Kevin Preston – Drain Doctor North West

Drain Doctor Multi-Unit Franchise Owner in the North West, Kevin Preston discusses his business

The franchise has seven territories covering the North West of England, including Preston, Blackburn, Manchester Central, Bolton, Warrington, Lancaster and South Cumbria.

How did you first enter the franchise industry?

I entered the franchise industry 25 years ago.  Prior to this, I was running a small family plumbing business, with the majority of work focused on council projects.  We used to clear a lot of drains and sometimes had to call out drain companies with jetting machines. I then received an introductory flyer from Drain Doctor, which I then followed up and led to the eventual purchase of the franchise in 1994.

Why did you decide to grow your franchise?

Having bought Preston as my first territory, I then had the opportunity to buy the adjacent franchise in the Blackburn area.  The owners were looking to get out of the franchise business, so it was an obvious addition for me, allowing me to expand my business across the North West.  

Building on the success of these two territories, I was keen to grow the business even further and this took the form of a joint venture between my current business partners, Nick and Lisa Birtles.  I knew they were looking to expand their Cumbria territory so arranged to meet up to discuss a potential partnership to buy other areas across the North West. They were very much in favour of the idea, and as a result, we set up a separate company and acquired three other territories – Bolton, Manchester Central and Warrington.  Initially, we operated the new company alongside our original two businesses to ensure that we could work together, and then after a couple of years, we merged them together and they now run under one.

What qualities do you think are essential to becoming a multi-unit owner?

You have to have the desire and hunger to succeed and to constantly strive for excellence.   It is equally important to be a leader and a team player, whilst staying focused and determined, and to have the courage of your convictions.  

What challenges have you faced and what have you learnt from them?

Financing the growth has always been a concern, particularly as we started the joint venture at the start of the recession and banks would not lend money.  Running a small business can be a challenge and I have really felt the pressure at times as there is a tendency to do everything yourself. It has been a big learning curve for me to have to pass on some of the responsibility to others and I have to respect that everyone does things differently to me, but we are all striving to achieve the best for our company.  

Staff are an investment and you need to both educate, support and trust them to do their job in order to reap the rewards.  It is imperative to always have the ability to expand and facilitate growth in terms of staff, technology and customers.

In addition, being part of a franchise network has been hugely valuable as you have a pool of resources, support and fellow colleagues to turn to for advice and guidance, particularly when you are faced with challenges that you haven’t come across in the past.  A problem shared is a problem halved.

Do you have any advice for others looking to scale up their franchise?

Plan, plan and plan.  We have learnt that planning is key to expanding our business and having sufficient funds to facilitate the growth, whether that means buying more vehicles, extra equipment or recruiting additional staff.  It is also likely that you will have to fund your staff and materials for 60 days or more before you start getting paid for work. This is something people often under estimate.

What is your vision for the future of your business?

To continue to grow a prosperous business with an excellent customer service and a happy and fulfilled workforce.  We are also planning to buy land locally so we can build a new office and workshop and have big enough premises for all our staff, vans and equipment.   

We are also continually looking for new opportunities to expand our Drain Doctor business, working closely with our franchisor, Neighbourly, to identify the right opportunities.  

Ultimately, our joint goal is to grow the business to a large enough size that we can put in a level of management that will run the business, allowing us to step back and enjoy the financial rewards.

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