The Gas Elec Story – Twenty Innovative Years
Twenty innovative years in franchising: the gas-elec story
Do you ever think about the careers advice your parents gave you and wish you had listened more attentively? Well, John Davidson can cast his mind back with some satisfaction. His father advised him to learn a trade that would provide the basis for a lifelong career, and John followed that counsel to the letter.
At the tender age of 15, the Belfast boy became an apprentice electrician, acquiring the practical skills that would prove vital in setting up one of the country’s most successful franchise operations: gas-elec which this year marks its 20th anniversary.
Yes, it was twenty years ago this year, that gas-elec was born with the then revolutionary offer of a combined safety inspection: a testing and inspection service for both gas and electricity that could be performed by one engineer in a single visit, saving landlords, tenants and homeowners time, inconvenience and money.
In fact, the idea was so revolutionary that one year after opening its doors for business, the company still didn’t have a single competitor.
At which point, John had what can only be described as a brainwave: in 1996, he decided to turn his thriving business into a franchise operation.
“We split the UK into 20 different regions to allow our engineers to become franchisees. Then we invested heavily in putting it all together” he recalls.
Why was he so confident his plan would work? “Well, getting people to directly invest in their own futures is a great way to grow a business further still, isn’t it?”
It certainly is. Two decades later, gas-elec has 100-plus franchisees across the country and 15 regional offices coordinating their work diaries, sales and marketing. Those franchisees have provided services to more than 1,000,0000 customers, and the company has enjoyed year-on-year growth.
But the reasons for this annual growth have changed over the past two decades and that too is testament to its managing director’s brainwaves.
At the beginning of the company’s life, franchisees spent their working days carrying out gas-elec’s pioneering combined safety inspections – mostly in the residential sector which was enjoying growth at the time, providing housing to those unable to obtain mortgages. Before long, its engineers started doing attendant remedial works too, and annual boiler services. Then the company developed inspection reports for homebuyers, started fitting carbon monoxide alarms and carrying out fire risk assessments, often for HMO’s landlords. And when it became a requirement for properties, including rented ones, to be sold with an EPC (energy performance certificate), gas-elec started providing the documents.
Fastforward to 2016 and private renting is not just enjoying growth – it is fast becoming the new norm. In England, the sector is now home to more than 9m people and 1.3m families. For the first time in modern history, more people rent privately than rent their home from the council or a housing association. And nearly a third of renters expect to be living in the private sector for the rest of their lives.
With this growing number of renters, many of them young people and foreign nationals, comes an attendant army of private landlords: between 1.3m and 1.5m, according to most sources.
Which, in turn, means 10m-plus rented properties across the country will require annual obligatory safety inspections as well as associated repair work. Add to that the country’s ever growing safety-conscious gas and electrical safety legislation, and gas-elec’s core market is growing at a tremendous rate. Put another way, a gas-elec franchise is a failsafe investment of your hard-earned money.
Not that joining the company is a get-rich-quick scheme or an option for just anyone who wants to run a franchise. First, applicants require the appropriate technical qualifications: minimum CCN1 and appliances on the gas side, or if you want to open an electrical franchise, 17th edition City and Guilds and 2394/5.
But John and franchise director Carol Otway are looking for more than technical know-how from would-be franchisees. “You need to be really hungry for success, to really want to run your business, but equally you need to listen to the franchisor and follow our tried and tested system. After all, we have been in business for 20 years, so we must be doing something right!” says Carol.
Investment fee: £16,500 plus VAT
Training: £1,500 plus VAT
Equipment: from £3,300 plus VAT