Harry Welby-Cooke, leading business coach, master licensee for ActionCOACH South Africa and President of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa, offers key business advice.
What would you say a major challenge is for those who have always been in the corporate world when they suddenly become their own boss?
Generally speaking most people leaving corporate and purchasing a franchise have left a reasonably senior position. They are accustomed to managing teams of people, have worked hard and are now ‘tired’.
However, when buying or starting a business, whether a franchise or not, they almost have to start again.
There is no established well-oiled team to manage and drive results. The efforts and performance of the owner now have a direct impact on the results and more often than not, long hard hours are required.
When a person has been used to delegating tasks, it is often daunting to have to relearn a number of old skills while taking on the steep learning curve of new skills. Business ownership has almost a fantasy about it and new business owners come to the quick realisation that they were not prepared for their new venture and the fantasy is quickly broken.
What skills/knowledge do you think a first time business owner needs?
An inquisitive mind is essential. Revert to the days of being a child where you ask ‘why’ about everything. This will ensure that you open yourself up to learn the lessons you need to learn quickly and that you’re continually sharpening the saw.
An inquisitive mind will save you a lot of time and money. The roller coaster of business requires you to be able to bounce back fast and develop the ability to take things in your stride. Once you become comfortable with the ups and downs and see them as part of the course of business, rather than life threatening events, you become a more accomplished business person.
How can a potential franchisee determine whether or not the business will be worth their while financially?
First, assess the new business and make sure it’s in line with your personal goals. The bulk of our time is taken up at work so it might as well allow us the benefit of providing for us personally. Regardless of whether you have a job or choose to go into business for yourself, these are merely vehicles to allow you to achieve your life’s goals.
If the franchise business doesn’t or can’t match your personal goals then stay away. A good example of this would be a retiring, overworked and tired executive who wants to spend time with their grandchildren. But instead they buy into an 18 hour, 24 day retail business. It is flawed to start off with. Make sure the business you choose is aligned to your personal goals and has the potential to be the vehicle to achieve them.
The next step is to decide what your financial expectations are. Many new business owners take the wait and see approach where they will sacrifice personal income in the beginning and hope that it will improve later. This is very noble indeed and not necessarily incorrect to sacrifice upfront.
However, there needs to be a financial target that you’re aiming for. This target should also include a remuneration amount for the actual time and work you’ll be putting in (ie your salary) as well as a reasonable return on investment for the business based on your contribution and risk. You could take your savings and put it into other investments. So if you decide to invest in a business it needs to provide a financial return to you, in addition to your salary.
If a franchise is not achieving the results a franchisee had hoped for, what can they do to improve business?
In these situations there are three very important things to do: Talk, listen and review.
If you’re having difficulties, speak up. Speak up to the franchisor, your fellow franchisees and then seek any outside assistance you may need. Too often we struggle on our own and protect our egos instead of asking for help. Franchises are built for this so make sure you speak up. The franchisor and fellow franchisees all have a vested interest in your success, whether directly or indirectly.
The next step of listening is the most important. Often when we do eventually ask for help we don’t listen to the response. You’re not expected to know everything, no-one does and any assistance may be valuable. Listen to the input you’re receiving and see where this may be able to assist you in correcting what’s wrong and strengthening what’s right. Make sure you focus on both – improving the weaknesses and maximising the strengths.
Lastly, review everything.
Start by working through the operations manual of the franchise and then move onto all areas of the business. There are always areas that we neglect and don’t notice and small tweaks here are often all that is required to make a big impact.
How important is it for the franchise owner to be able to manage other people?
Managing people often starts with managing oneself. Herein lies the root of a number of problems. Often business owners fall into the trap of either not leading by example or not holding staff accountable because they themselves aren’t accountable to a higher level of commitment.
Staff will require management as well as leadership and this cannot be avoided. If you yourself are not the best manager or leader you will need to hone these skills. You can also buffer your inexperience or inabilities by hiring someone who is a natural manager, and delegating the management and leadership, together with sound reporting systems. The reality is, however, that you would still need to manage and lead the senior staff you’ve hired in these roles so it never escapes you.
How much of the franchise owner’s time should be dedicated to working ‘on the business’ as opposed to ‘in the business’?
In the beginning almost everything seems new and therefore it’s quite easy to get overwhelmed and default to 110% ‘in’ the business. However, one should aim for a minimum of 20% (or one day of a five day working week) to work ‘on’ the business. This could be split over the course of the week and will allow you to set a foundation of quality time leading and managing the business. In the medium term the target should be a 50/50 split between direct involvement and taking the business forward to ultimately reaching a point of 80% of one’s time being used working ‘on’ the business.
