Ged & Susie Campbell, Southwark franchise

Ged & Suzi Campbell, Southwark

Ged & Susie Campbell took on a Riverford franchise in August 2004, they have grown the Southwark Home delivery business to one of the largest within the Riverford network. Here Susie tells us why they chose to run a business together.

Ged had been running his own travel logistics business, whilst I was a community artist. We discussed perhaps using both of our skills to run a business together. After much discussion, we decided a franchised business may be the best option for us.

We knew that we didn’t want to have to start a business from scratch, we wanted a business that offered support, both at start up and along the way, and one that already had an established brand.

Before our launch date, we spent a week at Riverford’s head office, Wash farm in Devon, where we had a complete induction. The training included sessions on sales and marketing, accounting and operating the in-house management system. We got to meet all the staff that we would be dealing with daily.

Whilst searching through our options, Riverford caught our eye. At the time, organic food was just starting to come into the main stream and was something that we were interested in. It was simply a case of good timing for us.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

We received a week’s induction at Riverford’s HQ farm in Devon, which involved various training sessions with central staff members. All aspects of how Riverford and a Riverford franchise operates was covered. We’ve been Riverford franchisees for over 13 years now, so support and training on offer has changed along the way. We now have a dedicated Business development manager who is our main point of support and contact. The customer services team are also hugely helpful. Riverford have an open communication policy, so if we want to ask a question or pitch an idea directly to one of the directors, we can.

What is a typical day for you?

When we first started, our roles were more hands on, both of us were out driving and then working in the office when we got home. As our business has grown, it’s enabled us both to take on more of a managerial role.

It’s still an early start for Ged on delivery days though, his first task is to contact all of our drivers. He then deals will all the logistical elements to ensure the business operates smoothly, round management, van maintenance, staff wages and account management. I spend time in the office mainly after the school run. Along with help from our admin assistant, my role is to reply to customer’s calls and emails, answer any questions, deal with any complaints or missing item issues and also keep in touch with our drivers.

What challenges have you faced?

The logistics of running a large delivery franchise has brought the biggest challenges. Ensuring we employ great drivers and retain them. We’ve found that running a fleet of vehicles is time consuming and costly, ongoing maintenance and insurance costs. Problems associated with the vans are always present, punctures, parking tickets the odd bump etc.

Has becoming a Riverford partner changed your life, if so how?

Yes, I like being part of the Riverford family all be it from afar. Running a business is all consuming but has also finally allowed us some flexibility. I have time to take my children to school and spend time with them during holidays. I’m not always tied to our office.

What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your business?

Probably much the same as other businesses. Riverford supply any marketing materials we require and update us regularly on anything news worthy. So we utilise all of the usual marketing tools from leafleting to sending out news articles, engaging with new and existing customers via social media to attending local events where we can pitch up a stand and speak to people in person. More recently we’ve started doing school visits and working with the school’s PTA to educate parents and children on healthy eating and where their food comes from.

What differentiates your business from the competition?

We like to think we offer our customers the more personal touch. Also we aim to operate in a greener way. Ged is committed to doing his bit for the environment, he used to cycle around central London delivering the veg boxes in a trike and our customers loved him for it. Now our fleet of vans are mainly electric.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?

Hard work, commitment and passion.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchised business?

Firstly choose a product or business you believe in. Make sure you know your skills and choose a business that you can use those skills to gain the most success. If like us it’s a delivery business of some kind, then a knowledge of A-B logistics is essential. If you have that experience, then you will be fine.

Would you do it again?

Now there’s a question…..but yes, it’s not been without its struggles, and it’s been hard work but overall we’ve enjoyed the ride.