After 12 years in the Army first as a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer and then as part of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, Jay Belam wanted a new challenge. He could see his military career mapped out neatly before him and spending the rest of his working life travelling along a predictable path no longer appealed. He decided the time was right to shake things up a bit and take his chances in Civvy Street.
As he had no previous business experience it made sense to look at franchising and after considerable research given his REME background and love of cars he chose leading mobile vehicle paintwork repairer Revive! setting up Revive! Guildford in 2011. Jay’s business is now one of the top performing Revive! territories repairing scuffs and scrapes to vehicle bodywork and alloy wheels for car dealerships and members of the public.
“I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone else and had always fancied being my own boss but didn’t have the knowledge or experience to set up on my own from scratch, so It made complete sense to follow a proven franchise business model.”
Jay’s army career took him to Bosnia and Afghanistan. He believes his military background and discipline gives him the confidence to deal with any scenario thrown his way which has been a great asset for life outside the forces. Said James: “The environment in the army was much harder than anything I have to deal with running my business. I learned how to communicate with people at all levels which makes it easy for me to go into big dealerships and interact with customers.
“Painting cars in the rain, wind and snow is nothing compared to Afghanistan!”
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. One of Jay’s biggest challenges has been employing people and learning how to manage staff in a civilian environment. He explained: “I learned very early on that not everybody in the world wants to be treated like a soldier! I had a very military mind-set. I had to realise that whilst even the worst soldiers are extremely disciplined, civilians react completely differently. It took me a while to adapt and change my attitude.”
But his new approach clearly paid off. Now Jay runs a fleet of five vans and a workshop where vehicles from busy trade customers are repaired. He has grown his turnover year on year and has just signed another five year franchise agreement with Revive!
“Head office could see before I could that my business had taken off so well I needed to expand to keep up the momentum. They guided me step by step through the whole process of financing a new van and recruiting Adam my first employee. Their support and confidence in me gave me the impetus I need to take such a big step – and I am really glad I did.”
More expansion is planned for Revive! Guildford. Over the next five years Jay wants to double the size of his business to 10 vans. “Three or four months ago I realised that it had got to the point that I’m no longer just an ex-army bloke who paints cars – I’ve got a business that’s going places. That really gave me a confidence boost and spurred me on to adding my fifth van.
“Taking on a franchise has definitely been the right thing for me. Without a doubt the backup and ongoing business support I have received from Revive! head office has enabled me to achieve significant growth and see a very bright future.”