David & Josie Yems talks to us about why they started their Riverford Organic business and the day to day running of the business.
Name: David & Josie Yems
Location: Royal Tunbridge Wells
Franchise: Riverford Home delivery
We chose franchising as it gave a certain element of support and security with regards to planning/supply/marketing etc unlike setting up on our own, also there was an existing income from the territory so we didn't have to grow from £0 income.
We chose Riverford as we were customers when I had my first child and wanted to try to keep to an organic diet. We liked Riverford’s ethics and felt that we would really like to work in something we felt passionately about i.e. fairtrade, organic, sustainable farming.
I was an Events Manager in London and David was a Photographic Studio Manager, completely different to running a vegetable box home delivery franchise!
We did a Business Plan presentation to the Bank and had approval for a five year Business Loan.
We were shown how to use the in house customer management system and the accounting system, and spent time with various departments at the farm in Devon. To be honest though, our best learning and support came from spending time with the previous Franchisee.
David or our Driver is up and out at 4am to get to the hub to load the vans and start deliveries. I get up at 6.30 to print out the driver paperwork for the following day before I get the kids up.
Once I have done the school drop off, I return home to do the messages/round allocation/debt chasing/customer calls/marketing/book-keeping etc. This can take anything from two to four hours.
David is usually back mid-afternoon, unless the van requires any maintenance work, and I do the banking. Once the kids are in bed I do a final check of customer emails and phone messages to see that they are all ok to process overnight.
Winter is our biggest problem weather-wise, especially at Christmas when people are relying on their delivery. When the van requires maintenance, it is always a challenge to try and get it to the garage to be fixed as we use it at least five days a week. Driver recruitment has also been hard: finding the perfect driver is tricky. Our drivers are, after all, the face of Riverford to our customers and are therefore much more than simply a delivery driver!
Yes! Working with your partner can be difficult, so try to make sure you have some time away from the Business. The plus side is that I have been able to work around having children and been able to keep them at home with me.
In order for our business to continue growing, we need to acquire new customers from many different sources.
Our most engaged customers come from activities where we can talk to them face to face, such as shows and open van events. This enables us to answer any questions they have before taking the step to become a Riverford customer.
We use other methods of marketing such as leafleting, door – to – door campaigns and the use of established deal sites such as Groupon.
We also carry out marketing activities and events to ensure that our customers are happy and continue to order with us. We achieve this by inviting our customers to events such as our Farm Pumpkin Days and any Riverford Supper clubs we have organised in the local area.
Marketing is a very important aspect of our role and something we will always look for new ideas and opportunities in.
Us! Our biggest strength I think is our customer care, I know nearly all of our customers and have regular contact with many of them and I think that this has built loyalty over the years. They really do get a personal service.
Time management: being able to allocate specific tasks to specific times and sticking to it! I tend to get caught up in the small stuff too much sometimes, which then takes time away from marketing, which is often the last job on the list but the most important. Also being able to switch off, another thing I’m not good at!
Really break down your financial Business plan and check that you have included as much detail as possible to give you an accurate idea of your profit at the end. When you feel that the business will be financially viable, make sure you spend a few days with a driver or in the office in your area as each Franchise is run differently. You really need to know what will be expected of you in your area specifically.
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You need to love the product or the business you are promoting. If you don’t subscribe to that, you can’t inspire others to feel the same way.Fiona Littleton, East Manchester Home Delivery
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