Most franchise owners will tell you that they could easily have saved quite a bit of money from the costs incurred while opening their first units. This begs the question:
If this is such a universal truth, then why didn’t the franchise companies show them how to save this money as part of their training?
The answer is that they probably did.
The biggest money waster in terms of start-up costs, by far, is impatience of the franchisee. Most new franchisees are thrilled and excited to get going, as they should be, and they can’t wait until their new franchise opens for business. If there are two ways to do something, and the faster one costs more money, most new franchisees opt for speed. Those kinds of choices can really add up to a lot of money and in many cases the time gained doesn’t really produce any long-term value to offset the increased costs.
The secret to reaching the best result in terms of start-up costs is balance. If you picture the cost vs. speed quandary as a continuum, you don’t want to be at either extreme. Trying so hard to save money that you never open the business isn’t going to be any better for you than spending too much to open a little sooner than you otherwise would.
Where to Find Savings
There are five common expense categories where most start-up cost savings are found. Some of these are quite easy to take advantage of while others require some extra work or expertise. The old adage that ‘time is money’ applies to virtually every category since you’re usually trading some of your time to get the financial savings. The key areas to focus on include:
1. Franchise Company Fees
Though most good franchise companies don’t negotiate their fees, occasionally you’ll find one that does. If this is the case, make sure you save as much in this area as possible. Contact existing franchisees to determine what kind of deal they received so you have a ballpark idea of what’s possible. If you’re not comfortable negotiating yourself, use an attorney or someone who can drive the best bargain.
2. Turnkey Packages
Many franchise companies offer a turnkey package where nearly all you need to start, is available in a package from the franchisor or a third party vendor. In either case, the package is often chosen because it’s so convenient. Keep in mind that convenience is what is being sold in these packages – not the best value or lowest price. It’s quite common to learn after the fact that the components of a turnkey package could have been acquired by the franchisee for a significantly lower overall cost. The tradeoff, of course, is that the franchisee has to invest the time and effort to source and purchase each component to get the savings.
3. Construction Costs
Most franchises have a physical location and that site needs to be prepared according to the specifications of the franchise. There are a few simple things that can produce significant savings in this area. First of all, get multiple bids for the work that needs to be done. You won’t believe the variances you’ll see in the bids from one contractor to another.
Second, give a little thought to what you might be willing to do yourself. As an example, if you’re renting a 1 200-square-foot bay in a strip centre and the construction bid says it’s going to cost you R10 000 to paint the walls a simple off white colour, you may want to consider painting it yourself.
4. Equipment, Signage and Fixtures
This is a substantial expense category for most franchises and there are two big secrets to saving money here. The first is, again, get multiple bids on everything. It takes a little more work but you’ll see price variances of as much as 100% on things as simple as a standard sign for your business. The same is true of the cabinets and other fixtures. In terms of your equipment, you may be able to realise big savings from buying used items. Some franchises don’t allow the choice but most will allow you to source and purchase used equipment as long as it meets guidelines.
If you’re opening a business with a commercial kitchen as an example, you can potentially save a ton of money. Used equipment is readily available for many businesses and your franchisor should know of good sources in this area.
5. Lease Terms
This can be a huge category in terms of potential savings and it’s an area where you want expert advice and assistance if you’re not experienced yourself. This expertise is found in a good commercial realtor but you’ll also want an experienced real estate attorney familiar with the local market. All leases are negotiable to some extent, but most leases don’t initially offer a number of concessions that may be obtained through negotiation.
Use both your realtor and your attorney to determine what’s standard in the current marketplace in terms of items like the square foot rental rate, the Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges, free rent periods, construction allowances and other economic terms. Then you have a baseline to use in determining if you’re getting a really good deal instead of just an average one. A good negotiator can sometimes get a landlord to include tens of thousands of rands in build-out costs into the lease that can be direct savings to you.
Learn From Others
As a final thought on this topic, remember that it’s easy to determine which areas will produce the most savings for you in whichever franchise you select.
All you need to do is ask the existing franchisees. Again, this will take some of your time but it will be an investment that can pay you big dividends in savings on your start-up costs if you’re willing to learn from their experience.
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.
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.”
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