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LIFESTYLE & BUSINESS
CAN YOU HAVE IT ALL?

by Simon Lord,
last updated 28/08/2015

From the archives - December 2012: Some franchises like to promote themselves as ‘lifestyle opportunities’ – but what does this really mean? Simon Lord has been looking at the options.

Starting work at 5am may not sound like everyone’s definition of a ‘lifestyle business’, but it suits Whare Tipene perfectly. He starts early, works hard, knows when he’s going to finish each day and has the evenings and weekends free. During the day, he can still manage to drop his daughter off at daycare and pick her up later, and sport plays a big part in his family’s life too – son Paora was in the New Zealand Under-15 volleyball squad last year, and what with volleyball training in the evening, rugby on Saturday and league on Sunday, there’s never a dull moment.

 ‘Family comes first,’ Whare says – and what a family that is. In addition to his two sons (19 and 15) and his daughter (6), Whare and his wife Jewel Rangi are caregivers to a further five children ranging in age from 13 years to 8 months old. Yet Whare also runs his own highly successful business as a Fastway Couriers franchisee. In the six years he has owned his Papamoa franchise in the Bay of Plenty, he has grown the business by over 300 percent, ‘and there’s still plenty more room for growth,’ he says. His achievements earned him the title of Fastway’s National Courier Franchisee of the Year for 2011.

Combining a successful business and family life requires planning and co-operation all round. Jewel spends an hour or so on administration most days, and a bit more at the end of the month when invoices and taxes need to be sorted out. ‘The big boys help out around the house at those times and take the kids out to play so she’s not distracted,’ Whare says, ‘and they help me out, too. If I get really busy with a bulk pick-up from a customer, or if I’m running late for some reason, I can always call on one of them to help me out. They know how important it is that we never let anyone down – and my customers know they can rely on me 100 percent.’

Whare worked in a dairy factory for 11 years, but always wanted a business of his own. ‘We actually looked at buying a bar, but it was all evenings and weekend work – that’s no life with a family,’ he says. ‘Fastway suits us much better because it all fits in a normal working day. It’s a very social business, too. I try to make time for a chat with all my customers if they have the time. That’s how you grow this business – through existing customers spreading the word, and making sure you make all new deliveries with a smile and a friendly hello. I used to be a bit shy but I’m not any more,’ Whare grins. ‘And it’s good to be part of a bigger group, too. All the couriers go back to the depot several times a day and catch up with a chat, then on Friday you all share a couple of cold ones after work at the start of the weekend. It certainly works for us.’

What Lifestyle Are You Looking For?

There are a number of franchises that like to promote themselves as lifestyle businesses, but what does ‘lifestyle’ actually mean? The answer seems to be that it means different things to different people.  Accordingly, a successful lifestyle business is perhaps best described as one that its owners feel allows them a positive balance between work and home or social life. In franchise terms, it means that franchisors understand, encourage and assist franchisees to achieve that balance.

For Whare Tipene, a lifestyle franchise means having a growing business that allows him to support and plan around the needs of his family by having a well-structured day with finite hours. In the following pages, you’ll find further examples of franchises which offer similar benefits, including Provender, SBA and Snap-on Tools.

For others, though, the idea of fixed hours might be the total opposite of what they want – they are looking for a business that allows them more flexibility in the day, choosing which hours or days to work, and which to play – Freedom Companion Driving, ReloCrate, Telcoinabox and many home services franchises such as V.I.P. are among those which offer this.

Some people want to invest in a business which requires less active input with semi-passive income, like Just Cabins, Simplicity Vending and Just Loans. Those people might be retired or semi-retired, or in a full-time job and looking for part-time or additional income.

Meanwhile, the ambition for many is to work in an area they are passionate about, whether that be sports, education or even animals, and the return on investment is not as important. Others want a business that gives them the chance to work with their spouse or a close relative – cafés or retail franchises are often a popular option for them.

As the above examples show, there are plenty of different franchises offering each of these options – some may even offer more than one – but finding the opportunity that will suit you personally depends on what you are looking for in a ‘lifestyle business’.

The Banker’s Viewpoint

Daniel Cloete, National Franchise Manager for Westpac, agrees. ‘I do get enquiries from time to time from people looking for a ‘lifestyle’ franchise, but there’s no such thing – unless you mean a business to suit the lifestyle you have or want to have.

‘In many cases, what people mean is that they are looking for something that will provide regularly recurring income, or they are looking for an investor-type model where they can run a business under management. There are a variety of businesses in this space, but in most cases they require the buyer to have a lot of capital in the first place, and will still take some time and hefty investment to build them to the point where the return will represent a sizeable income stream or will allow for the employment of good managers.

‘On the other hand, there are many businesses that are very attractive to people with family commitments or who want to make time for interests or hobbies. The limited hours in some service franchises (see here) mean these could be considered a lifestyle business. For example, take a mobile coffee franchisee who chooses to work in the morning then surf or play golf in the afternoon.

