Union wrong to brand O2 franchise proposal ‘a joke’


O2’s franchise plan should be seen as a great opportunity for ambitious staff, editor Michael Garwood believes

Prior to joining Mobile News I spent many years earning my crust on the shop floor at O2 and Vodafone. With respect to both firms, rarely would a day go by when either myself or one of the other staff wouldn’t suggest an idea which we were sure would make the company run better and perform better.

Of course, being a shop assistant meant your ideas were immediately dismissed. So when O2’s general manager for retail Crispin Lowery said the firm would be looking to encourage young entrepreneurs – including its own staff – to be part of its franchise plans, my immediate thoughts were positive.

Yes, there is a price to pay – between £30,000 and £50,000 – but this is not an untried venture, it’s running and managing one of the leading high street retailers in the UK.

So I was surprised to see such fierce criticism from the Communication Workers Union, which branded the proposal a joke. For some, the idea is a non-starter – and my opinion does not relate to concerns over jobs and security, for which I have full sympathy. But if I was still in retail, my eyes would have lit up at the idea.

I worked with some very business-savvy people in my time at O2, from part-time teenagers working to fund their weekend alcohol fix to store managers with families to support and mortgages to pay. For the latter group, working at O2 is a career and I suspect many will now be seriously considering taking the option of joining forces with others within the company to spread the costs and risks.

O2 insists chosen stores will be those which are achieving targets and are in profit – again providing a level of security which many starting from scratch can never have.

From speaking to O2 CEO Ronan Dunne, O2 is playing a straight bat on this and doesn’t envisage any negative outcome. Certainly the firm has a decent history (from what we understand) with its franchise plans, and in my time at Mobile News I have heard of little negativity towards its existing 120 partners.