Interview with Natalie Boardman – Franchise Owner of Belvoir Tunbridge Wells

Natalie Boardman

What was your background prior to joining Belvoir?

I joined Belvoir in August 2017 and prior to that I was on maternity leave from my job in financial services. The job was London based and I wanted to find something more flexible, but I was struggling to do so. Eventually I decided to buy my own business. My husband and I owned several investment properties that we were managing and he is a surveyor so property has always been something that we were passionate about.

I looked at several options, including other franchises and independent agents. However, when I attended the Belvoir Discovery Day at Central Office in Grantham, I was really impressed at how comprehensive it was. After meeting members of the franchise support team and talking in detail with Martin Bunney in recruitment I thought that what you get for your MSF was all encompassing and the support was much more than other franchises I had researched. When the opportunity came up for me to buy Belvoir Tunbridge Wells from a retiring franchisee, that sealed the deal.

How have you found the level of franchise support you receive?

Franchise support is excellent and in the early days I called them a lot! My Business Development Manager (BDM) was great. Although I knew about properties and the regulations surrounding lettings, when I went into the office on the first day it felt a bit nervewracking! We had weekly telephone conversations, and it was lovely to feel I was not on my own. Six years on my needs are different but I still use the franchise support framework from Central Office and regularly speak to my BDM both to get ideas for business growth and for specific advice. I also engage quite heavily with the marketing team.

Another very helpful aspect of franchise support in those early days was the compliance team. It was great to have someone with the experience and knowledge to help me. If you were an independent agent you wouldn’t have this, and it would be so much more difficult. Even now, if there is a tricky situation, I can call on the compliance team to get their advice, which is great.

When you are a franchisee a big chunk of your income goes on MSF, but you buy into a franchise because of all the support you receive and it’s been great. For example, the support we received during the Covid-19 pandemic was incredible. We were given so much content and communication and guidance about what to do, it was invaluable.

How are you enjoying being a Belvoir franchisee?

I’m really enjoying it. I talk to lots of landlords, and although we do some sales, I do prefer lettings because you build such close longterm relationships with people.

Six months ago I completed on an acquisition, which is going well. The first six months after completion are the hardest as you try and integrate the two businesses. Belvoir’s acquisition team were amazing, and it was great to have them on my side throughout the process.

After buying the new business we were lucky enough to retain the experience of a longstanding team member, which has been very helpful. I now have three staff members plus myself. Having the right people working with you is so important. I’m very lucky because my team are loyal and experienced and hard working, and that makes life so much easier.

What advice would you give to someone considering buying a Belvoir franchise?

Don’t underestimate the hard work that is involved. Speak to as many people at Central Office as you can and talk to existing franchisees. You will get a range of opinions from people who have been doing it for a long time and those that have recently started, and this will help with the decision-making process. Running a business is hard work and this is an industry that is heavily regulated, with new regulations coming out all the time so you need to be very committed to it. I have heard of people who think they can buy a franchise whilst also running another business, but in my view, you need to be 100% committed to make this a success.

Have you achieved the work/life balance you were looking for?

I would say yes, I have, but you really do need to have your family on board. My husband Jeff is incredibly supportive, although I have probably ended up working more hours than I bargained for! Equally, I have got lots of flexibility and I’m able to drop our daughter off at school and take her swimming and go to school plays etc. Initially, I worked a lot of Saturdays, but I have really cut that back so I have more time with my family. I still work very hard, and even on holiday I often have my phone with me, but I definitely have more flexibility. Nothing is perfect, but I’m really enjoying it!

What three words work you use to describe being a Belvoir franchisee?

Empowering, challenging and flexible.

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If you are interested in finding out what it’s like to be a Newton Fallowell franchisee then read our interview with Richard Morris or if you’re interested in what daily life is like as a Northwood franchisee then read our interview with Steve Swann.

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