Interview - Richard Blunden, franchise director, Monkey Puzzle
Monday, August 5, 2019
Mr Blunden has taken on the role to drive expansion at the largest nursery franchise group in the UK, which now has more than 60 settings
YOU'VE JUST MOVED INTO A JOB IN THE NURSERY SECTOR. WHAT'S YOUR BACKGROUND?
Prior to joining Monkey Puzzle, I represented some of the largest motor manufacturers across finance, business management and franchising. I spent the last seven years working for Volkswagen Group, in both the UK and Republic of Ireland – so this is a real change!
I’ve not looked back since I joined and I’m thoroughly enjoying working with a loyal, dedicated and dynamic team.
WHAT INTERESTS YOU ABOUT WORKING IN THE EARLY YEARS?
Having worked predominantly in corporate environments, I wanted a new challenge in a sector that really makes a difference. The opportunity to take my knowledge and experience and apply it to something I feel passionate about was a decisive factor. Nurseries and childcare are vital to the growth of our society, and parents want to leave their prized possessions in a safe and inspiring environment where they can flourish.
When I first met Monkey Puzzle’s founders, Mark and Rebecca Crosby, it was clear this was the ethos they inspire across all franchisees. Their business is going from strength to strength, focusing on excellence – and I want to bring my experience to help them on their journey. It felt like a natural choice.
WHAT WILL YOUR NEW ROLE INVOLVE?
I am primarily responsible for leading the group’s head office teams, including business development, marketing, HR, operations, finance and training.
I also work with external suppliers to drive operational excellence, both internally and through our network of 60-plus franchisees. Our focus is on working in partnership with our network, supporting them with the delivery of outstanding nurseries.
My focus is to ensure that our strategic vision ties up with what we are delivering on the ground. A significant part of this is in training and development, where we have built five key pillars in order to provide the best training for our partners and their teams.
For example, we are introducing a full suite of funded early years/childcare qualifications from Level 2 to 5, providing opportunity to further their development and progress in their career.
HOW DOES THE FRANCHISE MODEL DIFFER FROM THE TRADITIONAL NURSERY GROUP? WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
We are the first and largest franchised nursery care business in the UK, and the franchise model gives parents the comfort that nurseries are run by individual business owners who are personally invested, while sharing in the vision and values of the overall Monkey Puzzle brand.
We provide a consistent approach with a professional support function dedicated to the franchised network. We are able to leverage our scale and proposition to deliver value that is relevant to each and every nursery.