In Conversation with Leak Detective

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In conversation with Leak Detective, we delve into the story of a specialist leak detection business that has recently taken the plunge into franchising.

Although the franchise is new, the business brings nearly a decade of success in Scotland. Not even a year in, the franchise has been a great success. Remarkably, they quickly awarded three franchise locations and have several more in the pipeline.

Basic information

Founder: David Hunt

Founded: Core business started in 2017, first franchise location opened in 2023.

What they do in a nutshell: In simple terms they find water leaks. They are the ‘find and fix experts.’

Why they’re great: They provide a niche service that extends beyond traditional plumbing.

In Conversation with Leak Detective

Watch the full interview with David Hunt here:

Ashtons Franchise managing consultant Phil Mowat chatted with founder David Hunt about all things franchising,  these are some of the questions asked:

What is your franchising story?

“We run a specialist leak detection franchise. It’s a new franchise, we’re in our first year, but we have been running a leak detection business up in Scotland for the best part of 10 years as a managed business, which we still run, although we do hope to franchise it ultimately.

About a year ago we were wondering how we could grow it. We basically conquered Scotland in terms of our reputation and the specialist nature of the work we do, so we thought about how to grow south of the border – and franchising was put up as an option. Which was a light bulb moment because about 25 years ago, I left employment and took a franchise myself. So, I have a history of franchising, and although I moved away from it, now I find myself back with it. So, it seemed a natural fit”.

Did you enjoy being a franchisee?

“It got me going, it set me on my path into self-employment and now I’m successfully running two businesses and turning over quite a few million pounds. There’s always room for improvement but looking back it got me setting off in the right direction and we’ve never really looked back.”

In very simple terms, your business finds leaks, is that mainly residential or business? Where do your customers come from?

“Most of our customers are, I would say, 60 to 70% domestic and 30 to 40% is commercial. A lot of work comes straight from clients, most of it is ultimately funded by insurance companies, we get a lot of work coming through because we’ve been established a while. Also from loss adjusters, property managers, housing associations and one or two national insurance networks that we’ve been on for years.

Leak detection is an amazingly good route to market to find clients for property repair because when you go out and find their leak, they absolutely love you, because they’ve had a couple of plumbers out already without success! We come in, we find it almost always, the next question is ‘do you know anyone that can repair my house for me?’ And of course we do, we have a sister company that does that. So as a bolt onto an existing business it works extremely well.”

What is the key to leak detection – good equipment, good technology?

“Yes, good equipment and mindset of the individual, the engineer. You need to be inquisitive; you need to be a problem solver, you mustn’t give up easily, and willing to learn. If you’ve got those attributes, you will do well, because the equipment and the training that we provide will set you off on the right course.”

How many franchises have you got at the moment?

“We managed to get three up and running almost straight away, and we’ve got another two currently going through the training process. We’ve got a sixth who’s just sorting out his finance. We’ve got a pipeline of interested parties that are just tentatively enquiring at the moment. So, I’m pleased with how it’s gone this year so far.”

How did you find your first franchisee?

“One of the things we found when we got ready to launch was ‘goodness, where do we start the marketing.’ That would be my recommendation to people that are setting up a franchise – early in the stage of launching a franchise organisation is to start thinking about the marketing from day one. We left it a little bit late, so we initially went down the Facebook route, targeting plumbers, which provided a huge number of enquiries, hundreds, but they weren’t particularly good quality. But we did get our first two franchisees ultimately from Facebook. Then we started advertising on some of the franchising portals that people will be familiar with.”

How was the process of franchising your business in general?

“Quite time consuming, quite a lengthy process, but very detailed –  I’m a detail man so I was totally on board with Charlie on all of that. You need to be prepared,  you do need to put effort in, time in, and it makes you analyse your business, makes you properly think deeply about it – which is a good thing obviously. You’re inviting people to part with some money on what you hope is going to be a successful story for everybody concerned and you can’t do that on a whim. You need to give it a proper due diligence, proper thinking, I enjoyed the process actually.”

 Why did you choose Ashtons Franchise?

“We put the feelers out to three or four different organisations and Ashtons were more diligent and more careful in responding to us. What I liked about Charlie was that he had been a franchisee himself, he had developed a franchise on the management side, so he’d been there and done it. But I would say the overall overarching reason for going with Ashtons is they took more care in engaging with us right at the very beginning. They were calling me up and checking that I had received bits of information and you just felt like they were making an effort.”

What are you looking for from a franchisee?

“We are looking, I am looking for, someone that I’m going to enjoy working with, someone who’s got energy, who’s entrepreneurial, who recognises the opportunity, because leak detection is a hugely growing sector. Also, problem solving and a willingness to learn. If you can offer me those attributes, then I’m on board with you for as long as you need.”

What does the future hold for Leak Detective?

“My vision is to be the go-to leak detection network for the UK. That’s partly the opportunity because there’s no training, you can’t get any training in what we do, there’s no college course, there’s no apprenticeships, there’s no way of acquiring the skills, unless you come to people like us, and we’ll train you. In three years’ we want to be the go-to leak detection network for the UK –  best trained guys, best kitted out guys and then once we’ve got that network up and running, we will turn our eyes to Europe….”

Interested in becoming a Leak Detective franchisee?

Visit their website and fill out the enquiry form and they will be in touch.

Further Reading 

If you enjoyed ‘In Conversation with Leak Detective’ you can find a number of other similar sources on our case studies and videos pages.

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