What are some of the ways franchise owners can overcome the challenge of rising costs and business expenses to remain profitable?
Play the game. Business is a game and although it is a relatively simple one it is not always easy. The rules change and there are a number of factors that influence your performance and success. Part of playing the game is first understanding it and then testing where the limits may be. Always keep a close eye on the financial numbers and review these constantly. Renegotiate consistently with suppliers to ensure you’re getting the best deal and shop around. I don’t recommend jumping around from supplier to supplier but keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the market.
Don’t hire more people to fix performance issues. Rather focus on ensuring performance first from those you have. More staff come with more management, more time and more money requirements and the problem normally lies with the effectiveness and quality of staff and not the quantity. Benchmark your numbers with other franchisees in your franchise as well as industry norms to assess where you may be overspending or where better and more effective ways of doings things already exist.
Business is not about reinventing the wheel. The principles are the same and the more you keep focused on the basics, the better. You never graduate in business beyond the need for a focus on the basics.
What are some of the most important considerations that should get the business owner’s attention on a daily basis?
Testing and measuring as much as possible. Business owners often lack the decisiveness to make informed and quick decisions mostly due to the lack of accurate information about the current state of their business. Reviewing numbers and statistics across all aspects of the business on a regular basis is imperative to its success. The more you know about your business, your clients, your staff, your suppliers, your marketing, your finances etc, the better and faster decisions you can make to take your business forward.
6 Questions Before You Discount
Try this checklist so that discounting doesn’t give you nightmares.
For some retailers, discounting is a way of life. Most, though, begrudge the thought of discounting – and I completely identify with that.
It was not until last year that we ran our first company-wide discounting, our “Spring Clean” campaign. It took Trevor Locker, our Chief Operating Officer, to convince me that there are times when discounting makes great business sense – just as there are times when it could spell business disaster.
Here is the checklist of questions which we hammered out as a guideline to successful discounting that will let you sleep peacefully at night:
1. Is this a stock clearance?
Some businesses stock ranges that have a very short shelf life, such as clothing that quickly goes out of fashion. If this is your market, you need to learn to accept that some of the goods you have bought in will be less appealing than others to your customers. The sooner you shift them out of the store through sale discounts, the sooner you can replace them with goods that repay you with a full profit.
2. Is this a cashflow crunch?
If you are reluctant about devising quick discounts on selected ranges to generate enough cash to pay the rent, you are right. This is a red flag that your business could be in trouble. Pay attention and spend time focusing on how you will recover once you are past this immediate crisis – otherwise you are in a downward spiral.
3. What are you celebrating?
Maybe you have a business or seasonal anniversary that you want to celebrate. Selected discounting in this situation can help you reward repeat customers and consolidate their loyalty as well as attracting new customers into your business.
4. Is your promotion a win-win?
Long-term repeat discount promotions can have a negative impact on even your most loyal customers. Effectively you are training them to wait for your discounts – unless you set up a win-win strategy such as partial discounting. A great example of how this can work is Steers’ Wacky Wednesday. Customers win when they come into the branches for a discounted hamburger. Steers wins because customers still pay the normal price for cool drinks, chips and so on, sales that the company probably would not otherwise make on a quiet midweek trading day.
5. Are you joining the herd?
Black Friday is a classic example of this. Some retailers have felt stampeded into offering discounts because they worry that everybody else is. The jury is still out on whether this new trading phenomenon increases sales overall or just moves them out of December and into November. To benefit most, you need to have stock that you want to clear or loss leaders that you have bought in at prices that do not cripple you financially.
6. Do you own your own sale?
Our company-wide “Spring Clean” concept sale was a great example of finding a reason to discount that worked for our branches, our customers and our brand and meant that our discount was not drowned out in the marketplace.
We encouraged customers to bring us unwanted goods from their homes and benefit from freeing up the cash value.
At the same time, we also attracted customers into the stores to pick up bargains from stock that we wanted to clear. Running this promotion at a time of year when many other retailers are quiet promotionally meant that we owned the spring-clean discount concept and it highlighted our brand across the market.
What To Know About Franchising Your Business
For many businesses, franchising is an excellent route to growth, opening up new opportunities and markets. Laurette Pienaar, National Franchise Manager at Nedbank, unpacks why it’s worth considering this route.
- Player: Laurette Pienaar
- Position: National Franchise Manager
- Company: Nedbank Limited
- Visit: nedbank.co.za
What type of business is ideally suited to the franchise model?
Franchising has been proven successful across all industries, including the automotive, food, entertainment and retail industries. However, several key qualities ultimately determine a concept’s ability to successfully become a franchise.
Firstly, the business model must be scalable and able to be repeated in several locations. Secondly, there must be demand for the products sold and, thirdly, the franchise model must be proven as profitable.
