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last updated 27/02/2019


How couple with no experience built a world-class business

last updated 27/02/2019


February 2019 - From learner to leader: we look at how franchising can help someone with no experience in an industry develop a world-class business

Something like 80% of franchisors say ‘No experience needed’ when they are looking for franchisees – and they mean it. In fact, some actually say that they prefer new franchisees not to have specific experience in the industry concerned so newcomers can learn the franchise’s systems without having to unlearn conflicting practices first. Of course, you still have to have the appropriate abilities, goals and attitude, but if you match your skill-set to a franchise that offers good training, systems and support then it is indeed possible to be successful in a totally new area.

Take, for example, the case of Kevin Jones. In 2008, Kevin, who had worked for the IRD for 30 years before a spell as Academy Manager for Taranaki Rugby Union, bought a Speedy Signs franchise in New Plymouth. Neither Kevin nor his wife Sheryl had owned their own business before, so it was a big change of direction. In addition, they opened the doors of their new enterprise just weeks before the onset of the Global Financial Crisis.

‘People told us that it wasn’t a good time to start a business, but when is a good time?’ Kevin asked me last year. ‘I hadn’t done it before so I didn’t know. Starting at zero, sales could only go one way. We couldn’t afford to lose – the whole family was involved – so we just gritted our teeth and got on with it. Having a good franchise behind us was vital and tenacity got us here.’

Today, their multi-million dollar business employs nine people and, in November, the couple were named Westpac Supreme Franchisees of the Year. That’s not a meaningless title – the Awards are judged according to the international Malcolm Baldrige quality criteria, so it means Speedy Signs New Plymouth is among the best-run small businesses in the world. That’s a pretty impressive achievement for the Jones family – and for franchising.

Read more about the Westpac New Zealand Franchise Awards here

Delivering results

How is this possible? Well, franchisors select franchisees based on ability rather than experience then train them in exactly what they need to know to run their own business. Exactly what this training looks like will vary according to the complexity of the franchisee’s role and the degree of familiarisation required with new equipment and/or systems.

For example, a training programme designed to help you run a pizza franchise – where you will be producing product, recruiting, training and managing staff working shifts, running a retail and delivery operation, and complying with health & safety requirements – is going to be rather longer and more detailed than training for a car valeting owner/operator.

The training provided will often cover the administrative, financial and marketing tasks required to run a business profitably. It should provide the systems to do that, too: many franchises these days provide quite sophisticated tools to help you manage your time, boost your performance and compare your performance with other franchisees.

And once training is completed, there is another stage to go through – opening the business itself – which will have the detailed input and support of the franchisor.

No matter how well a new franchisee performs in training and work experience, opening your own business is inevitably a nerve-wracking time. But although this is a new experience for you, in most cases the franchisor will have done this many times before. That is why they will usually supply an experienced field support person to work with you in your own territory, not to run the business for you but to ease you into independence. Again, the amount of time this takes will vary according to the complexity of the business.

The process of turning a novice into a competent business person doesn’t end there, however. As the franchisee becomes more comfortable with the day-to-day operation of their business, so they start to develop greater independence. That’s when they start to look for opportunities to grow – which requires a whole new level of support.

Services that franchises regularly provide on an ongoing basis include: field visits to help maximise performance; benchmarking on KPIs against other franchises in the group; marketing campaigns and merchandising advice; ongoing training; group purchasing; management advice, business planning and goal setting; advice on staff issues and legal compliance; and the development of new products and services to maintain or increase profitability.

Putting all that together provides a level of support that independent business owners can only dream of. Of course, not every franchisee will use them all to create a world-class business, but Kevin and Sheryl Jones have shown that it can be done – and that it’s more a matter of attitude than experience.

This article was first published in NZBusiness magazine February 2019.

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