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Franchisee Advice

Be On Good Terms with Your Franchisor

Here’s what you, as franchisee, should expect from your relationship with the franchisor.

Mark Siebert

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It’s not a marriage

  • What is the main challenge facing any new franchisee?
  • Is it the rental of a business space?
  • Is it managing the daily running costs?
  • Is it finding the right staff members?
  • Or perhaps the difficulty of dealing with established competitors?

No, it’s none of these. Sure, these are all important issues that need to be addressed, but there is an even bigger challenge: Managing the relationship with one’s franchisor, according to the 2014 Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) Franchisee Survey.

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Of all the franchisees questioned during the survey, 28% cited the relationship with the franchisor as being the main challenge.

This makes it, by quite some margin, the biggest issue facing new franchisees (second place is a tie at 13% between managing staff and paying franchise fees).

The main problem is that franchisees (and even many franchisors) define the nature of the relationship incorrectly.

Far too often, it is described as a marriage, but it isn’t that at all. It is actually more of a parental relationship than anything else.

Why it’s not a marriage

We’ve often heard people compare the franchisor-franchisee relationship to that of a marriage.

They will talk about the ‘honeymoon’ period and how the franchisor and franchisee are in ‘partnership’ together for a common purpose. And while this analogy may have some merit, a marriage is exactly what the franchise relationship should not be.

When we think of marriage, we think of a joint-venture relationship. In a joint venture, there are partners. Because of the relatively equal footing of the ‘partners’, the typical joint venture starts out with a negotiation – and is often a series of ongoing negotiations.

Like a marriage, there are the ‘who does the dishes’ issues, and then there are the more serious issues, such as money. Because each joint venture is unique, every one of these issues is usually subject to negotiation.

Because a joint-venture partner is usually compensated based on how much money goes to the bottom line, one concern that most ‘marriages’ have is how the accounting gets done.

On a one-off basis, this is fairly easy to monitor. But on a massive scale, it is almost impossible. And when your joint venture spouse cheats on you, it can become a battle among equals in divorce court.

In fact, that is one of the big differences we find between franchising and joint ventures.

Unlike partnerships, franchising is much more like a parent-child relationship. The franchisee, like the child, will go through a variety of growth phases.

When children first come on the scene, they are very dependent on their parents, relying on them for the education and training that will allow them to survive in this world. And as they grow older, they become less dependent, and parents begin to allow them some latitude.

As they get older still, they will begin to test the boundaries of their relationship, pushing a little around the edges, trying to change or influence the system that parents have set for them, and perhaps breaking some of the rules.

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But the child is still a dependent. It is simply a question of how forcefully the parent chooses to put their foot down.

The good parent

business-contract

The franchisor needs to start by establishing the boundaries of the relationship. It is important for the franchisee to understand that the franchisor’s first role as ‘guardian’ is to guard the system and the brand so all franchisees can thrive.

Thus, one of the most important roles of the franchisor is that of disciplinarian. To do that, it needs to clearly communicate the rules and the intention to enforce them right from the start.

At the same time, it is important for the franchisor to understand that discipline can no longer be meted out exactly as it was before franchising took place. If franchisors try to give a franchisee the ‘it’s my way or the highway’ speech that worked so well before, they’ll quickly find themselves with alienated franchisees — the first step on the road to real trouble.

Franchisees are business owners, and as such, require franchisors to communicate with them in a professional manner. Being firm with franchisees, as opposed to managers, also means providing them with an explanation for various ‘requests’.

Most franchisees have a key desire for their opinions to be heard. A franchisor should thus avoid making decisions in a vacuum and providing direction to franchisees without a clear explanation of why the direction is being given.

Communication is key

The secret to a good relationship between franchisor and franchisee starts with communication. And that means more than the occasional newsletter and a visit from the field representative.

In today’s technology-centred society, it is all too tempting to rely on the Internet for all communication. But in a franchise context, that would be a big mistake. All too often, we have seen well-intentioned emails ignite a firestorm when they are misinterpreted.

Relationships are built through dialogue, so it’s important that dialogue be encouraged in every aspect of the relationship. Good franchisors are careful to create multiple venues where constructive dialogue can occur.

Annual conventions, regional meetings and advertising councils all provide opportunities for two-way communication.

The accessibility of senior staff is also vital. There are senior executives of some fast-growing franchisors who would not go home for the night until they had personally returned every franchisee’s call.

