Former soldier joins the Snap-on ranks
Corporal Chris Ashton was every bit the model soldier.
Promoting quickly through the ranks, he served in Germany and did two tours of Iraq before returning to the UK as a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) at Basic Training; where the best-of-the-best pass on their knowledge and skills to new recruits. But after more than 12 years of service, Chris was ready for a new challenge. Having seen his brother-in-law’s success as a Snap-on franchisee, Chris was inspired to follow in his footsteps and has been running his Snap-on franchise in Northallerton since 2014. He says it’s one of the best decisions he’s ever made. So much so that he’s keen to spread the word about the opportunity for other ex-service men and women!
Like many young people, Chris left school at the age of 16 with just a handful of GCSE’s. Describing himself as ‘not academically inclined’ he was keen to get straight into work and joined his dad’s business as a builder. After a year of employment Chris branched out on his own and spent another year and a half self-employed in the same trade. Ambitious but unfulfilled in his work, Chris took the plunge and joined the army in January 2002.
“I joined the army when I was 19 going on 20 and spent the next 12 and a half years working my way up the ladder. I spent 10 years in Germany in total, one year in Ripon and year and half in Bassingbourne as a training instructor. I was ambitious! I promoted quickly in the early ranks and then spent two years as a Lance Corporal and quickly promoted to corporal two years later. I also did a tour in Afghanistan in 2011 as a Search Team Commander towards the end of my career – so I had some pretty serious and responsible roles throughout.”
Chris held his final roles in Welfare and Training of new recruits in high regard, seeing it as a great way to give-back and prepare his young counterparts for the years ahead of them. But after seeing numerous colleagues promoted around him, Chris felt undeniably overlooked and, ambition ever present, he set his sights set on new horizons.
With a natural desire to help others, Chris was initially keen to pursue a career in welfare or teaching. But being married with two children, the question of just what to do with life after the army was also weighted heavily on being able to support his family.
“I loved my job in the army, I was in welfare at the end and I loved helping people but on Civvy Street you need a degree for that sort of thing so it wasn’t an option for me. At first I wanted to go into teaching and there are schemes for the armed forces to help you get into it. But the money would have been such a significant drop from my army wage that it wouldn’t have worked. At the end of the day when you’ve got a family to take care of you need to provide for them so I had to start thinking about other options.
“My brother-in-law was already a Snap-on franchisee – he’d been doing it for about four years when I was leaving the army and I’d seen him do really well over that time. I was talking to him about things and he suggested I look into it for myself. The more I thought about it, it was a no brainer!”
Snap-on is the world’s number one professional tool brand. They are the leading global manufacturer and distributor of tools for the professional technician. Franchisees deliver gold-standard, premium products to technicians up and down the country. Their fantastic business opportunity offers you the chance to be your own boss whilst being supported by an elite team of industry specialists.
Spurred on by his brother-in-law’s success, Chris threw himself into learning all he could about the franchise opportunity. He researched online, met with the head office team and even went out on van rides with other franchisees to get a feel for what being a Snap-on business owner was really like. After a few months, convinced this was the opportunity for him, Chris signed on the dotted line and officially joined the Snap-on franchise family! Up next: training of a new kind!
“The training was fantastic – all the help you get starting and setting up the business was spot on. I’ve obviously done a lot of courses in the army and for those, you get guided through in a very step-by-step way so that it’s as simple, structured and straight-forward as possible. I didn’t expect it to be but Snap-on was very much the same. From obtaining my licences to setting up my accounts and planning my initial routes to visit customers. They talked me through it and gave me the confidence to do more.”
Snap-on training starts with a week in Dallas in the US. Afterwards, new recruits are welcomed into the Snap-on family at the UK head office in Kettering. Here, new franchisees meet the staff who will support them on a daily basis and collect their very own custom-built mobile store! Training continues with a full week of on-van support out in the field. New franchisees are assigned to a dedicated franchise developer for the first 12 months who spends an additional 12 days on the road with them offering one-to-one support within the first four weeks.
“The thing that struck me most was just how much you feel like part of a team and a family. Especially at head office in Kettering. You get a guided tour, pick your truck up and put all your tools on the van… your photo is on the wall and everyone knows who you are. There’s a real friendly atmosphere and you feel part of something big. Walking up to my truck and seeing my name on the side was pretty cool I have to say!”
Snap-on understands that it’s only ever going to be successful if it’s franchisees are! That’s why they continue to invest millions in a global support programme that already boasts a staff ratio of 2:1 for every franchisee. From sales and marketing to product and technical knowledge; the programme is designed to help every franchisee build a profitable business. Thanks to his military background, Chris says he’s a good problem solver and thinks on his feet. Whilst he likes to be self-sufficient, he knows that if he ever needs it, Snap-on’s support programme means a team of industry experts is always right behind him.
“I try not to use the support team but that’s just how I am! I know I can always pick up the phone if I need anything. Snap-on are always keeping an eye on you to make sure you’re ok. They look at your stats for example so if they see a drop in your sales then they come out with you for a day to try to get you back on track; it’s a partnership really.”
After just three years, Chris is the proud owner of a profitable, successful business which not only provides financially for his family, but enables him to have control over his own future: “For me, the best thing about being a franchisee is being your own boss. Being able to do what you want, when you want. Having control over your own time and your own destiny – sorry if that sounds corny but it’s true! Looking back, it was an easy transition for me – you don’t need any qualifications and it’s a ready-made business so provided you’re willing to work hard, you can’t go wrong.”
It’s not all work, work, work! When he’s not running the business, his new flexibility means Chris can indulge in his favourite hobbies… fishing, skiing and riding his new motorbike! “I’ve wanted a crosser for years and I’m now in a position to buy one and enjoy it which is quite exciting! My wife plays football so we both have a hobby now…that’s fair isn’t it?!”
Testament to his natural inclination for helping others, Chris has a grand plan for the future. And it might just surprise you: “I want to build my business for a few more years and get some more decent money under my belt and then look at going into management within Snap-on. I still love the idea of helping others so I think when I’ve got five or six years’ experience doing it myself, I’d like the opportunity to help others into the network. Especially those coming out of the forces because it’s such a great opportunity for them.
True to his word, Chris is already working with some eager friends who are now preparing for life after the army. And this time, he’s the one taking them on van rides with him to show what being your own boss is like!
“I’ve got a mate who’s getting out in about 10 months’ time. He’s been out with me on the van and been on some van rides with other franchisees and he loves it, he can’t wait!
“I speak to a lot of guys who are coming to the end of their service and I say to them, do Business Management or something like that in Resettlement because it gets your brain ticking over ready for when you come out. With Snap-on my advice would be talk to someone who’s already doing it like myself to learn about their experiences and then just go for it! The business is there waiting so if you want to be your own boss and make some good money then I’d definitely recommend it.”
If, like Chris, you want to take control of your future and be your own boss, text FRANCHISE to 07786 201 770 or visit www.snaponfranchise.co.uk to find out more about the Snap-on franchise opportunity.