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last updated 12/09/2019

Franchise Awards 1999 - Full Results

last updated 12/09/2019

November 1999 - For the third time in five years, the Franchisee of the Year title has gone to Christchurch, while Green Acres finally took the Franchise System of the Year Award

Franchisee Title Heads South Again

They say that franchisees come from all walks of life – well, Cathy and Steve Wilson have proved it once again. After five years doing aid work in North Iraq, the couple eventually came home to New Zealand in search of a business.

Their skills were life-saving, but pretty unusual. Among other things, Steve had managed projects building roads and schools and even mine clearing, while Cathy had done everything from advising farmers on seeds and livestock to managing a prosthetics clinic. ‘We’d met in Africa, had stints in Sri Lanka, and spent five years in Iraq,’ recalls Cathy. ‘You can go on doing that for the rest of your life, but we felt the time had come to settle and put down some roots.’

They settled back into New Zealand life so quickly that after less than a year in business they found themselves up on stage at the Sky City Hotel in Auckland accepting the title of 1999 Franchisees of the Year.

The runner-up award went to Ken and Alison Le Comte of Green Acres Lawnmowing in East Auckland, and there was more joy for the South Island when Timaru took its first-ever Franchise Award title with a Certificate of Merit being awarded to Brent and Joanna Williamson of Robert Harris Coffee Shops.

Green Acres also scooped the Master Franchisee title. Runner-Up in this new category stayed in the North Island with a win for Jan and Steve Rosser of Meticulous Maids.

Celebration night

The 1999 WestpacTrust New Zealand Franchise Awards dinner was the biggest event yet. Around 230 franchisees, franchisors, supporters, suppliers and other people crowded the Sky City Hotel for the greatest night of the franchising year. The event is organised by the Franchise Association of New Zealand with the support of WestpacTrust, the New Zealand Herald, Unitec and Franchise New Zealand magazine.

‘The Awards night actually represents the culmination of a lot of work,’ says John Foreman, Chairman of the Awards Committee for the Association. ‘Every entrant has put in an incredible amount of work to be there, reading the criteria, analysing their business inside and out, and then finding a way to present it to the judges.

‘The depth of thought that is required of entrants is incredible, and that process is its own reward in a way – not one of the entrants will have failed to learn several vital lessons about their businesses as they answered the questions posed by this year’s criteria.’

John, who is in his first year as Chairman, also commented on the great camaraderie he has found in franchising. ‘I felt an intense enthusiasm from everyone I worked with – the committee, the judges, the entrants and sponsors alike. WestpacTrust were always willing to think outside the square and gave much more than just financial support. The Awards evening was a celebration of the professionalism of the franchising world.’

In at the deep end

The 1999 Franchisees of the Year opened their Brumby’s Hot Bread franchise in Barrington’s shopping centre in Christchurch in September 1998. Despite their wide range of experience, neither had ever baked a loaf of bread before.

‘When we got back to New Zealand we knew we wanted our own business but weren’t sure what,’ says Cathy. ‘We chose Brumby’s out of the back of the magazine because it was the right size of business for us, and because it was very focused on one sort of product.

‘Although we’d never run a business before, the thought didn’t worry us too much. We’d been used to being thrown in at the deep end in various projects overseas, and we always learned pretty darned quick! We both like challenges…’

It was Brumby’s franchisor Mike Roberts who encouraged Cathy and Steve to enter the Awards after just eight months. ‘I had seen how valuable the Awards process could be when two other Christchurch franchisees, Alistair and Debbie Boyd, entered in 1997,’ he says. ‘They were also in their first year of operation, but had got far enough down the track to benefit from undergoing the searching process of entering the Awards. I thought Cathy and Steve could do the same – and, like Alistair and Debbie, they won first time out.’

In fact, the Wilsons had done their initial training with the Boyds and had heard first-hand how valuable they’d found the Awards process. ‘They said that once we’d got over the initial hurdles, the Awards process was a good analysis tool that encouraged you to step back a bit and work out where you were really going,’ says Steve.

