EXPORTING KIWI KNOW-HOW
Mina Phillips and Simon Lord look at how two New Zealand franchises are expanding overseas.
New Zealand may be a small country, but we’re good at dreaming big – and not just in sport. Two local companies have recently taken their franchise models overseas with considerable success. Refresh Renovations and Dream Doors don’t sell trendy food or fashionable online services; instead, they focus on practical solutions to real needs.
Launched in 2010, Refresh offers homeowners a unique project management system that would help to reduce project overruns and budget blowouts. Recognising that there was no single national brand that specialised in renovation rather than new builds, local business strategy and marketing firm Traffic developed the franchise to fill the gap. Once it was established in New Zealand, the company directors saw an opportunity for global expansion. Today, Refresh Renovations has franchises across New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, and has recently launched in Pensacola, Florida.
Dream Doors was originally founded in the UK, but when co-founder Derek Lilly split with his original partner, he retained the rights for New Zealand, Australia, the US and Canada. Dream Doors specialises in kitchens and fits replacement doors, surfaces and fittings to restore a home’s looks without the cost and wastage of building new units. Derek decided to settle in New Zealand and opened the pilot Dream Doors here in 2008, expanding to Australia in 2014 and the USA in 2018. The company is completely separate from Dream Doors UK.
So how have these two businesses taken New Zealand franchising to the English-speaking world?
According to Traffic director and Refresh co-founder Chris Caiger, it all starts with a good foundation. ‘We spent two or three years piloting first and once we got that sorted out we started rolling out seriously in New Zealand. You learn a lot when you’re piloting. We changed some quite fundamental things, including the type of people we targeted as franchisees.
‘When we first started out we assumed that the natural franchisees would be builders because they already knew the market. The idea was we would wrap all of these sophisticated management systems around them and teach them to be managers. As it turned out, we found out that most builders have become builders because they don’t like all that management stuff. So we reversed the model and looked for people with commercial capabilities who would hire builders in their construction team. That way, the builders could get on with what they were good at and we had successful managers who could run a business unit.’
Although Refresh was a new business, Traffic’s experience provided a springboard for success. ‘We had 15 years’ worth of relationships with the main leaders in the building industry, so we already had very strong networks, relationships and a strong reputation,’ says Chris. ‘We were able to leverage that into our franchising business.’
While this initially applied to finding the right connections to help Refresh grow as a business franchise within New Zealand, it also helped that the company’s co-founders had people they could reach out to overseas when the time came for international expansion.
‘All of our expansions have been based on contacts,’ says Chris. ‘A lot of the early Refresh investors have been senior managers in corporates, so we’ve got very good networks. Those networks are how we have found successful master franchises in other countries. If we hadn’t had those it would have been very difficult. There was nothing available through any government agencies that could help us in any useful way.’
At Dream Doors, Derek Lilly also values the importance of networks but he had to build his own...
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