Advice From the Experts: Ian Christelow, Co-Founder of ActionCOACH UK

ActionCOACH is the World's Number 1 Business Coaching Team and is the only franchise in the UK to be rated both 5-star for franchisee satisfaction and in the Elite Franchise UK Top 10 every year since the accolades began.


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In this edition of Advice From the Experts, Ian Christelow, co-founder of ActionCOACH UK, discusses his role within the business, ActionCOACH’s franchise model and ideal franchisees, and changes within the business coaching sector.

Since Brad Sugars founded the business coaching profession 23 years ago when he saw a gap in the market, ActionCOACH has quickly grown into the world’s number one business services franchise. Franchisees of ActionCOACH offer business coaching to help people turn their passions into profitable, stable businesses. The business has since grown to include over 1,000 offices in 60 countries.

Ian Christelow and Brad Sugars co-founded ActionCOACH UK, which includes 150 of those offices. Here he discusses his role within the business, ActionCOACH’s franchise model, selection criteria to join and changes within the business coaching sector.

Ian Christelow, co-founder of ActionCOACH UK

Can you tell us about the history of ActionCOACH?

It all started in a photocopy shop in Brisbane… Back in 1993 a photocopier was an expensive piece of kit. Business owners would come in to Brad Sugars’ shop and they would ask him, ‘How come you’re 21, you’re driving a super car and you’re able to play golf whenever you want? What am I doing wrong?’ Brad identified a gap in the market for business owners that couldn’t afford the likes of PricewaterhouseCoopers, but they could afford less than the cost of a receptionist to help them turn their business into a commercial profitable enterprise that could work without them.

Describe your own role within the business.

Myself and my partner Julie Wagstaff run the support team for ActionCOACH franchise owners in the UK. Our role is to find the right people for the team and the franchise and to ensure they receive the best support.

Why was franchising the right choice for ActionCOACH?

It’s a business that is heavily reliant on support and it has enabled ActionCOACH to expand into 60 countries, one country at a time. Franchising the company has also provided its franchise owners with the best local and global support possible.

How has the business coaching sector changed in the UK?

Lots… When I started with ActionCOACH back in 2001, nobody knew what a business coach was. So, all our marketing in the early years was around the differences between a business coach and a business consultant. In the noughties, we regularly ran into business owners who saw it as a sign of weakness if they needed a business coach. However, I think the likes of Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, declaring on YouTube that nobody could achieve their full potential without a coach has turned the tide in favour of embracing the business and executive coaching professions.

There are now thousands of people in the UK who call themselves a business coach but, of course, there is a big difference between a one-man band who only brings to the table their own skills, knowledge and experience and one who has access to over a thousand of the greatest commercial minds in the world, twenty-three years of accumulated know-how through working with over ten thousand clients and is able to guarantee results.

What makes your business model successful for franchise owners?

  • ActionCOACH franchisees with awards

    Most franchise models spend 12 months in the pilot phase; Brad Sugars invested four and a half years in the pilot phase getting the business model to work fantastically well not just for himself, but also for people like Steve Leach, who he plucked from the Australian military and had never worked in an office or owned his own business before.

  • The culture of everyone involved in ActionCOACH is brilliant. Teamwork and continually looking to improve are two of our 14 points of culture.
  • It is intellectual property, therefore the margins are very high and because we are the number one brand in the sector, we are able to charge premium rates because we get outstanding results. We are also able to guarantee our clients that their gross profits will go up by more than what they pay for the service.
  • It only takes 10 days before a franchise owner can command £373.75 an hour.
  • We make 70 days a year of ongoing personal development opportunities available to our franchise owners.
  • They benefit from a global support team of 16 team members and a UK support team of 64 team members.
  • You only need to get a handful of clients to have a profitable business.
  • It’s likely that our exclusive lead and client generation centre in Sheffield and global strategic alliance with a UK-based digital marketing company will be able to find new franchise owners some of those clients for them.
  • It is a franchise that teaches business owners how to succeed and the same principles can be applied to a franchise owner’s business, including one-to-one access to a world class business coach and access to group coaching sessions.

What are the traits of a successful ActionCOACH franchise owners?

  • ActionCOACH franchisees

    They love helping people succeed

  • Passionate about life-long learning
  • Competitive
  • Team players
  • Great listeners and able to get their point across in an engaging way
  • Genuine interest in the business of business
  • Previous track record of success in their career or sport

What are the secrets to the brand’s franchising success in the UK market?

There are one million companies in the UK and every company owner would benefit from working with an ActionCOACH business growth specialist. There just isn’t another business service out there which guarantees a return on investment.

What are ActionCOACH’s ultimate goals in terms of expansion?

The ultimate goal is to become a household brand and the go-to place to grow your business successfully.

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