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Shweta Jhajharia has built her ActionCOACH business coaching franchise over the last four years and out of 1,000 coaches is in the top five in the world with the next female coach ranked at number 39. Her business nous, combined with her desire to give back to the community, is behind her nomination for Female Franchisee of the Year at this year’s bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards
Shweta Jhajharia has built her ActionCOACH business coaching franchise over the last four years and out of 1,000 coaches is in the top five in the world with the next female coach ranked at number 39. She is the only female franchisee in the top 100 in the UK and is the first business coach in Europe to be awarded the ActionCOACH Emerald Level Certificate awarded for consistent revenue performance.
Her business nous, combined with her desire to give back to the community, is behind her nomination for Female Franchisee of the Year at this year’s bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards, which will be awarded on 3rd October. However, despite her achievements she says the most important awards for her are those her son brings home from school and, after a tough few years setting up the business, she has engineered her working life to ensure that she has enough quality time to be with him. In fact her son was a big part of the reason she took up the franchise in the first place.
Before she turned to franchising, Shweta had been working for Unilever for seven years, mainly in India, and had risen to the role of global marketing knowledge manager, but her family moved to London with her husband's job in early 2008 and she requested a transfer. By that time her son was 18 months old and she was looking to do something different.
She had done an MBA in business strategy and was keen to do something on the more strategic side of business. She sent her cv out as she was looking for consultancy roles and ActionCOACH spotted it and asked if she might be interested in joining. She had been looking for different corporate roles and was reluctant to run her own business. However, she looked into the franchise and liked the fact that it was a tried and tested model. She was also drawn to it as it meant she would be able to work more flexible hours and not have to travel for work, leaving her with more time for her son.
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She did some in-depth research on the business, talking to franchisees and the franchisor plus the clients who had worked with them. “I needed to find out if it was a viable model for me and what the risk was,” she says. “I had worked in a company for many years and was making reasonable money.” She knew that many small businesses failed and that the main reason was lack of financial understanding so she was determined to get her business plan right. She decided on how much she needed to be making after six months and that if she did not meet that base projection she would bail out.
She registered her franchise [which covers the M25 area] just a few weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers as the global economy entered freefall. By the end of 2008 Shweta had gone for training and by January 2009 she was focusing on the business full time.
She had to work extremely hard to get it up and running and by the fifth month she had set up her own office near where her son would go to school. By the sixth month she was the UK’s number one ActionCOACH business coach in terms of business revenue. Two months later she was the top AC coach in Europe. “I was getting results,” she says.
However, in 2010 she went through a period of questioning what she was doing. Her son was starting school and she felt the need to spend more time with him, not just physically but mentally. “If you are there but your mind is occupied with something else you are not really there with them,” she says. “I was with my son, but I knew I was pushing my own agenda.”
After a lot of introspection she decided that she was going to set hard and fast rules to ensure she could spend quality time with him so he wouldn’t be an excuse for her business failing. Her son said he wanted Shweta to pick him up at 5.15pm and not talk about work until he went to bed. “He coached me,” says Shweta. The family has since implemented this rule, even though the temptation to talk work now that her husband has joined her in the business is fairly strong. “In life everything can be managed with a bit of discipline,” says Shweta, adding that she also makes a point of reserving Friday evenings to do something fun with her son. After 10 years of marriage, she has also set up regular date nights and she has a one to one with her son every fortnight. “If something is important it has to fit into the diary of it doesn’t get done,” she says.
Shweta now has coached more than 300 clients across all sectors, but her passion for the business is clear and her ambitions are for much bigger growth since her husband came on board after leaving his senior job at Morgan Stanley. She is training three business coaches and hopes to be able to significantly increase the number of businesses she works with and delegate more. She says hiring the right people is key to her business’ success. When her husband started working with her she could see him through a glass partition in the office. Now the office occupies three rooms and he is the room next to her. “He was involved from the beginning and could see the potential,” she says. “When it became clear I was the bottleneck he came on board and it’s a pleasure to have him here.”
Shweta also finds time to get involved in community projects and supports several education-based charities in India which work with low income and deprived children. Over the last year, she has raised over £10,000 in support of these charities and she is also looking to set up a school for underprivileged children in India, largely funded through the profits from her business.
In addition she sets aside at least eight hours a month where she provides free coaching to “make a difference” to people who cannot afford coaching. She has also been providing subsidised business coaching for childcare settings in eight London boroughs. “I want to help the women running these businesses provide better childcare,” she says. “As a mum I am happy to work and I know how important good childcare is. I want to help women to have access to better quality childcare.”