The business has built a good reputation that franchisees can lean on, and has numerous organisations that recommend it – including the Alzheimer’s Society, Macular Society, Stroke Association and Age UK. There is always room for franchisees to grow their business – it’s not a matter of simply taking the reins and keeping things steady.

“Franchisees are introduced to these organisations at a local level and encouraged and trained to speak to other local companies, organisations and individuals about the services,” explained White.

“They have also been given assistance to gain contracts with local authorities. As we grow as an organisation we are becoming recognised and held in high esteem. This helps the franchisees to ‘open doors’ in the initial ‘start up’ phase.”

Overall, whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee, this business model opens up possibilities on both sides. As long as you find reputable business partners that you are keen to work with, it can be a great way to get more hands-on deck and push a business into a new growth phase.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.