Mail Boxes Etc. UK & Ireland's blog

Building a successful business with Mail Boxes Etc.

Peter Lyons, Franchisee of the Year 2018, celebrates 23 years with Mail Boxes Etc.

When Peter Lyons was named as Franchisee of the Year 2018 at Mail Boxes Etc. UK & Ireland’s conference this September, he was delighted.  “I really wasn’t expecting anything,” he says, “but when I heard my name I was absolutely thrilled.  It came as such a surprise after 23 years.”


Peter is managing director of Lyons Business Services, which owns five Mail Boxes Etc. stores in central and west London.  He opened his first store, in Marylebone High Street, in 1996.  Having followed in his family’s tradition by taking a commission in the Army, he concluded it was not for him: “After three years and a couple of near-death experiences, I decided I’d come out and actually earn some money.”

He quickly found that selling was his forte, joining Rank Xerox to sell capital equipment and moving on to senior positions at Xerox, Canon and Panasonic. But somehow he didn’t feel he had fulfilled his potential: “I realised what I needed was to be in charge of my own destiny and work for myself.”

Expanding the business

After about three years of seriously hard work in the Marylebone store, an opportunity came up to expand and purchase an already-operating store in Paddington, after Simon Cowie, now chairman of Mail Boxes Etc. UK & Ireland, decided to take on the entire MBE(UK) franchise, having run his own store in Paddington.  

Success bred success, and Peter and his wife continued to grow their business, taking on stores in Notting Hill Gate, Kensington High Street and Chiswick.  They are now considering further expansion.

Empowering staff

Peter currently has a team of 23 staff, including five store managers, an area manager and a sales director.  His recipe for keeping his employees happy is a mix of incentives and rewards.  “We were one of the first to give extra commission to staff on every sale they make, in each of our profit centres.  We also have a loyalty scheme for long service, and a Christmas bonus,” he explains.

A further incentive scheme for store managers encouraged them to qualify for a long weekend in Miami at Peter’s expense, staying at a five-star hotel.  “They had a great time and came back really well rested.  We’re going to run a similar scheme to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the group in two years.”  There are also regular team social events, including Christmas parties and a summer garden party at Peter’s house in Windsor.

The retail sector traditionally has high staff turnover but, says Peter: “People don’t want to leave when they start working with us. I think the reason is that they can see a career path.  We are lucky to have five stores, so they can become a manager of one of our profit centres – say document services – or a store manager.  If people become store managers I will teach them how to run a business and they’ll be in charge of the store’s profitability.  They might even become a director one day.”  Peter’s happy team is undoubtedly a factor in his success as Franchisee of the Year.


Prime location

Peter acknowledges the part played in his group’s achievements by the MBE franchise itself.  “We follow the franchise’s model pretty well, with five profit centres – shipping, mailbox rental, document services, post and stationery, and I think this is the secret to the success of an MBE franchise.  I’ve gone through two recessions with this business, and the beauty of this franchise is that if one area is affected we can fall back on the others.  Sure, our shipping business might be hit by Brexit, but we have other revenue streams.”

The biggest change he has seen in the past 23 years has been the trend towards online services and e-commerce.  “Head office has reassured us that by keeping up to date and continually evolving the business, for example by competing harder with high street parcel drop-off services, we can keep up with e-commerce.”

Another way that franchisees can diversify is to look for niche markets they can serve within their demographic – for example, some stores do very well supporting the antiques and auction house market with specialist shipping services.  Peter took advantage of his stores’ locations in some of London’s best districts to deepen his relationship with the major hotels by joining the Society of the Golden Keys as an associate member.

Hard work pays off

Peter’s advice for budding entrepreneurs looking to take up a franchise with MBE is to think carefully about the commitment involved. “Realise that if you are determined to buckle down for the first few years, you can make a good living,” he says. “It can be tough at the beginning, but it’s worth investing your time.  I think that, working as hard as we have, my wife and I can be proud of what we’ve achieved.”  

Thanks to that hard work, Peter has been able to indulge his hobby of racing and collecting classic cars.  He owns a Ferrari and a vintage Jaguar, among others, and has just bought a new Tesla Model X as a company car.  “I would highly recommend it – it’s efficient to run and there’s more room in it than a Range Rover.  I’d say it’s the perfect company vehicle… and it goes faster than my Ferrari too!”


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