The Wilsons took a day to look at the Awards criteria. ‘We couldn’t understand the questions at first,’ laughs Cathy, ‘but then it started to make sense. We had to look at the business from the outside, ask ourselves why we are or aren’t doing this, how do we measure that, what do we do with that information. It’s very thorough.’

Mike Roberts says that the Boyds and the Wilsons both follow the Brumby’s system precisely. ‘They’ve read the manual and followed the system and made it work for them. Some franchisees can try to overlay systems with their own whims, but others have usually tried those things and found they don’t work. Steve and Cathy make the system work for them.’

‘The system is the whole reason for buying a franchise, so there’s not much point in messing about with it,’ says Cathy. ‘We’re relaxed enough to know that Brumby’s have got it pretty right by now. But within the system there are actually a lot of options. We’ve never felt on a rigid path where you have to do everything just like this – in fact there’s a lot of latitude as long as you don’t change the fundamentals.’

Another factor common to the two Brumby’s winners is their staff management, reckons Mike Roberts. ‘They lead by example and their people are happy to follow. They work on team building, and it shows.’

‘We’ve chosen people who all live locally,’ Steve explains. None of them knew the others before but now they all mix socially and we even have our own touch rugby team (called, inevitably, the Brumby’s). Our rule is to treat people the way we’d like to be treated. They know their roles, responsibilities and duties and know we trust them to get on with it. It all helps create a nice congenial atmosphere and the customers respond to that too.’

Chief Judge Jeff Luskie comments, ‘The Wilsons are absolutely clear on where they are going and how they are getting there. Nothing is left to chance. They can predict to within a fraction what their performance is going to be at any time. They are a new operation, but are already performing as well as or better than many others in the system. Their location is brilliant, which is the result of careful selection and planning. And they value their staff, which is demonstrated by the opportunities and incentives they offer staff to multi-skill and develop. They are worthy winners of the 1999 Franchisee of the Year title.’

Old hands

You know it’s election time when your MP drops by to congratulate you. That’s what happened to Brent and Joanna Williamson, who were awarded a Certificate of Merit in the Franchisee of the Year category.

The Williamsons have had their Robert Harris Coffee Shop in Timaru for two years now, but they are old hands at the game. ‘We first saw the franchise in Nelson, where an existing outlet was for sale,’ remembers Joanna. ‘We were impressed but we couldn’t believe how much it was worth, so we thought we’d find a site and buy a brand new Robert Harris instead.’ The couple started the first Robert Harris in Invercargill seven years ago before moving north for family reasons, and then they chose the same franchise again. ‘We looked at a range of other businesses options but realised this business still suited us best. Timaru was the right choice – it’s given us a brilliant lifestyle and a great business too.’

The biggest shock for Brent and Joanna was starting with a brand new team. ‘We’d got used to people just knowing how we did things – now here they were questioning it. It took a lot of communication, but it happened fast.’

Like all the other entrants, Brent and Joanna found the process enlightening. ‘David Goodstone, the franchise operations manager for Robert Harris, was very encouraging when we said we were thinking of entering. He used to be with Stirling Sports, so I think he knew how valuable it could be,’ says Joanna. ‘It certainly was. I thought we were doing a wonderful job, but the more questions we asked the more we identified areas where we could be doing better. It also encouraged us to go out and find information we hadn’t had before, such as external benchmarks. It’s all very well knowing your sales growth, but unless you know general sales trends in the industry, your own figures don’t mean a lot.

‘As a result we’ll definitely be making changes to the way we manage our business. Take complaints, for example. We get very very few and we have a policy for handling them, but we haven’t actually counted them before. What you don’t measure, you can’t manage, so that’s changed. That’s just one little benefit – but they all add up to improving our business.’