To be effective, the communication needs to be more than frequent. It needs to be honest. While there are some things franchisors may choose not to share with their franchisees, the key to a long-term sustained relationship is trust. And trust starts with openness and honesty. Get caught in a lie once, and you have destroyed that trust forever.

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Lastly, to be effective, franchisors have to genuinely care about the success of their franchisees. Good franchisee relationships start with a franchisor that is, first and foremost, committed to franchisee success.

That commitment, more than anything else, needs to permeate the franchisor organisation at every level.

If franchisees do not sense true commitment from franchisors, a relationship could quickly become adversarial. If, on the other hand, franchisees see franchisors breaking their backs to help them achieve their success, there is almost nothing they won’t do to assist.

As a franchise consultant since 1985, Mark Siebert founded the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting firm, in 1999. During his career, Mark has personally assisted more than 30 Fortune 1000 companies and over 200 startup franchisors. He regularly conducts workshops and seminars on franchising around the world. For more than a decade, Mark also has been actively involved in assisting U.S. franchisors in expanding abroad. In 2001, he co-founded Franchise Investors Inc., an investment firm specializing in franchise companies. He's on the board of directors of the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers and the board of advisors to Connections for Community Ownership, which encourages minority business and job development through franchising.

Franchisee Advice

6 Top Tips For Reading Management Accounts

There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.

Richard Mukheibir

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There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is not the brilliance of your business concept. It is not your talent for talking clients to sign on the dotted line. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.

Related: 6 Things You Need To Know About Profit And Cashflow

Many entrepreneurs are usually more interested in operations and find product development or sales much more enjoyable than catching up on accounts. I sympathise – I’m one of them! So if you feel the same way, my top tip is always to make sure that you partner with or employ someone who can oversee the finances for you.

But that does not mean you can let the figure boffins and the finances take care of themselves. To function properly in your business, you need to know the outcome of your sales and development strategies – and the story of that is told in your management accounts.

 If you never look at your management accounts, it is like blinding yourself in one eye. It means you risk being literally blindsided by a big surprise, whether it is heading for a significant loss or being confronted by an unexpected provisional tax payment.

Here is how Engela van Loggerenberg, our Group Financial Manager, puts management accounts in perspective for our new franchisees. She urges them to focus on six key areas:

  1. Priorities: Management accounts can help you pinpoint areas that you need to prioritise, whether to capitalise on growth or because they are not performing as well as you hoped.
  2. Strength: All businesses aim to grow their assets over time and the balance sheet in your management accounts will reflect whether and how you are achieving that.
  3. Control: A strong balance sheet is one that shows you have your business liabilities well controlled. The key marker here is your current liquidity ratio, which results from dividing your current assets by your current liabilities. To keep your business healthy, always aim to keep this ratio at least 2:1.
  4. Revenue: Ideally, you want to see your revenue grow month by month. Check your income statement both for the trend in actual revenue and also for actual against budgeted revenue to check how well your strategies are delivering results.
  5. Profitability: Of course, revenue is not the same as profitability. You need to know your gross profit – the basic figure of your sales less the cost of those goods – and net profit, which also deducts a range of other expenses including taxes. Track the percentage of these two profit figures as well as the actual cash amount they represent to keep a check on whether your costs are creeping up too high.
  6. Finance: Most businesses at some point want to finance their growth by borrowing from a bank. A set of well-regulated management accounts is a prerequisite to obtaining finance.

Your management accounts do not have to be particularly complicated to give you these vital pointers – and if you are figure-shy, the more straightforward the better.

The important thing, though, is that you do not allow yourself to be too scared to ask if there is something which is not clear to you. That is the way to keep control of this key to your business fortunes and to keep building your business from strength to strength.

Related: 7 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Managing Cash In The Business

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Company Posts

A Three-Pronged Approach To Franchise Success

Danie Nel, head of business development for Cash Crusaders franchising, says the brand’s success over the past 22 years 
is attributed to the sentiment that “a profitable franchisee 
is a happy franchisee.”

Nedbank Franchising

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What is your current footprint?

220 Stores. We’re looking to increase that number by another 20 stores for the 2018 financial year, which will then bring us to a total of 240 stores. Depending on the economy, we’re looking to grow our footprint even more to around 300 to 350 stores nationwide in the near future.

What are some of your brand’s biggest achievements that other franchises can learn from?

