We spoke with Andrew Collings, the new CEO for Dale Carnegie Central England, about his history with Dale Carnegie and his decision to buy a franchise.
Could you please tell us about your professional background?
I’ve spent the past 25 years as a commercial manager/leader in various organizations, and I’ve had a lot of board experience. My work has been almost exclusively in the world of HR and learning and development. The various job titles I’ve had include Sales Director, Head of Commercial, as well as Managing Director/GM.
I’ve worked with some large corporates and also some startups, almost all in a commercial lead background. I typically went into a startup for two or three years, ramped things up, then moved on to the next project. The biggest corporate I worked with was Edenred, which is a global company that trades in about 42 businesses that offer different benefits to employees. I sat as a member of the board.
I also ran my own L&D consultancy, and I worked in the Middle East for 3 ½ years in Dubai, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The travel wasn’t great for family life, so I came back to the UK.
My career has been spent managing and leading teams in the world of HR and across commercial operations.
What is your territory like?
I have taken UK Central England, which is a franchise that was run by the previous franchise partner for about 40 years. It probably contains 15 to 20% of the UK business population. Within my territory, I’ve got Birmingham, the second largest city outside of London. It’s got a traditional hub of manufacturing, along with health care, the service industry and commercial operations. Rolls Royce engine manufacturing is a big business in my area. It’s a good traditional area. There are about 1 million businesses in my territory. And if you look at companies above 250 employees, there are about 5,000 of them. There are lots of companies with 50 to 250 employees and some big UK brands, so it’s a huge opportunity.
What drew you to Dale Carnegie?
In one of my first senior management roles about 15 years ago, I did a Dale Carnegie leadership program and I loved it. It had a significant impact on me.
About 7 years ago, I ended up working as a consultant in the business, supporting the franchise that I’ve now bought. Then I won contracts in the Middle East and traveled there, but I stayed in contact with the world of Dale Carnegie. The current franchisor contacted me last year and asked if any of my contacts would be interested in buying the business. And I said actually the timing is perfect because I would like to buy it.
Dale Carnegie allows me to continue to work in a world that I love, which is HR and learning and development. It allows me to run a business without having to build everything from scratch. I wanted to run a training business but I didn’t want to have to design all of the training. All I have to do is run a successful business, talk to lots of clients and sell it. That’s the bit that excited me. It’s a trusted brand with amazing support behind the scenes.
I turned 50 in August and this is kind of my retirement plan. I don’t want to be working forever. This is my opportunity to build a business for the next 10 years, make it really successful and then have an exit strategy. Everything within the franchise option allows me to do that. It seemed a perfect fit.
What has your experience been so far with our onboarding and Franchise Partner Academy training?
Honestly, it’s been amazing. There is such a level of enthusiasm with the team and support to make the business work. It’s not like they’re just giving you an instruction manual and saying right, go for it. There is an interest in helping people succeed, which came across in the Franchise Academy and the pre-meetings before I bought the franchise. There is a genuine desire to help people make it work.
Do you think this industry offers opportunities for growth?
Yes, definitely. There were always opportunities for learning and development, but the pandemic made people realize they need to do more to to train future leaders and support people in their existing roles. L&D is back very much on the C-suite radar. I don’t think there is any shortage of opportunity.
What professional background will help someone succeed as a Dale Carnegie franchise partner?
Having a background in HR and learning and development definitely helps. There’s a nuance to how those people buy things – they don’t like to be sold to, they like a consultative sell and like to be supported. I don’t think you need a background as a trainer. You can find good trainers. It’s better for people who have either run a business or been in senior leadership and have worked to grow a business and scale it up.
When I bought the franchise, I was taking a bit of time off and thinking about what I wanted to do next in my career. I was looking at big corporates and thinking about taking on a C-suite job, going back to Central London, earning a nice salary with a nice pension and everything else. But I thought if I could take all of that experience and do something for myself and make a difference, that was far more exciting for me. I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think there are other people trying to make that career choice, whether to go into the corporate world, and Dale Carnegie gives them the best of several worlds. The benefit of Dale Carnegie is that even though I have a small territory in middle England, I feel I’m part of a much bigger global organization.