‘A lot of people would find that very attractive as a way of life, but you do have to accept that in a one-man business which is dependent on your own labour, if you choose to work limited hours then you are also limiting your potential income. The same applies if you operate a café or retail business: if you have to pay staff to run the business when you are not there, effectively you are trading the money you take from the business for the time off you take away from it. Of course you have to take a break or you will burn out, but if you want to take more than a day or two a week and the occasional holiday, you have to be certain that the business can support the extra cost involved.’

What Help Can The Franchisor Give?

Because of this, it’s important that before committing yourself to any franchise, you have a very frank discussion with the franchisor to see whether the business you are looking at buying is capable of meeting your lifestyle goals. If it isn’t, they should tell you and save you both a lot of frustration and disappointment. On the other hand, if what you are looking for is realistic, they may be able to help you achieve your ambitions.

Ways in which they may do this include structuring the franchise appropriately from the start: offering different levels of investment and/or territory size; offering part-time opportunities; offering the chance to start small and grow.

There are other ways that a good franchise will support ‘lifestyle’ ambitions, too, and many of these revolve around having good systems that make life easier for franchisees. An obvious example is a franchise that operates a call centre to save franchisees taking messages during inconvenient times. However, supportive systems can go much further than this. One of the biggest hurdles to enjoying any business is the amount of essential administration and paperwork required to run it. Many good franchises help minimise this either by carrying out some duties on behalf of franchisees (eg. billing and debt collection, like many of the commercial cleaning franchises), or by having standardised computer systems that keep admin to a minimum.

Franchises are also increasingly putting their accounting and business management systems online. Such systems are often combined with the point of sale set-up, and may even include security cameras and webcams. This means that franchisees can monitor the performance of their business from home, holiday, the beach or the boat. This can give them great flexibility, but has to be used wisely: if you never allow yourself to get away from work, it will damage your lifestyle rather than enhancing it.

The other aspect a franchisor can help you with is in setting clear goals for what you want from your business and helping you stay on target for achieving your dreams. This can apply just as much to lifestyle goals as it does to financial ones. Remember, one of the advantages of buying a franchise is that you have someone else to motivate you, support you and keep you focussed.

Will Your Franchise Match Up To Your Dream?

So if you are looking at buying a franchise at least partly for lifestyle reasons, you should find out from the start whether it will enable you to have the lifestyle you want. One thing that applies to all businesses is that getting them up and running successfully takes commitment and hard work, so look beyond the set-up period to the longer term. Here are some questions to help you.

- What hours will you need to work in the business? Do those hours suit your natural cycle? For example, if you believe in ‘early to bed and early to rise’, a bakery franchise may suit you better than a pizza business.

- What additional hours will you have to put in on paperwork, administration, tax and so on? Ask existing franchisees for real figures.

- What admin support systems are available from the franchisor? Are these easy to use?

- Does the type of work involved suit not just your skills but also your temperament? Do you need to work with a variety of tasks or people, or are you happy focussing on something? Do you prefer serving the public, leading a team of staff or working alone? Are you the sort of slightly extrovert person who is happy in a sales/retail role, or do you prefer something more insular? Remember what Whare said: ‘I used to be shy but I’m not any more.’

- What kind of environment do you enjoy working in? (outdoors, mobile, indoors, home). Does the franchise allow you to do that? What are the downsides? (eg, outdoors work can be weather-dependent or seasonal).

- Are you interested in the industry and the business you are choosing? Running your own business is more than a simple investment. It will be taking up your capital, your focus and your time. If you don’t enjoy doing it, you won’t be happy and you won’t do it well.

- Although you may be buying the franchise to enable you to spend more time doing something you love, that won’t necessarily happen immediately – you may need to divert your time from other pastimes or hobbies for a couple of years. Are you prepared to accept this?

- If you are turning your hobby into your job, how will you realistically feel about it becoming something you have to do day in, day out? Will you spend enough time on the fun part when you also have to manage the business which surrounds it?

- Will you be able to live where you choose in order to run your business?

- If your new business means working from home, are you prepared for what this will mean? Have you got a distinct work space available which is suitable? Are you and your family prepared to accept the restrictions caused by visitors?

- While some financial pressure can be a positive motivator, are you prepared to accept the consequences if anything goes wrong?

- Have you talked to franchisees about what the business really involves? (see 50 questions to ask franchisees). Can you spend a day or two on the job with them to experience whether it really is something you want to do?

Finally

It’s a good idea to carry out a ‘reality check’ by evaluating the dream and the opportunity separately. Make a list of the elements of your desired lifestyle: the location, hours, type of work, type of people, and so on. Then make a similar list of the commitments required by your proposed franchise.

Once you have finished the list, compare the dream and the reality. You may not have the perfect match, but once you recognise the differences, you can make an informed choice, as Whare Tipene did. Being at work at 5am might not match your idea of a good lifestyle, but it’s perfect for Whare and his family – and that’s what a lifestyle business is all about. Good luck!

This article first appeared in Franchise New Zealand Volume 20 Issue 01. We would like to thank the Tipene family and Fastway Couriers for their help in preparing this article.



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