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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
6 Things You Need To Know About Profit And Cashflow
Why your business needs both and how to check.
In the heat of the action as you build your business or launch a new line, it’s easy to hope some aspects will take care of themselves. It’s especially tempting to fall into that trap with your accounts if you don’t like dealing with figures.
Despite having a B. Comm degree, I’m happy to admit that I don’t really like accounts. I much prefer strategies, management and business development. Fortunately, my co-founder and our Chief Financial Officer Peter Forshaw tirelessly keeps us on track financially – and his message to our franchisees is always that in your own business, you must understand enough of the financial basics to know whether your business is swimming or sinking…
It’s so important that we include this as part of our franchisee training. To get you started, here’s what Engela van Loggerenberg, our Group Financial Manager, tells new franchisees:
- Cashflow and profit aren’t the same: You can’t track one and assume the other shows the same pattern. There is no natural correlation between the two – your cashflow can be positive and you can be making a loss or your cashflow can be negative but you’re making a profit.
- Cash keeps you going: It’s vital to have money available in your business so you need to be generating enough cash to pay operating expenses. Otherwise you could be making a profit but not be able to pay staff wages. If so, you will either have to put in some of your own money or take a loan to keep your cash flowing and your business afloat.
- Time for a checkup: Both cashflow and profit are important to a business – but you can’t do anything without cash which is why you have to manage your cashflow carefully. Check your profit monthly but your cashflow daily. This will alert you to problems in the making so you can head them off. You will see if your clients are overdue in paying their accounts with you, for example. If they fall behind, this could in turn squeeze your ability to pay your operating expenses, which is why cashflow monitoring is such an important tool to keep your business afloat.
- Different perspectives: Remember when you look at your figures that profit figures are a result of what has already happened and are usually reported with a time lag of a month. Cashflow is a snapshot of what is happening in your business now and will have an impact on profit figures in the months to come.
- Know what you’re looking for: What you need to know are your net, not gross, figures. For net cashflow that is your incoming cash less your outgoing cash for the period. So if you are receiving more than you are spending, you will be left with money in the bank to meet future expenses. Similarly, your total sales less direct costs make up your gross profit. Deduct all your operating expenses from the gross profit to calculate whether your business is making a net profit.
- Make the most of your cash: Take pressure off yourself by keeping spare cash for future expenses such as VAT and taxes in a good interest-bearing account such as a money market, call or investment account. Then set up reminders ahead of time to arrange to withdraw the sum required.
Remember that any system is only as good as the person operating it. So if like me, figures aren’t your thing, make sure that you have someone at your side who can manage them for you.
3 Ways To Ensure Your Loyalty Programme is Working Hard For You
Plastic cards are making way for app-based loyalty programmes. Is your franchise keeping up with the digitally savvy consumer?
The average consumer today is a member of at least five of the 100-plus loyalty programmes in South Africa, according to a 2017 study by Nielsen. As the loyalty playing field becomes more cluttered and competitive, what are you doing to ensure each one of your franchisees are catering to customer needs when it comes to loyalty?
Mobility. It’s not the newest buzzword, but it is useful for attracting customers who don’t want to lose loyalty points because their card is lost or not with them. Ailsa Wingfield, Nielsen’s Head of Emerging Markets: Thought Leadership, says that as adoption of non-traditional payment methods increases, loyalty programmes also need to introduce payment type flexibility.
“Mobile payment platforms will increasingly deliver an opportunity for loyalty-programme engagement with consumers, providing a convenient and personalised way for programme members and retailers to engage with one another all along the path to purchase.” – Ailsa Wingfield Nielsen Head of Emerging Markets Thought Leadership.
Have you considered what role tech could play in your current loyalty programme? Here are three ways to apply digital enhancements that appeal to present and potential customers:
1. Offer differentiation through more options
Research has concluded that the loyalty programmes devised by retailers and franchises are not innovative enough to capture the attention of the youth – Millennials and Gen Z. it’s time to diversify your rewards offering. But how?
If your customer base is predominantly younger, being omni-present is key, according to the Truth Loyalty Whitepaper: “An omni-channel approach will not only meet the demands of the younger customer, it will also allow your business to combine intelligence on shopping, search and web behaviour history to assist you in identifying when to offer an in-store promotion, extend a seasonal offer or make a product recommendation through the appropriate channels.”
Implementing a digital loyalty campaign is also a smart way to reduce costs. Coffee shop franchise Mugg & Bean’s Generous Rewards App and partnership with Vitality Active Rewards, means members can earn cash-back rewards to spend on their favourites. Just downloading the app earns you a R25 voucher.
2. Use your tools to engage more
A crucial mistake most franchisors make is not communicating consistently with their loyalty programme members once they’ve signed up and increased numbers. They spend a lot of time recruiting customers to join, but expect them to prompt cashiers for points’ balances and produce their cards independently in their various locations.
“You have gained permission to talk to your customers and created the opportunity to collect enormous amounts of valuable data. Use this to your advantage by creating meaningful and relevant engagement initiatives and communications across your customers’ lifecycle,” advises Truth, a boutique consultancy business specialising in customer centricity and loyalty programme strategy and design.
When enhancing your engagement strategy, Accenture advises that you keep the following in mind:
- 54% of South African consumers are loyal to brands that actively engage them to help design or co-create products or services.
- 57% are loyal to organisations that present them with new experiences, products or services.
- 47% are loyal to brands that engage them in ‘multi-sensory’ experiences, using new technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality.
3. Keep the experience simple
Review your loyalty programme. Honestly. Then ask yourself if you’ve made your programme too complicated for the layman. If your answer is ‘no’ or even ‘maybe’, how can your target consumer ever reap the full rewards of this programme if they don’t understand the rewards on offer and how to redeem them?
Changing rules too often is the first complication to go. No matter which one of your stores they choose to shop at, the redemption and earning process should be simple enough to keep members interested and engaged in the programme. Make sure you keep your programme simple and transparent.
“Clicks made a simple but fundamental change to its redemption process – paper-vouchers were replaced with virtual points that can be redeemed as cash-back when you swipe your card at the till. While Clicks and Dis-Chem are among only a handful of brands that do this, it’s a sure-fire mechanism for increasing redemption,” said Amanda Cromhout, founder and CEO of Truth.
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