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 Tips For Franchise Agreements
Below are 5 tips to ensure that your franchise agreement complies with the CPA.
South Africa has some great homegrown franchises – Mugg and Bean, Steers, Debonairs and Nandos, to name a few. South Africa is also no stranger to international franchise groups, such as McDonalds, KFC, Wimpy and SPAR, although there has been an increase in the number of international franchises investing in South Africa in recent years.
The Consumer Protection Act, No 68 of 2008 (“CPA“) is the first piece of legislation in South Africa that specifically regulates franchise agreements. The CPA prescribes certain minimum requirements for franchise agreements, as well as certain information that must be disclosed prior to a franchise agreement being signed. It is important that all franchise agreements comply with the CPA as provisions in franchise agreements may be declared to be void for non-compliance.
Below are 5 tips to ensure that your franchise agreement complies with the CPA:
1. Make sure you meet the minimum requirements
The CPA prescribes “minimum requirements” for franchise agreements. These requirements, which are set out in the Regulations to the CPA, set out mandatory terms (i.e. terms which must be included) and prohibited terms (i.e. terms which must not be included). They also prescribe that franchise agreements must be drafted in simple and plain language so as to be easily understood. Legal jargon must be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
2. Include prescribed minimum information
The CPA prescribes minimum information that must be included in a franchise agreement. Most of this minimum prescribed information is fairly general in nature and would be contained in the franchise agreement in the ordinary course (for example, name and description of the types of goods or services that the franchise relates to, the obligations of the franchisor and franchisee, and any territorial rights).
There are, however, certain more unusual requirements in relation to prescribed information, which information would not necessarily be contained in a franchise agreement in the ordinary course (for example, the qualifications of the franchisor’s directors, and details of the members/shareholders of the franchisor). These more unusual requirements must be kept in mind when preparing a franchise agreement.
3. Prepare a disclosure document
The CPA requires the franchisor to provide certain minimum prescribed information to the franchisee in a disclosure document delivered to the franchisee prior to the signature of the franchise agreement (including a list of current franchisees, if any, and of outlets owned by the franchisor; the direct contact details of the existing franchisees; an organogram depicting the support system in place for franchisees; and an auditors certificate confirming that that the franchisor’s audited annual financial statements are in order).
This information is intended to provide the franchisee with enough information about the franchise, its financial viability and potential business success so as to enable the franchisee to make an informed decision as to whether or not he/she wishes to “acquire” the particular franchise.
4. Prepare a non-disclosure agreement
It is important to ensure the protection of confidential information which may be disclosed to the prospective franchisee during the preliminary stages of negotiating and concluding a franchise agreement.
This may include, for example, the growth of the franchisor’s turnover, and written projections in respect of levels of potential sales, income and profit. Although not a requirement under the CPA, it is advisable for a franchisor to ensure that a prospective franchisee executes an appropriate confidentiality agreement prior to being sent the disclosure document.
5. Beware the “cooling-off” period
It is important to bear in mind that a franchisee has an entitlement under the CPA to cancel a franchise agreement without cost or penalty within 10 business days after signing such agreement, by giving written notice to the franchisor.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
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.
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.