Telling the truth about SME life today

“Why we’re proud to be a slow growth startup”

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In a race between a hare and a tortoise, we wouldnt be the one with the big flappy ears.

When we embarked on franchising our personal assistant business in 2012, we knew it wasnt going to be a sprint to the finish.

Franchised businesses are frequently ranked by speed of growth. The arena is rife with top ten fastest growers charts. Get-big-quick-or-die could be the motto of the sector.
Obviously we wanted to expand. 

Thats why we decided to franchise. But protecting our brand will always come ahead of gung-ho growth. And to us, that means only selling franchises to absolutely the right people.

Were cautious, but not slackers. As of November 2013, we are proudly nurturing our first four franchisees. Like us, theyve all left behind corporate-land when it refused to fit in with their young families. Like us, they are born networkers. Like us, they are organisers and problem-solvers.

In fact, theyre like us in a million-and-one ways. And thats why we are confident they will all grow their franchises into successful business of their own.

Our model is for a part-time, but scalable, home-based personal assistant business. Our clients are, in the main, micro-businesses. Many are female run. 

And we usually end up helping our clients out with domestic tasks as well as business ones. A typical Pink Spaghetti to do list includes: 

  • Source me some cheaper printer inks;
  • Deal with the embarrassment that is my accounting system; 
  • Find me a train ticket to London that isnt a rip off; and 
  • Sell our old kitchen on ebay.

The reason we want our franchisees to share so many of our characteristics is that we know what it takes to make a go of our business. And unlike many less scrupulous franchisors, we are adamant it’s more than simply being able to cough up the franchise fee.

We have a list of those who tried and failed. Its nothing personal. They were all lovely. But just not right. If you can’t engage people at a networking event and build trust with your clients, then you’re never going to run a successful personal assistant business.

If you’re not as persistent as Paxman with a politician, then you dont represent the Pink Spaghetti brand.

So, we plan to sell two more territories in 2014 and a further two in 2015. This would take us up to ten (Yes we can add up – one of our franchisees has already purchased a second territory and we retain our original patch).

Heres ten reasons why were taking it nice and slow:

  1. We want all of our franchisees to succeed. And the best start we can give them is by selecting them out if we dont think they will.
  2. One wrong franchisee can ruin it for everyone and destroy our brand. Were want to get it 100 percent right each time rather than simply cheer as we sell off each territory.
  3. We made a promise to our founding-four franchisees that we will not abandon them. Their franchise agreement includes unlimited support from head office. If we grow too fast, we would not be able to honour this.
  4. We know exactly where we want to stick the next pins in our UK map. We want to grow Pink Spaghetti in clusters, so franchisees can better support each other. Concentrating on expanding outwards from where we already have a presence will also help with brand awareness.
  5. By waiting until our first crop of franchisees has a track record, we will be able to demonstrate the potential for success. This gives us a more authentic sell.
  6. We proudly describe ourselves as risk averse. Its just who we are. We want to grow this business by taking on minimal risk ourselves and also protecting our franchisees.
  7. We left behind the rat race when it didnt fit in with family life and were not going back there for anyone. 16 hours is not a good template for a working day.
  8. We know the best Pink Spaghetti franchisees are people who have already seriously considered setting up their own personal assistant business. They possess all the skills, characteristics and motivation. They just dont want to do it entirely on their own. It is these people we want to find.
  9. We want to carry on running our own mid-Cheshire Pink Spaghetti business. Its where we started four years ago and we still have a passion for helping our clients. We also believe we are better placed to support our franchisees with their businesses if we still actively engaged in our own.
  10. We havent borrowed any money to get to this stage and we dont intend to in the future.

We truly believe that slowly and surely is the best approach for these franchising newbies. Like the tortoise, we are steadily moving in the right direction. And unlike his whiskered racing partner, this steadfast pair won’t be caught napping along the way.

Caroline Gowing and Vicky Matthews are the founders of personal assistant company Pink Spaghetti.

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