New category

The runner-up in the Master Franchisee of the Year category went to Jan and Steve Rosser of Meticulous Maids, Upper North Island. Master Franchisee is a new category  introduced this year to recognise the growing number of three tier systems which rely upon an area master franchisee to deliver support services to franchisees at a local level.

There are currently 14 Meticulous Maids franchisees in Jan’s area, which covers  everywhere from Taupo north, and another two areas are about to be sold. In total, franchisees employ over 70 staff who work in teams to a system based on hotel housekeeping principles.

The Rossers bought the master franchise territory just over a year ago, and Jan runs the business while Steve operates in a support role when he is not at work. It was one of Jan’s franchisees who was responsible for her entering the Awards. ‘When Rosemary Gore won the Franchisee of the Year title last year, I promised her we’d enter,’ Jan laughs. ‘When they introduced the Master Franchisee category, she held me to it.’

‘I’ve read every year people saying what a commitment it is– now I know what they mean. I thought about it for a month before putting the final entry together. I kept a box in the kitchen and every time I thought of something we should include, I wrote it on a note and popped it in the box. It took me a weekend to sort them out and put it all together at the end of the month.

‘I think the real reason for doing it was to see if I was on track. I’d been telling everyone that I was busy, but what had I actually accomplished from my busy-ness – that was the question. I discovered ways of working smarter, not harder, and now I’m spending more time with the family again. That’s just one of the benefits of the Awards process.

‘It would be fair to say that in the first twelve months most of my success came from simply applying the Meticulous Maids system. Everything I needed to know was written in the manuals, and the advertising campaign was already in place. From there on, I was able to add things. I have a very strong background in customer services, and I like to feel I’ve strengthened our delivery there. Our franchisees were lacking individual business plans so I’ve spent the last six months working on those, and we’ve also done more promotion. It all seems to be paying off – eight out of the 14 franchisees enjoyed record weeks last month.’

Jan Rosser believes in continuous learning. ‘I’ve been on Chamber of Commerce courses, and I’ve just done one semester of the franchisor papers for Unitec’s Diploma of Franchising. That really opens up the mind.’

Winning the runner-up Award has been a big boost for Jan. ‘It’s made a huge difference to me to know how I’m regarded by my peers, and it’s very reassuring to know I’m doing many of the right things.’

Start working now

Jeff Luskie is already looking forward to the year 2000 Awards. ‘At first I was surprised to see so many of the same names back as last year, but then I realised that those companies are entering because they recognise the value that the Awards process offers them. I think it would be fair to say that nobody enters these Awards just for the publicity – even if that might be their aim originally, they soon find that taking a long hard look at the way their business operates is, in effect, its own reward.’

The current criteria are likely to be retained for next year’s Awards. ‘That gives anyone who is thinking of entering the chance to make an early start,’ says Jeff. ‘The entry process does take time, it’s not easy, and it will expose some gaps that you will want to address. I know a couple of people left it too late to start this year – make sure that the same doesn’t happen to you in 2000.’

And John Foreman reinforces the message. ‘The 1999 Awards were a memorable event, and a proud statement of continuing growth in franchising. The Millennium Awards will be even bigger with more entrants, more winners, and even more people at the evening itself. If you’re interested in entering – or even if you’re a potential sponsor – call me on 0-9-415 6217. Start planning your entry now!’

Franchise Systems - Excellence Through & Through

Green Acres Home Services almost scored a trifecta in the 1999 Franchise Awards, taking two out of the three top titles and runner-up in the third

‘We’ve waited for this so long. We’ve entered the Awards every year and tried to do a little better each time. To take the Supreme Award is a dream come true – and to do it like this, with a title for Green Acres in every category, is a dream come true. I’m choked, mate, really choked.’ So said an emotional Adrian Kenny, founder of the Green Acres Home Services franchise, after an Awards evening which saw Green Acres take two of the top three titles in New Zealand franchising.