Why is franchising a good growth option?
Franchising is often used as a cost-effective growth strategy for businesses. A key benefit of this strategy is that no capital layout is required for a new franchised store as opposed to corporate-owned stores.
Franchised stores are also proven to be more successful than corporate-owned stores. This is mainly due to the fact that the franchise owners have a vested interest in the store, whereas corporate stores are supervised by a manager. Franchising is therefore also a great way to build your brand.
What should business owners focus on?
Franchisors should set up good infrastructure to support their franchisees, including good upfront and ongoing training to both the franchisees and their staff, the correct legal advice and assistance, and a strong operational team to assist franchisees daily.
Many successful franchisors provide support by expanding through vertical integration, which provides franchisees with logistics, supply chain security and product consistency.
Several franchisors advocate a structure with both franchisee and corporate-owned stores. This enables a franchisor to keep in touch with the daily challenges franchisees experience and new products and solutions can be tested at a corporate store before being rolled out to the franchise network.
How can franchising consultants assist business owners?
Franchise consultants provide daily operational support to franchisees. They are responsible for daily store visits to assist with quality checks, process flows, supplier relationships and, often, financial assessments. They are a helpful soundboard on any improvements to be made in the business model and can convey suggestions to the franchisor.
What challenges should business owners be aware of?
Businesses looking to franchise need to ensure that their business is teachable to others. Overcomplicated products and systems may deter franchisees from investing in your brand.
Franchisors have to do ongoing introspection regarding their company culture. For example, does the culture promote innovation and inspire franchisees and consumers, which ultimately is a culture worth investing in?
New franchisors’ selection criteria for franchisees are often not sufficiently thorough and comprehensive. For a new franchisor, it is important to choose good quality franchisees and to have strict selection criteria to ensure that your brand remains reputable and stable during fast-expanding cycles.
What lessons can be learnt from SA’s successful franchises?
Businesses looking to expand through franchising should consider setting up several corporate-owned stores first. This assures potential investors that your business is based on a proven model with a track record and supportive infrastructure.
There is not always a one-size-fits-all model. Many franchisors have created custom models to accommodate and adjust to the need of a specific property or consumer market. A great example of this would be the food industry where many franchisors offer shopping centre concepts, drive thrus and kiosk or express concepts. Consider this when developing your model.
Develop Digital Marketing Competency In 3 Simple Steps
Conquering the digital revolution needn’t be daunting. Polish up your tech skills and watch your digital marketing prowess increase throughout your franchise.
As a franchisor, digital marketing may be proving to be a challenge due to the unique structuring of the business.
“The very nature of franchises is ‘structured’, however, when it comes to marketing, that structure often lacks,” says Marcela De Vivo, Founder and CEO of Gryffin Media.
Franchisors and franchisees often struggle to reach common ground when looking to achieve different marketing goals. While the franchisor needs to control the brand in its entirety, the franchisee wants to market their business using particular strategies suited to their location.
Research has found that smartphones are the biggest influencers of 82% of users when they make their in-store purchase decisions while. It’s for this reason that the importance of digital marketing for franchises has increased.
Here’s how to harness its power of influence, amplify foot traffic and solidify brand loyalty:
1. Recruit digital natives and early adopters
As much as you’re the leader of your franchise network, there are franchisees in your chain you could learn from. The global increase in millennial franchise owners means it is highly likely that you’ll be able to identify early digital adopters within your franchise network.
“The best people to learn from are those who have been in your shoes before,” says Matt Forman of the Franchise Centre at Griffith University.
“Encourage and support their efforts and use them as case studies to demonstrate to the rest of your franchisees the value of digital marketing, and how to do it right.”
2. Invest in training your team
“Each digital competency level requires more education and resources in order to integrate digital marketing with your physical stores,” says Forman. For this reason, regularly investing in continuous training for your team so as to ensure they keep abreast of any new and emerging trends.
Proactivity and adapting to the constantly evolving digital landscape led KFC to open a LinkedIn account for its founder and mascot Colonel Sanders. KFC’s out of the box tactic is a fresh approach to what has long been considered a B2B platform, under-utilised as a B2C platform.
3. Apply custom targeting techniques
The discovery of new and small businesses is being fuelled by Google searches, social media and online reviews, making these platforms a goldmine of invaluable tools.
Leveraging certain custom targeting techniques like easily searchable keywords and exposure on other reputable and high-traffic websites, gives your franchise’s digital marketing efforts a boost. This results in an effective campaign, favourable reviews and meaningful and lasting interactions with consumers “whether it’s a reply to a Facebook comment or a retweet,” says Entrepreneur’s Emily Conklin.
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