Our ability to read the retail market and innovate to stay ahead of times. We have recently launched an online platform where customers can sell their goods or borrow money — all online. This was a first for online retailing. One other achievement that I would wish to highlight is the launch of our mobile phone range, Doogee, exclusive to Cash Crusaders. Personally, having the honour of opening our 200th store was a tremendous achievement.

Franchisor involvement has also played a big role in the success of the organisation. Our CEO Sean Stegmann and other senior managers are as much involved in the business as any other operations manager or operator.

There is simply no ‘ivory tower’ management in our business and it makes a huge difference.

Related: How Sorbet Franchisee Kate Holahan Is Nailing Success By Following Her Dream

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome these?

Some of our daily challenges include securing a premises at a favourable rental and securing a franchisee with sufficient unencumbered capital, who is credit- worthy. Once the store is open, cash flow management and stock procurement is key.

In addition to this, it’s a challenge to achieve profitability immediately and to meet franchisee expectations. It’s also vital to ensure superb customer service and to retain those customers in the current retail and economic climate. I would say that our single biggest challenge is to retain and to build our customer base.

What attracts franchisees to Cash Crusaders?

Our unique retail model that allows for multiple streams of income through one business. These three profit centres include: New goods (variety of imported quality goods), second-hand goods (which we buy directly from the public, either through customers coming directly to our stores, or via our house-buy system offered by some of our stores) and secured lending (a financial service where customers can borrow money against valuables, determined at store level, and the loan is repaid within 30 days — or the contract is renewed for another 30 days with interest and service fees charged).

Why is it important for successful franchises such as yours to have a strong banking partner and how does it benefit both the franchisor and the franchisee?

Gone are the days where you just got a deposit book or cheque book and a little business loan from your bank. Banking has become more sophisticated and the technology that the bank offers is as important as its service, making life for both the franchisee and the franchisor easier on a day-to-day basis.

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Franchisee Advice

5 S-Words Make Your Store Site Pay For Itself

Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters recently addressed delegates at the FASA (Franchise Association of SA) conference on the topic of choosing the best location for their business. He spoke about the 5-S technique to assist business owners with deciding which premises is best suited for their business.

Richard Mukheibir

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The combination of continuing trading uncertainty in South Africa and the new financial year for many businesses can add up to carefully reviewing costs – including leases on premises. Choosing a site to set up or relocate your business can be just as stressful as deciding where to buy a house – and just as fundamental to its health, finances and sustainability, says Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters.

This is not the time to snap up the property with the cheapest rental as that might turn out to be something you regret in the long run. Nor is it the time to be dazzled by the swankiest premises you can find. The potential for bragging rights could turn out to be poor value for money.

“This is a time for your head to rule your heart regardless of the industry you trade in.” he says.

The real-estate mantra of “location, location, location” works just as effectively in commercial as it does in private property but you will often be looking for rather different factors. Mukheibir shares his 5-S technique to help you begin narrowing down the areas where you will consider locating your business – first at the macro level, focus in further to the meso level, then look more closely at the micro level before you start weighing up specific sites.

1. Strategy

Remind yourself of the medium and long-term strategies you have developed for your business. Keep your understanding of your business’s customers, purpose and growth prospects top of mind when you are selecting the areas where you will start looking for sites.

Related: Effective Ways To Bring Customers To Your Door

2. Scope

Within those areas, redline any sections where you feel the competition from other businesses will detract from your potential to grow your market. Greenline areas where there are good synergies between the people who live or work there and the demographic that you have identified as your target market.

3. Synergy

Make sure there is clearly a good pool of potential customers for you – size definitely matters when it comes to ensuring that there are plenty of customers available to you. Look specifically for facilities that cater for the kind of customers you want to attract. Sports stores benefit from being close to schools and tertiary colleges, for example.

4. Sight

Although many businesses now have an online element, most still benefit from attracting customers to walk through the door. For your premises to be a good fit for your business, you should be located in plain sight and ensure that your ability to market yourself locally through signage and lamp-post posters is not restricted by local bylaws.

Related: FASA Establishes Industry Specific Food Franchise Forum

5. Security

You will attract and retain good customers and staff if they feel they’re secure in the area. This perception includes factors such as easy, safe parking and a welcoming environment.

“Making a success of your business is not just about the product or your branding,” says Mukheibir. “It can be as fundamental as finding a site that ends up paying for itself. To do this, it must offer you a well-calculated gap in the market where the strong demand for the product or service that your business offers ensures sales and profit. If you have considered all these steps carefully, you will never worry about making rent and wages payment again.”

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