Look Local founder Matt Shaw explains about the Look Local franchise and its opportunities.
“Back in 1999 I had been considering several business ideas, I had wanted to run my own company for some time. Having been at the forefront of sales for several years I was considering business possibilities in marketing when I began to think about advertising options available to local businesses”
“If you wanted to advertise your product or services locally, who did you turn to? The local newspapers were great to browse through but they were not something you would ever keep to hand. An option to place a card in the local Newsagents window was all well and good but only a limited number of people stopped to look at it. The internet was in its infancy at the time and out of reach to most small local businesses”.
I considered the idea of creating a local business directory where local traders could reach their local community effectively. A magazine dedicated to supporting local businesses, helping them advertise their products or services locally and something that people in local communities would find useful. A business directory designed solely for the purpose of reaching its intended market.
I then set about creating the new medium for local traders to reach their local community. One that would not be thrown out at the end of each week, as happens with newspapers and one that left a good impression with the potential customer.
“I knew it was a great idea immediately and looking back although it must have taken an amount of nerve and energy to get going, just look at what we have achieved to date! In addition to my own belief, the enthusiasm with which local businesses greeted my idea only served to fuel my excitement further and what has followed has been quite amazing.
Our original Look Local now produces books in 16 local communities each month and it has become a truly thriving business.
Look Local has moved with the times, we have an online web directory which complements our printed directory. The printed directory is still the leader in what our customers see as their primary form of local marketing and the local community still like to see and feel the printed directories.
To answer the first part of the question though, in its simplest form Look Local is a local business directory through which we offer local businesses the opportunity to reach their local market with accuracy on and off line. We publish the printed directories every month and we do it very effectively.
For many reasons our customer’s customers prefer Look Local to its competitors and we realise that’s where our system is a real winner, so we are very happy to stick to our tried and tested formula. The feedback is continually inspiring and so long as it continues we will remain as a local business directory serving the local community.
The system really works and although we could operate Look Local differently, adopting a different approach, the fact is when you have a successful formula you don’t change it?
It never ceases to please or amaze us with the comments we receive, even if people don’t know us they all know that little yellow book that sits under the telephone!
However, just publishing a local business directory has not been enough to satisfy customer requirements and we are rapidly expanding to meet customer demand”.
Following that original Look Local success we realised the explosive potential of the Look Local system. Understanding its value to all kinds of businesses we decided to take Look Local to communities around the country and to answer the second part of the question that is exactly what the Franchise is, a complete copy of our successful system!
From attracting customers to distributing the Look Local books, the Franchise will replicate the original Look Local business around the country, in fact the only difference will be the territory in which you operate.
“We know the massive potential of Look Local and we understand that the single most important factor for our future success is the way we set up our Franchise operations. We are approached by many customers who really appreciate Look Local but just want more. They want us to reach other communities, promoting their products or services with our successful system and we will give them what they want through Look Local as a National Brand.”
Therein lies the importance of our Look Local Franchisees, together we will build a Look Local National Brand that will meet the needs of this huge potential market.
Who are the Directors of Look Local?
The founder, Matt Shaw, began his career with the Britannic Assurance Company. After two years behind the desk at The Britannic, Matt decided to join the Royal Marines and spent six years as a Royal Marines Commando travelling to various parts of the world.
Since leaving the Royal Marines, Matt always had a burning desire to start his own business and following a successful spell as a Senior Sales Executive with a reprographics company Matt finally decided to take the plunge.
After careful planning Matt left his relatively secure and well paid job to develop the original Look Local in early 2000. Starting in his local area of Solihull, after only 2 months was so pleased with the early results that he created a second book in a neighbouring territory. Prior to the launch of Look Local’s third area, Matt’s wife, Jane, left her job as a credit controller in Solihull to join the business and together they have built Look Local to what it is today.
Matt recalls one particular learning curve! “Shortly after launching our third book we discovered that Jane was pregnant with twins! It was then, thankfully, we realised how flexible running Look Local as a business can be.
We grew the business steadily through this period, taking on only what we could manage. Then once the children started school, we were able to develop the business more rapidly as we had more available time. We now have 16 Look Locals in the Solihull, Warwickshire & Coventry areas.
One or several areas, big or small, growing quickly or at a slow pace we have experience in all aspects of running this business and what is important to our Franchisee’s is that we continue to do so from offices in Solihull”.
Both Directors have extensive knowledge of the Look Local system, having taken the original Look Local from its beginnings to the success it is today, particular experience of all that our Franchisees will encounter.
