Determined to fulfil his desire of business ownership, former Chartered Accountant, Stephen Sowerby, launched his Auditel franchise at just 26 years old. Now, almost eight years later, he is a multi-award-winning Franchise Partner with a strong, profitable business. In fact, he’s just enjoyed his most successful year to date.
“At 34, I’d say I’m in a very good position. My business supports my family and our lifestyle whist still allowing for that all-important balance. On a personal level, I think I’m most proud of seeing all the hard work I’ve put in benefit myself rather than someone else. It’s a rewarding feeling which I imagine only comes with working for yourself.”
After finishing university, Stephen secured a role at KPMG where he went on to complete his Chartered Accountancy exams. Despite his academic and professional success, Stephen wanted more. Though he’s not entirely sure where the burning desire to be his own boss comes from!
“I always wanted to work for myself, for as long as I can remember. Entrepreneurship isn’t synonymous with my family though, who all worked in the public sector. I wasn’t unhappy, I just wanted my own business. At that point in my life, as a 26-year-old, I didn’t have the same responsibilities that I do now – I didn’t have my family or my financial obligations, so I saw it as the right time to take that sort of calculated risk.”
Unsure of his options, Stephen began researching business start-up opportunities and stumbled across the concept of franchising. His research led him to the British Franchise Association and, whilst browsing the website, he was surprised to find a number of professional services franchises. Amongst them, Auditel.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing as a professional consultancy franchise so, when I found Auditel, I was immediately interested. Franchising gave me the best of both worlds: the opportunity to be my own boss and have the autonomy that I’d always wanted but, having never done it before, with the support and a network that’s been around for 20 years. I looked at a number of opportunities but to be honest, Auditel was the only one I was truly interested in. They were very collaborative, and I felt that I could own my own business strategy without head office being too prescriptive. But that only felt comfortable because there was a proven model to follow.”
Stephen puts his early success down to his own determination combined with Auditel’s award-winning training and reliable support programme: “As far as classroom training goes, it was one of the best ones I’ve ever been in. Being well established, I don’t really ask for support now. I know what I’m doing, and I don’t really need it in the way that you do in the early years. My support now comes from within the network – and it’s in the form of expertise, joint venturing and being able to tap into knowledge and scope that is so vast, I’m unlikely to ever meet a client with a need that I can’t meet. If I ever do reach out for anything, head office will try to help me in any way that they can. The whole team is very approachable and supportive whether you need something tangible or just a commercial view on a complex matter.”
The beauty of the Auditel model, as Stephen himself discovered, is that Consultants can structure their businesses according to their own aspirations. It’s a fact that has enabled him to continually grow his business, year on year, in a way that best suits Stephen and his clients. His impressive business development, financial performance and contribution to the network has not gone unnoticed. In both 2014 and 2018 Stephen was awarded Franchisee of the Year at Auditel’s prestigious annual conference.
“Instead of servicing a large number of clients, I’ve optimised my offering so that I can provide detailed services and I now focus on maintaining select accounts. It was a strategic decision. That’s another great thing about Auditel, you can choose to structure your business in whatever way works best for you and your clients. I’ve had a very good 12-months, my best to date. Growth in 2018 comes from the hard work I’ve put in over the last couple of years. Winning the award again this year was great – I felt proud, especially to be recognised four years apart. The award increases your profile in the network and the credibility you carry, which opens doors for collaboration too.”
It’s not all work, work, work for this young entrepreneur. Married with a young baby, Stephen enjoys his precious family time with more freedom and flexibility than any employed position would have allowed. He even finds time to play squash and hit the pavements for the occasional run. Unless the football is on!
“For me, the best thing about owning my own business is the flexibility. I work hard and I work long hours when needed but I have much more freedom now. The business allows me to enjoy time with my family that’s more of our choosing – and that means anything from taking holidays and travelling when it suits us, to being able to stay active and play sports without feeling guilty.”
The leap into business ownership can be a daunting prospect but, thanks to the collaborative nature of the network, an Auditel franchise means being in business for yourself, but never by yourself: “Potential isolation was a consideration for me initially, but it’s never been a problem. If anything, it’s just nice not to have to deal with any corporate politics! The network helps with feeling like you’re still part of a team – we meet up locally, regionally and nationally and there’s always someone on the other end of the phone.”
A prime example of what’s possible with hard work and commitment to the franchise model, Stephen offers two important pieces of advice for prospective Auditel business owners: “The biggest thing you have to consider is how you get clients. The support is there, the network is there but you have to have a plan. Yes, Auditel train you on techniques and help with tools and advice, but you are ultimately responsible for getting your own clients. Secondly, cashflow is slow for the first year and you either have to be able to make a lifestyle change or, you have to have the means to support yourself until it starts to pick up. Simple but important.”
The Auditel network is made up of over 150 Consultants, just like Stephen. By working together and leveraging their combined knowledge, skills and expertise, Consultants help their clients to become more productive; improve cash flow and increase business efficiency.