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HOW DO I LEARN THE BUSINESS?

by Nathan Bonney,
last updated 21/02/2017

in this article:

From the Archives - September 2011 - Nathan Bonney offers some tips on what new franchisees should look for from a training programme

One thing that a new franchisee needs to help him or her make a success of their new business is good training. They need to learn how to run their business efficiently and economically, how to find and satisfy customers, and how to train their own staff to operate to the same standards. They also need to learn all these things as fast as possible so that the business will start to pay for itself. Yet many franchises will tell you that they can teach you to run a successful business even if you have no experience in the industry. How do they do this? We put some questions to Nathan Bonney of Columbus Coffee, who was named Hospitality Training Ambassador of the Year 2011 by the Hospitality Standards Institute (HSI).  

I've never been in business for myself before. What additional skills will I need to have?

The most important thing in many businesses – and particularly in hospitality – is your ability to interact with people, both customers and staff. Prior business experience is desirable, especially for a higher investment franchise, but an ability to relate and demonstrate empathy is absolutely critical. Other important skills are the ability to manage your time well, to prioritise and complete tasks and the ability to make decisions. High energy levels are vital in hospitality and are a must in many other industries too.

The advert says 'no previous experience required’. How can a franchisor teach me everything I need?

Good franchises not only have valuable brands and proven systems – they also have experience at teaching other people how to replicate a successful business model and operate it successfully. Some franchises teach a broader range of business management and even life management skills, while others focus more on the operational side. It’s worth checking before you buy any particular franchise what the training covers and whether it will meet your own needs.

In our case, when you start your training you will be given an induction checklist of the skills and tasks that you are required to learn. You will know what subjects/processes you need to know and as you are taught these one of our team will test you and sign off that you are competent in that area.

It’s probably fair to say that some franchises are better at training than others. It’s something we at Columbus take very seriously, but newer or smaller franchises may not have the same experience or resources. However, training and learning is an interactive process so whatever the training programme, the more that you ask, the more you experience and the more you try to apply your new skills, the more you will get out of the process.

Some skills are not learned overnight and our experience is that it would be unreasonable to think that new franchisees will master every skill set prior to opening their café. To address this, like most franchises we don't stop training on opening day – we have a structured series of training programmes that are delivered on an ongoing basis, as well as providing specific individual training as required.

What sort of training do new franchisees get? Is it all hands-on or book learning or what?

Again, training will vary from franchise to franchise depending on the complexity of the business. Most franchises will use a mix of classroom and practical/in-store training; however, apart from ourselves only a few (generally the larger international ones) offer access to on-line programmes and links to externally-recognised qualifications.

In Columbus Coffee, our initial training programme lasts 4-6 weeks. This is delivered as a mix of learning the basic skills required and spending 2-3 weeks working in a café in each of the deployment areas. This practical training side is linked to the NZQA standards, meaning that franchisees complete a nationally-recognised Level 3 Certificate in food and beverage (we also provide the tools that enable franchisees to train their staff in the same programmes).

In addition to in-store training, we do classroom-based training covering our systems and PC-based tools. New franchisees are required to complete a number of activities applying the tools and processes they will use in their business: for example, rostering staff or costing menu items. Classroom training also covers the basics of human resources management including the interviewing and recruitment process, standard contracts and induction of staff.

Whatever the franchise, a good franchisor will offer a training programme (customised for each person where necessary) to ensure that new franchisees have a good grasp of their own operational role and understanding of the business’s marketing and management needs. They will know how to use the systems and tools the franchise uses, and also have a good understanding of each of the roles fulfilled by staff members, where appropriate.

What sort of experience do the people running the training need?

Good operators do not necessarily make good trainers, so it’s important that franchisors employ or develop people with the ability to train others. Different people learn in different ways so franchisors need to respond to that. That’s why our training is a mix of styles from verbal to visual, in-store to class room, homework to hands-on. We also draw upon different people in the team to deliver different components.

While we have a dedicated learning and development manager who oversees the delivery of training, there is also input from specialists such as barista trainers, qualified chefs and people who have been franchisees themselves. Our training team are registered workplace assessors and regularly undertake additional training themselves.

It sounds as if there is an awful lot to learn and the training is pretty full-on. I'm worried I won't be able to remember it all. What tips can you give me?

During your training period, allow yourself the time to concentrate on the training. Of course you may need to have meetings with bankers or accountants, and shopfitting can also be a distraction, but work with your franchisor to ensure your schedule allows these things to be handled without impacting on your focus on learning the business.

In most franchises, you won’t be on your own immediately after you open your business – there will be onsite support for some period from an experienced member of the franchisor team. In your initial training, focus on the basics that you will require when you open and practise these skills repeatedly. You will learn and remember the additional skills as you go on, and there will always be someone – your trainer, the franchisor team, other franchisees – to help when you can’t remember something. Some things will come easily, others will seem more difficult at first. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – more than once, if you need to!

Remember, you don’t have to remember everything – you’ll have the material used during your initial training period and the operations manuals, whether these are online, on disk or on paper. I suggest that you go back and review this material regularly in the early days – don't just put it on a shelf and forget about it. Those manuals contain the operating secrets for a successful business.

How do I stay on top of future changes in the business?

 Training is not something that you do once – it should be an ongoing process. Customer taste changes, equipment changes, competition changes, the market changes. One of the advantages of a franchise should be that your franchisor will be aware of (and perhaps leading) these changes and will provide the necessary training for you to keep your business ahead of the competition.

In our case, we travel regularly to see what trends are developing overseas as well as locally and we bring new ideas back and integrate them into our system where appropriate. This includes processes and products, as well as ideas on store design and construction. We interact with a wide range of organisations and groups and maintain relationships with a broad range of professionals to ensure that we are well-informed on everything from the coffee trade to franchising best practice. As changes are introduced, so our franchisees are trained to make the most of each new opportunity, whether it is a new product, new sales technique or new cost-saving initiative. Training is constant.

So how can I assess the training offered by any franchise to find out if it will help me succeed?

As I said, every franchise is different and every new franchisee will have different training needs. However, for you to have the best chance of success you do need to know that your chosen franchise can deliver on your expectations. Some general tips are:

1. Speak to existing franchisees and ask them about their training experience. Was it well-structured and easy to follow? Did it leave them feeling confident that they would be able to manage their business? Did it seem to cover the essentials of what they needed to know in the early stages? Was there further training as they became more experienced, and was it appropriate to their needs?

2. Experience the business from a customer’s perspective. Visit several outlets or observe several different franchisees at work. Do they seem confident and well-trained? Are they operating in a consistent way? If there are staff, do they seem well-trained and efficient? Is the franchisee visible in the business and are they leading their team well?

3. Ask how new franchisee training is delivered, who it is delivered by and what experience they have – both as operators and as trainers.

4. Ask to see some of the training resources and assess how current and how thorough they are. When were they last updated? If the franchise comes from overseas, have the training materials been modified for New Zealand conditions?

5. Ask if the training is certified or assessed to ensure that trainees absorb and can demonstrate the learning. Is it linked to any formal training programme or national standard?

6. Find out what ongoing training has been offered in, say, the past 12 months and verify this with franchisees.

7. Check how ongoing training is delivered and paid for.

One of the major reasons for buying a franchise should be that it offers a lower risk way of going into business than trying to do it alone. The training you will receive from the franchisor is a big part of reducing that risk. By choosing a franchise that offers excellent initial and ongoing training, you will not only increase the speed with which your business starts to make a return on your investment – you will achieve greater success in the long term and build a bigger, better and more satisfying business for your future.

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