Rebecca Newenham founded Get Ahead in 2010 after recognising a gap in the market for business support services that offer the flexibility, value and performance that companies need to thrive in the fast-evolving digital world.
Get Ahead provides business and marketing support services for companies of all sizes and from all sectors, from sole traders to larger, more established businesses with remote teams. Their wide range of business services includes Virtual Assistants, Online Event Support, Social Media Management, Marketing Support and Business Support. With clients ranging from will writers to window cleaners, financial consultants to fashion designers, all of their clients are fast-moving businesses with clear growth plans. Located right across the UK and far away as Australia, their clients all recognise the value of outsourcing to enable them to get ahead, using flexible and expert business and marketing support as and when they need it.
After a corporate career in buying for retail giants such as Superdrug and Sainsburys, Rebecca was looking for a flexible work solution that could fit around her lifestyle and her three daughters – now 20, 18 and 16. Having grown up with a successfully self-employed mother, Rebecca knew it was possible to be able to work as well as be there for school drop off and pick-ups.
In 2022, Rebecca runs an established and growing international network of Get Ahead regional franchisees and a vibrant team of over 50 business support experts. Each specialist brings with them valuable business skills including PR & Marketing, Social Media, Business Development, Account Management, Design & Administration. Many of the team are mothers themselves and also benefit from the flexibility that working for Get Ahead delivers. One of the team members says, ‘I love working for Get Ahead. No two days are ever the same!’
The business has won a variety of awards, including the British Franchise Awards Franchise Balance Award 2021, Flexible Business of the Year in the Mum and Working Awards and has been crowned ‘SME News Best Virtual Admin Support Firm 2022’ for several years running. Rebecca herself won Southern England Business Woman of the Year in the National Business Women’s Awards 2021 and has been shortlisted in several other Woman Business Owner Awards.
Rebecca, what have been your highlights over the past 10 years of running your business?
Winning the highly prestigious bfa Franchise Balance award in 2021 was a hugely proud moment. It was particularly special as it came off the back of a highly challenging year for our franchisees. By setting up our onboarding programme, we wanted to give them a shoulder to lean on during difficult times, giving them an extra level of care and support. As a franchisor, we always strive to be the best in what we do, and I was incredibly proud of the whole Get Ahead team for a fantastic award win.
Every time we receive a positive testimonial from a client is also a massive highlight – knowing that we have made a real difference to their business. I am also lucky to have met so many great people and have such a talented team working for me as both team members and franchisees. I get to cherry-pick the very best experience for each aspect of our business and know that they will deliver exceptional value for our clients.
My mum was a great example, and I grew up knowing that I wanted one day to run my own business just like she did. Having looked at various business ideas and how the employment landscape was shaping up in 2010, I felt a virtual assistance business offered the best solution. I have always loved networking, which is such a big part of my role now.
What challenges have you had to face?
Like any business owner, there have been many obstacles to overcome. To begin with, outsourcing and virtual assistants were quite unknown, so face-to-face networking was really important to help people understand the expert, flexible and affordable business support we could deliver.
The first time a team member left to go and work for a client was hard to accept. But on reflection, I realised that it demonstrated what a good job we had done to help grow the client’s business to the point that they needed their own in-house support.
Knowing your numbers as a business owner is vital, but I struggled with an accountant who became slow and inefficient. I didn’t have clear enough visibility of my numbers, and she appeared uninterested in my plans for growing the business, so I knew it was time to move to another provider.
In 2016, I could see that franchising was a great next step for my business. But learning about franchising and pulling together the right franchise offering was a challenge. I was lucky to work with an excellent franchising consultant, and since welcoming our first franchisee in 2017, I know I made the right decision. I really enjoy mentoring our franchisees and helping them grow their own businesses. Having said that, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. One or two franchisees haven’t worked out. This has helped me understand that the franchise option isn’t for everyone and that I should trust my instincts about who will make the best fit.
What are your future plans for the business?
I am excited about continuing to grow our franchise network this year. Adding new franchisees, both domestically and internationally, will help grow the business further. In the UK I am focussing on Southampton, Birmingham and Bristol and would love to access Scotland. Internationally, I am targeting other Australian territories beyond our Sydney base. With continued economic uncertainty, we see more and more companies outsourcing to remain agile, leaving virtual businesses such as ourselves and our franchisees perfectly placed to assist.
What advice would you give to other people thinking about starting their own business?
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Do your research upfront and then just get on with it. If things don’t turn out quite as you thought the first time, don’t panic – just think about how you could do it differently. Keep evolving until you get it right.