We are committed to supporting our Franchisees in all aspects of their progress, after all it is only through our Franchisees that we will achieve our vision. It is in our interest to see you succeed.
What is the Company track record?
The original Look Local’s track record speaks for itself. Matt Shaw first conceived the business idea in the Midlands back in 1999 with one book, based on the system that is still used today. The rapid success of the first Look Local led to a second shortly afterwards and today we have 16 books all operating successfully in bordering territories.
There are several excellent aspects of the Look Local system but one is the fact that you really can operate one book, choosing your working hours from home.
Of course, you can choose to grow into a multi franchise business if you wish. The choice is absolutely yours, but whether a single Franchise or multi territory Franchise, providing you are the right type of individual, you will be made most welcome as part of our team.
The original Look Local’s financial history is a matter of public record under the name of Look Local Publications Limited. You can obtain information in the normal way for Limited Companies or we will be happy to provide further details upon request.
What training does Look Local offer?
You may want to operate one territory or become a multi territory Franchisee. You may have absolutely no knowledge of how to set up and run your own business or you may have all the necessary experience. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your own experience as together we will establish what training you require.
Either way you will need to spend time with us at our offices in order to understand our system. We will work through all of the required procedures in a structured way from setting up your Franchise through to distributing your first book.
Following receipt of your initial investment and your authorisation of our Franchise agreement our training schedule will consist of (all or part of) the following:-
• Walk through of the original Look Local system at our premises
• How to set up your Franchise Company, Bank Accounts and incorporation
• Equipment and stationery requirements
• Web site set up
• Domain name and Franchisee area
• Attracting Customers
• Creating Customer records
• Taking and processing orders
• Creating Customer adverts
• Scheduling and proofing
• Cash flow
• Managing customers and receivables
• Bespoke Customer Relationship Management database
• Accounting package
To accompany your training you will have access to our online operating manual. This covers every aspect of the business so you will be able to follow our system exactly as you have been taught.
Even when you have completed your initial training as you progress we will remain on hand to help you through and always remember, what you are about to experience we have already been through. You don’t need to worry about any aspect as we do already have the answers.
What support does Look Local offer?
In addition to initial training Look is delighted to support our Franchisees with our ‘state of the art’ web technology. As a Franchisee you will be issued with a user name and password that enables you to access our ‘Franchisees Area’ on our website.
This live system is full of useful information and support documents, links, FAQ’s, news and many other interesting articles that will help you manage and grow your business on a day to day basis.
You will have access to support documents that you can download at any time. These documents are kept up to date and amendments are notified to you for download when you log in. Our system ensures that you always have the very latest documentation provided by our Head Office team.
As you uncover questions that you are unsure how to answer you will be able to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) section and indeed if you are still unable to find what you are looking for simply contact us.
We will keep you fully updated with news regarding Look Local and share our collective progress giving you the opportunity to share ideas and successes with fellow Franchises.
We provide you with useful links that are appropriate to the running of your own Look Local Franchise.
All in all the support features available to our Franchisees are excellent and the ability to communicate is vital. It is the key to our future success together.
What do I receive with my franchise package?
Our Franchise package includes the following:-
YOUR OWN EXCLUSIVE TERRITORY
Each Look Local territory is based upon a distribution of four thousand homes and businesses in a specific territory. You are given the opportunity to purchase extra territories at the initial stage securing neighbouring areas for further growth of your business. You will receive your very own exclusive territory usually defined within a post coded area.
THE LOOK LOCAL OPERATING MANUAL
Our manual includes a step by step guide that will help you throughout all of the Look Local processes from setting up your business to delivering your first Look Local. Clearly our manual is a very important and confidential document. It is the blueprint for your Franchise success and should be treated accordingly. You will be required to enter into a confidential agreement with us and a copy is attached to this prospectus. We consider our manual to be a ‘living’ document as we are committed to continuous improvement and you will have immediate access to all updates through our Franchisee’s area 24 hours per day 7 days per week online.
YOUR OWN LOOK LOCAL DOMAIN NAME AND HOSTING
We will provide you with your own unique Domain Name and web hosting. This means that you do not have to understand how websites are hosted and concern yourself with the technicalities, we will take care of it for you.
The domain name will confirm your involvement with our Look Local national brand and demonstrate to your local customers that you a part of the Look Local team. Your unique domain name will usually read as:
www.looklocal.com/yourterritoryname (for example www.looklocal.com/solihull)
YOUR OWN LOOK LOCAL WEB PAGES.
