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28 August 2015 - The Franchise Association has a new chairman, Brad Jacobs. We asked him about his experiences and concerns for the future of franchising
At just 35 years old, the new chairman of the Franchise Association of New Zealand is by far the youngest person to have filled the role – but don’t confuse youth with inexperience. Brad Jacobs has been in franchising since he joined the crew at his local McDonald’s in Queensland at the age of 14. ‘I think at the time you had to be 14 years and 9 months old to get a job, and I was only 14 years and 5 months so I had to get a letter from my mum,’ he laughs. ‘But that’s when I fell in love with the food and beverage industry, and with franchising – and 21 years later, I still am!’
After three years at McDonald’s, Brad joined The Coffee Club as he worked his way through teacher training college, and he has been with the award-winning brand ever since. In 2005 Brad and partner Andy Lucas brought The Coffee Club to New Zealand as master franchisees and built it into a 50-plus strong chain, winning the Westpac New Zealand Supreme Franchise System of the Year title two years in a row. Even more impressively, The Coffee Club Bethlehem’s Ivy Joe has been named Supreme Franchisee of the Year an unprecedented three times.
‘Now, it’s time to give something back,’ Brad says. ‘When Andy and I first came to New Zealand we were brand new to the master franchisee role and were very, very green. But the franchise community here not only welcomed us – they opened up, shared advice and experiences and genuinely wanted us to make a success of things.
‘Andy and I kept saying to each other, “Why do these people want to tell us everything about their business?” It didn’t make sense at the time, but gradually we came to realise that it was the culture that had been created from the very early days of franchising in New Zealand. Everyone wants to help because the better franchising does, the better everyone in it does. It’s very different from Australia – I think they’re the ones with the tall poppy syndrome, not the Kiwis.’
Brad has been on the Association’s board for three years, serving as vice chairman for two under the vastly experienced Ian Robertson – himself a former franchisee and a franchisor with several different brands. ‘Ian gave me opportunities to get involved in everything, including the World Franchise Council events. The more I learned and experienced of franchising around the world, the more I realised the importance of the Association in giving a voice to a vitally-important part of the New Zealand economy. A recent report suggested that franchises account for 11 percent of GDP in this country, and if we want the sector to remain healthy we need to promote it and protect it.
‘Part of that is education – educating franchisors and franchisees so that people new to the sector can learn how franchising works and what they need to do to make a success of their involvement in it. We launched an online training course a couple of years ago and that has been well received, and our events and conferences are drawing good numbers around the country.
‘But we have to be prepared to stand up for franchising, too – particularly in the area of legislation. Over recent years, we’ve seen franchise-specific legislation considered and rejected in New Zealand, but we’ve also seen franchising drawn into other areas such as competition law and employment law. It’s happened in Australia and it’s going to happen more and more here.
‘I sit on the Franchise Advisory Council for The Coffee Club in Australia so I see one piece of legislation after another coming through that makes life very difficult. I’ve heard similar stories from the IFA in the US and other members of the World Franchise Council, too. Because franchises are seen as “big business” they get caught up in legislation that small independent businesses don’t need to worry about. The attitude seems to be that because a franchisee is part of a brand that has, say, 300 stores, they should have the resources to cope with whatever piece of legislation comes along, whereas the little independent outlet next door doesn’t need to comply. But a franchisee is a small business owner, too, so why should they be penalised?’
Brad isn’t a fan of franchise-specific legislation, either. ‘Yes, they have it in Australia and it’s resulted in 200-page disclosure documents that cost $50,000 to produce. That would be a disaster for the many small franchise systems in New Zealand, and I doubt it would really achieve anything. Having been here for 10 years and seen how few genuine problems we have compared to Australia, where they’ve had legislation for almost 20 years, why would you want to change something that’s working?’
Brad and his new vice chairman, Dr Callum Floyd of Franchize Consultants, have the support of a highly-experienced board. The full board comprises:
- Brad Jacobs – (master franchisee, The Coffee Club): Chairman
- Ian Robertson – (franchisor, New Zealand Post): Immediate Past Chairman
- Callum Floyd (consultant, Franchize Consultants): Vice Chairman
- Dawn Engelbrecht (franchisor, sKids)
- Vaughan Moss – (franchisor, Para Rubber)
- Glenn Tasker – (franchise banker, ASB)
- Deirdre Watson – (barrister)
‘We’re fortunate to have a board that combines a lot of franchising knowledge with a lot of commercial experience,’ says Brad. ‘We know what needs to be done, but we need money to do it. It’s essential for the franchise sector in New Zealand to be prepared for further activity on the legislation front, no matter which government is in power. That’s why I’m urging everyone involved in franchising to join the Association and engage with us now so that we are able to stand up for your sector when the time comes.’
Of course, apart from being the youngest chairman ever, Brad Jacobs has achieved another first – being the first Australian to lead the Franchise Association of New Zealand. ‘Well, I’m told Bill McGowan of Fastway Couriers was the first Kiwi to lead the Franchise Council of Australia back in 1999, so it’s taken a while to return the favour. And after 10 years here, there’s only one team I’ll be supporting at the Rugby World Cup.
‘Go the All Blacks!’
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