Green Acres won the Supreme Award for Franchise System of the Year and Master Franchisee of the Year, and was runner-up in the Franchisee of the Year category. Fastway Couriers were runners-up in the Franchise System of the Year category, and a Certificate of Merit went to Action International.

The 1999 Franchise Awards marked the fifth running of the annual event, which this year was more hotly contested than ever. Entries were up 12 percent over previous years and a new category was added for Master Franchisees. The stringent criteria were largely unchanged from last year (see below).

New for this year was the addition of a site visit to finalists in the Franchise System of the Year category. Chief Judge Jeff Luskie personally visited the three competing finalists to ask questions, clarify details and verify some of the information provided by the entrants.

All levels

For Green Acres, the Supreme Award marks the culmination of a process which began in 1989 when Adrian Kenny returned from overseas with no job, two children and a large credit card bill. He started mowing lawns, developing rounds and selling them on, but soon decided there had to be a better way. The Green Acres franchise system was born. Today, that system numbers over 600 franchisees and covers a variety of home and commercial services such as lawnmowing, ironing, home cleaning, commercial cleaning, and so on.

One of Adrian’s first lawnmowing franchisees was Garry Payne. The ex-railwayman enjoyed the change of scene, and when Adrian decided that his franchisees needed more locally-based support, Garry and his wife Sandra became the company’s first area master franchisees. Now they have won the Supreme title of Master Franchisee of the Year. Another of those early franchisees was Ken Le Comte – he and his wife Alison are runners-up in the Franchisee of the Year category.

‘I think that says two things about the Green Acres system,’ says Adrian. ‘First, the excellence of what we do runs right through the system at all levels. Secondly, we enjoy some magnificent long-term relationships.’

The company now operates with a highly efficient three tier structure. The group’s head office consists of only four people, who focus on developing services and systems and supporting the master franchisees. Support services are outsourced, reducing staff structures and overheads and enabling the small team to concentrate on what is really important.

The master franchisees form the second tier, acting as area managers for each individual service. They form the first point of liaison with potential customers as well as having responsibility for supporting the individual franchisees - quoting, allocating work and providing assistance when required. They also recruit and train new franchisees.

The franchisees are at the ‘sharp end’ of the business, carrying out the various services such as lawnmowing and keeping the customers happy.

In the middle

As master franchisees, Garry and Sandra Payne sit in the middle of the structure and are responsible for ensuring that Green Acres standards are maintained throughout their East Auckland territory. They have 44 lawnmowing franchisees.

‘The system really does work,’ says Sandra. ‘All of the systems development – the manuals, contracts and those sorts of things - and long-term work is handled by Adrian and Andrew (Chisholm) and the franchise office team.

‘The new computer system is one example. The old database program wasn’t Y2K proof, so they have developed a new one which has a lot more bells and whistles. We’ll be able to put in each individual franchisee’s targets and budgets, the Key Performance Indicators and benchmarks for the entire system, then see how everyone is doing. It will help us deliver support to franchisees as soon as it’s needed, and we’ll actually be able to manage the business day by day if we need to, not just weekly. All that work has been done for us at the franchise office, so we can concentrate on getting the benefit out of it.’

Measuring customer satisfaction

Ever since the first Franchise Awards in 1995, Green Acres have viewed the event as an opportunity to subject their system to a detailed annual scrutiny. ‘The criteria are actually very tough, and really make you think about every aspect of your business,’ says Adrian. ‘For example, one thing which we identified last year when we were putting our entry together was that we weren’t really measuring customer satisfaction rates well enough.  Garry and Sandra felt the same, so it’s an area we have been working on this year.’

Sandra’s solution shows that you don’t actually need hi-tech solutions to improve your business. ‘Every week I take a letter of the alphabet from the files and send ten letters and questionnaires to clients selected at random, along with a return envelope. We get 75% of the questionnaires back, and some really valuable feedback.’