We will provide you with your areas own Look Local web pages within the Look Local website, this allows your customers to view your business online. The site will contain your contact details, your specific pricing and instructions for customers on how to advertise with you. You customers will be able to view all your rates for advertising with you and also for your leaflet distribution. Customers are able to order advert space, upload artwork and make payments online 24 hours a day.
If you wish to develop the website we provide for you, we can assist you to build your site with additional pages and features. This service is offered at an additional cost and will be tailor made to your requirements. Our team will assist you to design and implement changes at an extremely competitive price due to our existing set up and experience. You can check out our capabilities on our website www.looklocal.com in the links section.
INITIAL MARKETING MATERIAL
In order that you can begin marketing your franchise immediately we supply you with approximately two hundred existing Look Locals that you will use as examples for your potential clients.
We help you put together your personalised letter for your area that, when added to the Look Local example booklet, will ensure you ‘hit the boards running’ within you own territory.
ALL TEMPLATES FOR LETTERS/ORDER FORMS
You will receive templates for all of the letters and emails. These templates have been created for you to utilise, helping to get you started immediately and as with our manual, any future improvements are communicated immediately through our Franchisee’s Area online.
TEMPLATES CONTAINING EXISTING ADVERTISEMENTS FOR YOU TO EDIT
Over the years we have created many different types of advertisements for our customers. You will immediately benefit from this experience as we will provide these changeable documents in order that you do not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when creating adverts for your customers. Simply edit the content to suit your customer requirements.
SUPPLY & TRAINING ON COMPUTER DESIGN PACKAGE
Although there are many different design software packages available to you today we will advise you on the most suitable computer package for your business.
At the original Look Local we use Corel Draw but that does not mean to say that you also have to do so. We will help you decide what package to adopt that will create the best formats in which to supply artwork to our printer. Corel Draw License costs around approximately £20 + vat per month and this includes all future updates and bug fixes.
We have our own central printer who knows exactly what we require for our Look Local publications and this will eliminate the problem of our Franchisees having to find a suitable printer, maintain standards of quality and achieve reliable delivery times. In addition utilising a central printer enables us to provide our Franchisees with very competitive printing prices.
FULL TRAINING ON ALL ASPECTS OF THE LOOK LOCAL BUSINESS
When you visit our offices you will be given full and comprehensive training on how to operate your business. We will take you through all aspects of Look Local and will tailor your training to best suit your own requirements.
BESPOKE CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT DATABASE
Look Local offers a bespoke CRM that helps eliminate paperwork and the administrative business burden that comes with all businesses, large or small. Following requests from our existing Franchisees Local Local developed a unique online CRM that enables our Franchisees to access their customer database via the internet wherever they are. The database supports a remote comprehensive management of your business whether it is for operational or sales campaign purposes. We teach full use of the system through our ‘super user’ program and support the operational software through our central team. You will enjoy a total control of your Franchise on an ‘easy to manage’ basis.
INVOICE & ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE
Through our Look Local CRM you will have complete control of your invoicing system automatically creating customer invoices at the touch of a computer key. Our system simplifies the accounting process in order that our franchisees focus on customer service and increasing sales. In addition to the automated system we are a Direct Debit originator and offer customer credit card payment facilities making it easy for your customers to pay for the Look Local services you provide.
WEB DIRECTORY LISTINGS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS
Your customers will also be able to advertise their business on the Look Local web directory. This is always an attractive add-on to your initial offering. The web directory enables your customers to have an online presence at a fraction of the cost of having their own website. The Look Local web directory is SEO friendly making your customers details visible to search engines such as Google. Your customers can ask their clients to send in customer reviews which are moderated and verified by you before they go live. The web directory also gives you that all important extra income stream.
ON GOING REMOTE NEWS AND SUPPORT FROM OUR HEAD OFFICE TEAM
Through our ‘state of the art’ web based, password protected, Look Local community site you will receive a full range of documents, updates, news, FAQ’s and general support.
Lin Duncan- Franchisee since 2006 “I was the very first person to buy into the Look Local franchise back in 2006…..and I’m still here, years later. I think that says it all!
I vividly remember those early days working hard to produce my first ever book with a lot of help and encouragement from the Head Office team. My first Look Local went to print with 40 pages and over 60 customers. Since then I’ve grown into multiple areas around Lichfield. Many of our original advertisers still advertise with us, something I’m very proud of; its truly satisfying to know I’ve helped many local businesses to grow themselves.
