David Abbott, The Alternative Board (TAB) – Thames Valley West

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Reading Time: 3 minutesDavid Abbot is logical, systematic and likes to ensure he has all the facts so he can think things through before he makes decisions. He has been with TAB since January 2017 and currently works with 18 members (all business owners themselves).

Prior to joining the franchise David trained as an HR manager, having gained a business studies degree, working with companies such as BA and Honeywell. Eventually he was tempted into the headhunting business by a supplier and, having learnt the business for 5 years, decided to set up on his own.

David built up his practice until, some years later, he was approached by a US company interested in buying the business. The sale was successfully completed and he continued working for the acquiring company for a few years. Circumstances change and David decided to buy back the business, but after running it for a while longer he decided that he wanted to do something else.

At the time David was working with a coach to consider options for his future; he established that a B2B franchise could be a good way forward. David didn’t want to start from scratch again and was keen to develop something within a tried and tested framework.

He looked at a number of B2B franchises and eventually found The Alternative Board (TAB) via LinkedIn.

What made David choose TAB over other, similar, franchises available?

David explains: “I like and believe in what TAB does. It’s a good thing and provides an invaluable service to the business community; plus it plays to my strengths and I really like the people. At every stage on the TAB ‘recruitment’ process I expected to see something I didn’t like, but that wasn’t the case, so I thought, I’d better do this!”

David had about two thirds of the required funds available and borrowed the balance from the HSBC franchise unit; they were one of the funders TAB suggested he speak to.

He has found found the TAB training and support to be, in his words: “Brilliant! Because of my background in HR, I was slightly cynical about how good the training would be, but the quality was outstanding. The ongoing support is very good, with the right people who have the right attitude and want to help.”

TAB practise what they preach, and all TAB franchisees sit on a ‘peer board’ each month with other TAB franchisees. It’s so helpful for them to learn from others who have done it before. There is also some good learning experiences to be gained about managing your own TAB Boards.

Every new venture faces challenges, with TAB David says that: “You’ve got to be able to sell the service and talk with conviction about the benefits of the TAB membership. Unless you can do that, you won’t make it. I’ve had to sell my own services before so it wasn’t a great shock when joining TAB, especially as it’s not a ‘hard-sell’ process.

“My main challenge was logistics and scaling. I had a tsunami of activity which meant there was a lot to deal with – but it was also a nice problem to have!

“Above all, one of my biggest challenges has been that your lead generation activity has got to be continuous – it doesn’t work as well if it’s turned on and off. Keeping the faith that the tried and tested marketing techniques work is important and taking a deep breath and committing to spending on lead generation and marketing.”

David has also experienced lots of ‘highs’ in his TAB business saying that the first time you realise you’ve made a difference to someone is a hugely satisfying moment, adding that: “TAB is unusual in that we focus on the business owner personally, as well as their company. Most business owners don’t think about their ‘personal vision’ so there are some real ‘wow’ moments when we work through that with them!”

David reached his business goal in January 2020 which meant that he would spend less time on business development and more time playing golf, but then COVID-19 hit everyone. Since then he’s been busier than ever supporting his members. He is now exploring the opportunity of bringing in a facilitator to work with him, with the hope that he can sell his TAB business in about 2 years’ time whilst retaining the ability to run a TAB board or two.

What would his advice be to someone thinking of buying a franchise?

“Trust your instincts. Ask yourself, do I want to be working with these people? I knew I could recruit members I liked, but I needed to like the TAB people as they are the embodiment of the business. If you like and feel comfortable with them it’s more likely to work. I came away from TAB’s Discovery Day thinking I really like these people!

“The TAB recruitment process was very good, including the openness of their Due Diligence process.”

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