- Player: Frik van Niekerk
- Franchise: Minuteman Press
- Established: 1973 (US); 1996 (SA)
- Visit: minutemanpress.co.za
- Constant innovation: Minuteman Press head office in the US has a dedicated R&D department researching the latest developments in the print industry to help make the best equipment recommendations for its franchisees.
In the beginning
The company was founded in the US in 1973 and grew to five locations. It was then converted to a franchise model in 1975. Five existing company-owned stores were then converted to franchisee-owned stores, and all outlets since have been owned by franchisees.
From the US, Minuteman Press expanded to Canada and England, and in 1996 the first store opened in South Africa. In the time since, it’s grown to around 50 outlets in South Africa and has continued its international expansion to Australia, Ireland and Scotland.
Each territory has a regional office that answers to the US head office, rather than master franchisors.
“My role as regional VP is to expand our South African footprint, and offer support to existing franchisees with my support team, who are highly experienced in the print industry and travel between franchisees,” says Frik van Niekerk.
Related: In A Minute With Minuteman Press
The franchise model
“Our fees structure differs from other franchises. Royalties and marketing fees are an area where franchisees can get unhappy, no matter the brand or industry. There will always be complaints that the percentage paid to the franchisor for marketing is not being spent adequately or doesn’t work for the franchisees. Minuteman Press mitigates this by having no marketing fee,” says Van Niekerk.
Franchisees are provided with guidelines for marketing campaigns and are free to market their businesses as they see fit. Proprietary Minuteman Press software helps franchisees monitor their campaigns to assess viability and gauge the ROI.
“Minuteman Press creates a partnership which supports franchisees as they grow their own businesses. This means that we don’t force preferred suppliers on them — we rather provide a list of preferred suppliers, but if you find your own you’re free to use them. We don’t force store outfitting and revamps like the retail and fast food sectors are known to — franchisees are required to retain the Minuteman Press branding and logo, but stores can reflect their own tastes and personality,” says Van Niekerk.
Because its philosophy is one of partnership, and because it’s the new and inexperienced franchisees that require the most support, royalties are capped. Franchisees pay a 6% royalty that caps at a turnover of R200 000 per month.
Support for franchisees
“We’ve developed proprietary software that’s been improved and modernised to become the most comprehensive print software in the world — it does everything from estimates, to job comps, invoices, statements, production management, marketing scheduling, financial reporting, and everything else that goes into running a Minuteman Press shop. This means no industry experience is required of our franchisees — in fact, 98% of our franchisees come from other industries — because they’re given the training, support and tools for success,” says Van Niekerk.
Minuteman encourages entrepreneurial flair that’s balanced with ability to follow systems and guidelines, since franchisees must be owner-operators. With the right attitude, proper self-motivation and discipline, Minuteman Press franchisees can be successful business owners.
To this end, the organisation selects franchisees on attitude and how well they get along with the regional office staff.
“When expanding, we ensure every franchisee’s prospective area is properly assessed to ensure it has the right density and mix of small to medium businesses as they make up the core of a franchisee’s business,” says Van Niekerk. “If an area has reached saturation, we focus on keeping existing franchisees’ radiuses exclusive and profitable, while tapping new markets for new franchisees.”
For new franchisees, Minuteman Press assists with area studies, location assessments, and lease negotiations. When it comes to franchisee support, staff are 100% flexible and mobile.
“If there’s a problem, a franchisee calls us up, and if it can’t be resolved on the phone we will physically drive to their store and provide support. Where franchisees are so busy and successful without requiring support, like our top ten performers, we will have scheduled, periodic meetings so as not to cause disruption,” says Van Niekerk.
Related: Xpress Operation On A Roll
“Last year, one of our franchisees turned over close to R17 million, and it came from a good mix of B2B relationships with small to medium-sized business, networking, direct and indirect marketing, extensive SEO generated business, website leads, word-of-mouth referrals by existing clients, and, of course, walk-ins,” says Van Niekerk.
Minuteman Press is a quality-driven business and part of the area assessment is doing a pricing survey of competitors to ensure that the brand is in the middle to upper third. For Minuteman, being quality driven doesn’t stop at quality output, but is also about excellent customer service.
“Our ultimate goal is not for clients to think ‘I need printing… Minuteman Press’. Then they’re only half way there,” says Van Niekerk. “We want clients to think, ‘I need printing… Frik’s outlet.’ And if a franchisee doesn’t have the services to complete a job, they need the ‘can do’ attitude and access to reliable vendors that can aid them in being a one-stop-shop for all printing projects.”
Future of the brand
One would think that digital innovations are threatening the print industry, yet every year paper consumption of the previous year is exceeded as early as August or September. We are clearly nowhere near becoming a paperless society.
“What has changed, however, is the printing behaviour of businesses: It’s very much print-on-demand in much smaller, more frequent and more customised batches — and at much shorter notice,” says Van Niekerk. “Print jobs arrive on USB sticks or Dropbox, and technology and equipment are becoming better, cheaper and more efficient, but there is always a place for printing.”
Minuteman Press’s head office in the US has a dedicated R&D department that monitors industry trends and tech advancements, analyses equipment investments in terms of quality output, maintenance costs and manufacturer support and then makes recommendations to its regional offices.
“Regional offices conduct feasibility studies with their franchisees to determine the best equipment purchases or rentals to help their stores become the most efficient, profitable, and best in class,” says Van Niekerk.