I’ve also been able to grow another of my other businesses, a curtains and blinds company, by advertising in the Look Local, so I have first hand experience of the power of the Look Local advertising directory for small businesses.
If you’re considering buying a Look Local franchise there is no need to feel isolated or worry that your business is going to be a struggle to grow; the business is backed by hardworking, ambitious individuals who are always available to offer you the benefit of their experience. Go for it!”
Marion Burke- Franchisee since 2015 For former blue chip company IT analyst, Marion Burke, investing in the Look Local franchise has enabled her to pursue her ambition of becoming her own boss.
“Back in late 2014 I decided I wanted to get out of the ‘rat race’ and was keen to follow in my brothers footsteps of owning my own business, which he has done successfully for over 30 years. As I had no previous experience in running a start-up company, franchising seemed the logical solution as I would have access to ongoing training and support.
I currently run four Look Local directories in the South of Birmingham, and am looking to launch another edition later this year. The great thing about Look Local, and one of the reasons why I’ve been able to manage the running of four editions in such a short time, is the training and support package, which is tailored to suit the individual franchise owners needs. All franchise owners have an initial two day intensive training session which goes into depth on how to use the Look Local system. There is then a structured training program in place for the first 12 months, ensuring you get off to the best possible start. I also love the fact that as a relative ‘newbie’ I am able to pick up the phone to any of the other more experienced franchisees to discuss any problems that I face.
The business model allows us to create numerous revenue streams, including the popular printed monthly directories, our leaflet design, printing & distribution service, along with our ever growing review website which allows businesses to showcase their products and services, and enables local people to leave their reviews, further enhancing our loyal customers reputation.
Without a doubt, taking on a Look Local franchise was a great decision. I’m working very hard to make the business a real success, yet I am able to fit work around taking children to school, which allows for a flexible work-life balance. It’s certainly hard work, but its now paying off big time.”
Ray & Greg Bessell – Franchisee since 2007 Ray joined Look Local in 2007 when he bought the Alcester territory, and since then he and his son Greg have taken on an additional territory in Bromsgrove. I was keen to be my own boss and I liked the idea of a low-cost business with minimal overheads and the backing of an established brand so decided to invest.
“With Look Local head office taking care of the invoicing through the CRM system, Greg and I were able to concentrate on starting up local directories for both the Redditch and Droitwich areas. We now feel we have the time to be to manage four local directories. By doing this, we anticipate doubling our current turnover of £60,000.
“We think the support system is great – it has definitely made our lives easier. Before we had to create our own database using software like Excel. Now, with the new centralised database, once all of the information is transferred across there is a sense of uniformity as all of the franchise owners record their clients’ data in the same way.
“Business is going really well at the moment and we think this is because the recession has led a lot of local traders to reduce their advertising expense. Therefore, they cannot justify the cost of advertising in a glossy publication. Instead, more companies are coming to us, because we are more cost effective and have a similar circulation figure.”
What Return on Investment (ROI) can I expect in the first year?
We have prepared an example below that will help you understand your potential returns in the first year.
The figures relate to the potential operating profit for a single franchise area consisting of 4,000 letterbox distribution.
What is the initial investment I will need to make?
Currently, to purchase the initial Franchise package, the costs are broken down as follows, with the franchise package being structured to recognise the different levels of initial investment required by franchisees:
The initial package which includes all training, operational manual, website, domain names, web directory, Office 365, enterprise class mailbox synchronised across all your devices, Online version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Microsoft One Drive with 1tb of storage.
1 area £1,995.00 + vat
2 areas £2,495.00 + vat
3 areas £2795.00 + vat
4 areas £2995.00 + vat
The above rates are for areas purchased at the initial stage, the cost for additional areas after the initial stage is £995.00 + vat.
In addition to the initial payment you may need working capital of around £1,000 for cash flow purposes to support the publication of your first Look Local.
Depending on the design package you decide to use you will need to allow for the cost of this. Most of our current franchisees use Corel Draw and you can get an online professional version of this for around £20.00 per month + vat. This includes all downloads and bug fixes, we can guide you through the pros and cons of the different design packages.
Look Local Limited charge a Management & Accounting Service fee per month commencing with the publication of your first book or within three months of joining.*
*A Management & Accounting fee of £150.00 or 14% of turnover (whichever is the higher amount) + VAT per month.