What is it and who is it suited to?
There are thousands across the country but brand new post offices are rarely opened, unless new communities are built up, as they do not go into competition with each other. It is more likely that existing ones will come onto the market.
Despite the lack of ‘new’ opportunities, it is one of the most popular avenues that potential businessmen and women explore. One in four people buying a business are looking into this sector.
What is it?
Despite the fact that most of us probably use one at least once a week, it may not always be clear what post offices actually do. A post office branch often forms part of a large shop or store, like newsagents or your typical village store.
The Post Office is a business that is changing. There has been a good deal of turmoil in the industry in the past few years over the actual role that post offices will fulfil.
The payment of state benefits, traditionally carried out by the Post Office was passed over to the Universal Bank, based in Post Offices, enabling all benefits will be paid directly into bank accounts. Horizon was introduced to computerise the Post Office’s system. And now in 2009 there is a plan to use remaining post office outlets as the backbone of a national bank. This is not a business to go into if you are not prepared for the possibility of change.
In total, the Post Office can offer hundreds of different services. These include mail and distribution services, banking, payment of benefits and other information.
Presently, there are two different types of business. The first type are branch offices – these are those you find on your high street, which are owned and run by Post Office Counters. Their number is also made up of branch offices that are franchised by Post Office Counters. This means that you, as franchisee, buy the Post Office ‘brand’, and the business is your responsibility, but you receive training and support from them. You will also follow their directives.
Then there are sub-post offices that are run by businessmen and women. Sub-post offices vary from those that are open five days a week and Saturday mornings, or those that only open for three hours a day, three days a week.
The sub-postmaster owns the license to his office. There are many thousands of postal assistants also employed across the country.
Who is it suited to?
We’re not talking catwalk perfection here but image and presentation are important. In many communities, the sub-postmaster is a hugely respected position. Your business needs to be attractive and welcoming.
As Derrick Evans, who is retiring sums it up: “A smile costs nothing.” One of Mr Evans’ sons, with whom he runs the business is noted for his humour, and is thought to be a real draw for the customers. You don’t have to have your customers rolling in the aisles, but people won’t return to a miserable establishment.
The days can also be very long and you will spend hours on your feet. Some days and periods will be particularly busy, for example Mondays and Thursdays when pensions tend to arrive, and the Christmas period is also another fraught time for postal workers.
In terms of age, you should be between 21 and 60 years old. That is not to say that as soon as you hit 60 your dream must evaporate, but your chances of selection will be less. Bankruptcy is also another area where prospective candidates may fall down. If you have a criminal record its probably also best that career-wise you look elsewhere.
As for qualifications, Derek Burgoyne, a partner in Bruce & Co, a business agents in Edinburgh, which deal with post office sales, argues that its more a case of possessing common sense. “You have to be numerate, but then you probably wouldn’t consider it if you weren’t. It’s really more to do with common sense. The Post Office gives you full training before you start as well.”
Working in a post office effectively requires a ‘selling’ role, and banks will often prefer you to have come from a service-driven business, as Phil Lett, mid-corporate manager at Barclays’ explains: “It shows us that you’ve already got what it takes.”
The Post Office offers comprehensive training and tuition. So, even if your computer skills are limited, you still don’t need to worry.
Derrick Evans has this advice: “As long as you have enthusiasm, initiative and patience, and let them know you’re there, then you can do it. You have control of the ball, and you can drive your post office forward.”