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Franchisee Advice

Minuteman Press’s Blueprint For Success

Entrepreneur spoke to Minuteman Press’s Frik van Niekerk about the brand.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • 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

Frik-van-Niekerk-Minuteman-press

“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

Franchisee success

“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

Minuteman-press-printers

Minuteman Press Printers

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.”

Related: Healthy Body20 Franchise Leads To Happy Hearts

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.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

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Franchisee Advice

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.

Diana Albertyn

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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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Franchisee Advice

How To Hire Skilled Workers For Your Franchise

Your staff run your business – you just have to show them how. This is why employing the best people for the job is essential.

Diana Albertyn

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According to the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) 2017 Franchisor Survey, one of the main challenges facing franchisees is finding the right staff.

“Staffing your franchise can be one of the most challenging parts of running a successful business. Without a great team of employees, you cannot run your business effectively,” says Saxon Marsden-Huggins, founder of WebRover.

These three tips could help you find the best employees for your franchise outlet:

1. Don’t hire in haste

While you may be rearing to go and keen to fill gaps to speed up profitability, research your candidates thoroughly.

Related: Insights On Recruitment That Could Affect Franchise Performance

As the job applications keep flowing into your inbox, keep in mind that not all of them qualify for the positions available – it may even be a small percent who are actually viable candidates. This is why your hiring process should include:

  • Taking the time to thoroughly screen CVs to develop a short list
  • Creating a carefully crafted list of interview questions
  • Setting aside adequate time for thorough interviews
  • Getting to know the candidates through a second round of interviews to confirm your choice.

Giving the hiring process dedication and attention will ensure you get the cream of the crop, contributing to the long-term success of your franchise.

2. Demonstrate support in the workplace

While you can instil the necessary skills into new recruits, it’s difficult to train for culture. This is why choosing the right employees from the beginning will make the rest of your franchise management system will run more smoothly.

“The manner by which you run the franchise will influence employee perceptions of the brand as well,” says Hireology’s Erin Borgerson. “Your staff must become ambassadors of your franchise system to attract the target consumer market.”

The best way to do this is encouraging staff to give you their honest feedback. Your commitment to creating and upholding a positive culture will result in increased loyalty from your current staff and a superior pool of applicants.

Related: 3 Things You Should Consider Before Buying Your First Franchise

3. Offer appealing incentives

When advancement opportunities are clearly communicated, staff is keen to hear how they can get there, as they have career goals of their own. Encouraging this ambition will draw good employees to your franchise.

“Helping employees understand the steps to advancement helps them to view their current job as an important part of a career with an upward path, not just a pay cheque for this week,” say financial reporting technology experts at Qvinci.

Performance bonuses and employee benefits incentivise staff’s efforts, therefore increasing their income alongside the profit of the business. “This serves to make employees a part of the business and not merely people ‘who work there’,” they explain.

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Franchisee Advice

3 Ways Communication Helps You Run Your Franchise Better

Managing your business as an independent owner may have been challenging at the beginning, but – as you’ve come to realise – the successful operation of a franchise network requires an extended set of skills.

Diana Albertyn

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franchise-system-management

“When it comes to a multi-location business such as a franchise, effective communication is vital,” says Dani Peleva, Managing Director at online marketing agency Local Fame. “So what happens when you’re struggling to connect with the franchise network you have in place?”

It may be time to upgrade your franchise management skills, because the success of your franchise network has a direct correlation to how you integrate feedback systems into your management processes.

Have a clear comprehension of the challenges your franchise encounters, keep an open chain of communication between yourself, franchisees and managers, and maintain regular interactions between everyone in the network. These are some of the most crucial aspects of successful franchise management:

1. Understand the challenges you face

A thorough understanding of your business requires dedication to regular and consistent groundwork for first-hand experience on how the day-to-day operations of the business are conducted.

Related: 3 Core Strategies For Building Successful Franchise Organisations

“Seeing and talking to the people that make your business will help you understand the challenges that franchisees face and the systems they need to drive higher profitability and growth,” says Rosie Niblock, Marketing and Communications Manager at Proactive Marketing.

“That way you can work more effectively to make improvements to franchise management systems logically and within the financial grasp of all franchisees.”

2. Get personal through regular visits

You never want your franchises to feel neglected. It’ll demoralise them and possibly drop sales, profits and their ability to keep the business running as you intended. Maintaining regular contact and sharing as much information as possible – when you can – fosters strong relations with your franchisees.

Empowerment through information and communication makes a difference in the business and helps franchisees make decisions in favour of the business and to make sure that they all pull in the same direction in terms of customer satisfaction, says Alan van der Westhuizen, executive manager of new business sales at Fournews, a 20-year-old franchise holding company for News Café, Krispy Kreme, Moyo, Brooklyn Brothers, Smooch, Cafe Fino and Go! outlets.

Ensure your response to these concerns is swift. “If not discussed they could fester ad create undesirable rumours,” says Niblock.

Related: How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

3. Create events for network collaboration

One of the most important aspects of managing your franchise is meeting with all your franchisees, at least annually. “Franchise conventions are almost certainly the biggest tool when it comes to building profitable engagement,” says Peleva. “They’re one of the most important things to focus on when you’re considering how to lead your franchise network.” According to her, a successfully attended and executed convention will let you:

  • Boost your network-wide productivity
  • Hugely increase your profitability
  • Drive passion for your brand

Communicating with your franchisees is the best way to identify problems, work towards solving them, and building a pleasant and fruitful relationship with your owners.

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