Paul Lagar & Ian Berry
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Swimtime Scotland, a franchise of the largest independent provider of swimming lessons in the UK, has been running since 2009 and is operated by Paul Lagar and Ian Berry.
Running a franchise in Scotland, with the challenges such a large geographical area has to offer, was a relatively easy decision for Paul Lagar. Having been used to travelling whilst working as a freelance consultant and prior to that, heading up the sales and operations for a contract management company, Paul was looking for a business where he could see the potential for significant growth.
“Ten years on, things have never looked brighter, or more exciting! We have pushed through the milestone of 1,200 customers, and we are now holding lessons in 16 pools across Scotland.
“I chose the Swimtime franchise opportunity because this particular business model was already a proven national success within the leisure industry. Having experienced isolation and lack of support in the past, the initial and ongoing support on offer was very appealing and this combined with a strong brand. I knew we could make it a success. I did my homework and identified that in our particular area there is a high demand for the product we were investing in and having experienced the product first hand, over a period of time, our confidence grew and we knew that the model would work for us in Scotland. We also identified that we could provide a better product and service when compared to our competitors. So, having done the research we started our franchise in July 2009.
“Today the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis haven’t changed since Day One – it is just that the scale is different. With this franchise business, you can’t lose sight of the fact that as the number of customers grows, and more and more lessons are available in a wider range of locations, every individual has their own needs and is there to learn a valuable, enjoyable life skill. That is your responsibility to deliver that to them, but if you get that right, the sense of satisfaction in a job well done, and of ‘giving something back’ to communities is great!
“Although at the start of our journey we spent several days training at Swimtime UK central office, learning about the systems and processes, coupled with two days on the road with the Franchisor establishing contacts within new and existing clubs, it was clear that nothing could be given to you on a plate. From day one we have been very happy with the level of the support from the Franchisor central office, and the advice and understanding they can provide having been in the industry for over 20 years – but it is your responsibility to make the best use of the resource and build a viable business. For example, we were unknown in Scotland so have had to make use of social media tools and be quite savvy about how we built up a customer base that would trust us and continue to use Swimtime.
“Swimtime UK Ltd is continuing to expand as a business with more franchises becoming available. For anyone considering buying any type of franchise, I’d say it is paramount that you talk to existing franchisees about their business and the challenges they face. Then look at the product itself, the branding, the selling points and the viable longevity. Be honest and realistic in your expectations, and be passionate about your product.
“But the most important piece of advice that I could give is to be prepared to work hard. By applying 100% effort right from the beginning and by making the most of the support provided by our central office the franchise has been a great investment of time and money for us. The future goals are quite simple; to continue to grow the business by consistently delivering outstanding customer service, increase the number of swimmers, and attract more great Independent Swimming Teachers!”