Meet the Mac Man who loves to give back
For Alan Johnson, franchising is about much more than just running his own business: after an award-winning start to life as a franchisee, he’s used his success to give as much back as possible to the wider Mac Tools network – including helping to shape the company’s new products, which are rolled out nationally.
It all began after a flying start to his own business. He explains: “I’m a mechanic by trade. I was buying Mac Tools in the early 90s when they first came to the UK! I always liked the tools. I’d had my own business but it didn’t work out, so I started looking for a franchise to get a bit more security. I saw that Mac Tools had started franchising and for me it was a no-brainer.
“Things went really well right from the off. Thanks to how quickly I grew, I won the Rookie of the Year award in my first year and I also won a Platinum Franchisee award that year too, it was a great start.
“I worked really hard on building relationships with customers, I think that’s what did it. People buy from people. If you can build a good rapport with mechanics, this is a business for you.”
Shaping the future
Further recognition came quickly when Alan was asked to join the new Mac Tools Product Council. It was established to complement the existing Franchisee Council, which helps franchisor and franchisees collaborate more effectively.
He says: “Mac decided they wanted input from a handful of franchisees on new products – branding, design and pricing. They invited people on the Franchisee Council to join, but I was approached directly to join the Product Council. To be asked was an honour.
“The Council is great, I really enjoy it. It’s nice to get an insight into how things are developed, how products are brought to market, and to have an input in that process. I’m also on the Franchisee Council too.”
It’s no small commitment either. “I live in Glasgow and have to travel down to Northampton twice a year for the meetings,” Alan says. “That means giving up a day’s work because the Council’s always on a Friday. The Franchise Council meets on the Saturday after, so I’m giving up a weekend. The travelling is at my own cost too.
“It does take commitment, but it’s very rewarding as well. I’m helping to represent franchisees and we have a part in shaping the future of Mac Tools. That’s pretty special.”
Products are far from the only way Alan gets involved in the future of Mac Tools.
He explains: “I’m used as a mentor for the new starts in our region. The district manager goes out with them for a couple of weeks, and after that I’m given as a point of contact for any issues or problems they have.
“I’ve even taken a day out to ride on the van with new franchisees to offer my advice and experience. When I was Rookie of the Year I spoke with a lot of people about the early years.
“Again, that time isn’t something I can get back in my own business, but it’s great to be able to help others. Being part of a team and being involved can only work to my advantage.”
So why does he give so much back? Alan’s clear on his reasons.
“At Mac you really feel part of the group, part of the team. It’s got nothing to do with buying products from them, it just feels like you’re part of a family. It’s nice to give back and if I can help other franchisees become successful, it only strengthens the brand, which makes it easier for me to sell my products. It’s a win-win!”
Asked about what it takes to emulate or even beat his performance, Alan is clear.
“Financially I’m much more comfortable than I was before,” he says. “But people thinking about becoming a Mac franchisee need to realise it’s hard work and you’ve got to put the hours in. You’re on the road all day so restocking, deliveries and paperwork need to be done in the evenings.
“As long as you’re organised you’ll do well, but you do get out what you put in. Put in the hours and you’ll make good money and do very well. It’s a great opportunity.”
As for his experience of being an Englishman in business in Scotland?
“It works to my advantage most of the time – there’s certainly plenty of banter on the van!”