Petpals franchisee in successful resale to employees

14th December 2017

Sarah Richardson with three dogs


Sarah Richardson owner of Petpals Stockport for the last fourteen years, recently sold her franchise to two former employees.

Sarah (55), bought her Petpals franchise following a long-term, management role with a mail-order company. She left when fluctuating markets found her having to make people redundant on a regular basis, which made her rethink what she really wanted out of life. She convinced her boss to add her to the list of redundancies and, on the advice of a financial advisor, looked at franchising opportunities in the UK. Following intense research via the bfa (British Franchise Association), Sarah used her redundancy money to buy Petpals Stockport in 2003.

Fast forward to 2017 and Sarah has now divided up the business into three new territories and sold Poynton and Stockport East to Ian and Lynda Parker and Petpals Stockport and Petpals Cheadle and Bramhall to Claire Hurr.

Sarah explains why she sold the business,

‘Right from the very beginning my plan has always been to build up the business then sell it, so this is simply the final step in the plan. I worked very hard for 14 years, I had built the business up to where I wanted it to be, I’d sacrificed much of my personal life but this is what it was all for, eventual financial freedom and the chance to spend more time doing the things I wanted to do.

She continued,

‘I had some family issues last year that made me realise time with our loved ones is very precious so that, plus a desire to buy a house with my partner and spend a bit more time together, made the final decision to sell an easy one. I am delighted that my employees were so committed to the business that they wanted to buy it and could see the potential in taking their respective territories to new heights.’

A few years ago Sarah also took on the extra role as northern operations manager for Petpals, using her vast experience to help other franchisees in the north of the country, a role that she will be continuing for the foreseeable future.

New territory Numbers 1 & 2: Petpals Stockport and Petpals Cheadle and BramhallClaire Hurr owner of Petpals Stockport and Petpals Cheadle and Bramhall

Claire Hurr started working for Sarah as a dog walker in October 2006, almost 11 years exactly to the day before she bought the business. For the last eight years, alongside her pet caring duties, Claire has also been Sarah’s assistant manager, meaning she is already very familiar with most of the tasks associated with running the business.

Claire explains why she wanted to buy the business,

‘It’s fairly simple really, I loved my job and wanted to carry on doing it, so making the decision to buy wasn’t hard at all. The support I’ve received from Sarah and head office during the process has been superb. Knowing how successful the business is also helps. We have a great customer base and I just need to carry on growing the business, as Sarah has done for the past 14 years. Our customers tell me they love the ‘added extra’ that comes as standard when they use Petpals and it’s my job to carry on delivering those USP’s that make us stand out above our competitors.’

Claire continues,

‘I feel so well supported, with Sarah being the Northern Operations Manager she is still very much part of the scene and I know I can still call on her any time for advice. The great thing is we have always been friends as well as colleagues and that hasn’t changed.’

New territory Number 3: Petpals Poynton and Petpals Stockport East

The second purchaser was Ian Parker (50) and his wife Lynda (41). Ian and Lynda now own Petpals Poynton and  Lynda and Ian Parker, owners of Petpals Poynton and Petpals Stockport EastStockport East.

Ian worked for Sarah for nearly 10 years as a dog walker and for the past seven as a dog boarder too. For the past two years in a ‘trial’, to see if running a pet care business would be for him, Ian has been managing the territory he now owns, dealing with all day to day elements of the business, giving him an opportunity to ‘try before you buy.’ It didn’t take him long to decide that it was definitely the right decision and he and Lynda are now the proud owners of their very own Petpals business.

Petpals wasn’t Ian’s only career though, from 0815 to 0900 and from 1515 to 1600 Monday to Friday, he could be found outside his local primary school, in his role as the school Lollipop Man, helping keep children safe as they crossed the busy road. Now his job is to keep his new business safe and flourishing which he plans to do with the help of wife Lynda.

Lynda currently works from home as a travel consultant, working with Ian on the administrative side of the business, plus doing home visits to feed and tend to cats and other small animals and of course caring for the dogs who come to board in their home every week.

Talking about their decision to purchase the new territory Lynda said,

‘Everyone calls Ian Dr Dolittle because animals adore him and he loved his job with Petpals so much, when Sarah offered us the chance to buy part of the franchise we pretty much said yes immediately. We work as a great team, handling all the dog walking and home visits between the two of us. Having been a lollipop man Ian is used to being out in all weathers, leaving me to get on with the more ‘indoor’ jobs.’

Discussing the support they have received all round Lynda said,

‘Sarah and of course Tracey from head office have been great; really supportive, answering all our questions and making the whole process very smooth. Buying a business may be new to us but they have so much experience, they’ve done it all before and that is very comforting. We’ve had regular meetings with Sarah and it is great to know that she and Tracey are always on the end of the phone if we need them. Luckily, having had the chance to manage the franchise first, we feel quite confident in our abilities going forwards. Our long term goal is to do much the same as Sarah, build up the business and sell it when we retire.’

Sarah comments,

‘One of the reasons I bought a franchise, as opposed to starting up an independent pet care business, was because of the resale opportunities. With Petpals I knew I was building a saleable asset, something that would have been much harder, if not impossible, if I’d been a sole trader. I would urge anyone to consider this point strongly when debating the franchise vs self-employment route. Yes you may have to pay to purchase your business and pay a portion of your profits each month to cover the cost of the website, marketing, advertising PR etc, but at the end of the day you have a proper business to sell, not just a list of phone numbers.’

Kevin Thackrah, managing director of Petpals commented,

‘From the day Sarah joined us we knew she was going to be good. She had a very definite business plan with sale of the business as her end goal. She stuck to her plan, worked hard and is now reaping the rewards. She has consistently been one of our top performing franchisees, has always been ready to help and support new franchisees, and work with staff at head office on marketing and PR initiatives when asked. She has set a great example for our new franchisees to follow.

He continued,

‘We spend a lot of time explaining to people the benefits of buying into a franchise system versus setting up a business from scratch and this story illustrates it perfectly. You buy your territory, we train and support you to build up your business then, when the time is right, you sell. We are delighted Sarah is going to stay with us on a part time basis as our Northern Operations Manager, she has too much experience to let her go that easily! We wish her the very best of luck in her semi-retirement and look forward to continuing to support Claire, Ian and Lynda over the coming years as part of the Petpals network.’


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