And Jeff Luskie agrees that measuring customer satisfaction levels is an important part of the quality process. ‘Too many companies just deliver a product to the market and assume that if people are buying it, they must be happy. But if you actually ask customers what they think of your product and what else they might want, it puts you in a much stronger position.’

The franchisee

While the Green Acres system and the Paynes have both entered and won Awards before, Ken and Alison Le Comte were first-timers. ‘Garry and Sandra encouraged us, but really we entered for personal pride. People think what we do is just a lawnmowing round, but it’s a business like any other and we think about what we are doing and the way we do it. We wanted to prove that.’

‘The Green Acres system is excellent, but it’s how you use it that makes your own business succeed. Alison and I spent about a fortnight putting our entry together, writing a bit at a time then seeing if we agreed with it the next day. We were really proud to get runner-up on our first attempt.’

Ken and Alison work together, Alison operating the powered mower while Ken does the more physical work. ‘People like to have a couple doing their lawns. There’s a lot of older people in the community who are almost living in fear, and we’re reassuring. We also do a lot of little extra things, like lifting heavy shopping out of the boot or helping start people’s cars. Green Acres is about service.’

In an area with a large Chinese population, Ken has found it valuable to learn a few words of Mandarin. ‘If you came across a Frenchman, you’d say “bonjour”. Well, it’s easy to say “nihau” in Mandarin, too – just a little touch of courtesy. It helps to avoid confusion, too. For example, there are no tenses in Mandarin, so “Are you going on holiday” is the same as “Have you been on holiday?” Knowing that helps you avoid making mistakes – and that’s another part of ensuring customer satisfaction.’

The judging

The criteria for the WestpacTrust New Zealand Franchise Awards, which are based upon those of the internationally-recognised Malcolm Baldridge Awards, are divided into seven key areas. These are:

  • Leadership
  • Strategic Planning
  • Customer & Market Focus
  • Information & Analysis
  • Human Resource Focus
  • Process Management
  • Business Results

Points are scored out of a maximum possible in each category, with business results accounting for 450 of the maximum of 1000 points available.

The judges were: Jeff Luskie - National Manager, Customer Service/Quality Development, Telecom Directories; Professor Gael McDonald - Dean, Faculty of Business at UNITEC; and Maurice Mehlhopt - Executive Director, Newspaper Advertising Bureau. According to Jeff Luskie, the quality of entries in this year’s Awards was another step up from previous years.

‘That was especially evident in the entries from Green Acres and Fastway Couriers,’ he says. ‘They had looked carefully at the criteria and taken a great deal of trouble to explain how they manage all the various aspects of their businesses. The thoroughness of their planning was reflected not only in their business results, but in the growth of their companies in relatively short periods of time.

‘However, despite their common passion for excellence, the two companies are completely different in style, and the site visits were especially valuable in getting a feel for that. Green Acres operates from a converted house with a delightful garden, which gives a really personal feel to the business. They have a small, dynamic management structure and manage to retain a family feel which is in keeping with the nature of their business.

‘Fastway’s clients are companies moving documents and products around the world, so their headquarters are more obviously corporate and professional. They have 20-25 people at their office, and I visited each department to talk to people about their roles and how they contribute to the overall vision.’

Global growth

Fastway Couriers are New Zealand franchising’s biggest international success story. Founded by Bill McGowan in Hawkes Bay in 1983, the company now has over 900 franchisees, making it the world’s largest courier franchise. Fastway expanded to Australia in 1991 and Singapore in 1999, and turnover is currently $100 million per annum.

The company is no stranger to Awards, either. Earlier this year Fastway was named Franchise System of the Year in Australia, and Suzanne McGowan, the company’s head of global sales and marketing, won the title of NSW Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

‘We enter some Awards each year as a matter of policy,’ says Suzanne. ‘As well as the franchise awards, we also enter transport industry ones. Awards give you the opportunity to measure yourself against others in the industry – they’re a form of benchmarking.’

‘The criteria also force you to re-evaluate what you’re doing. As a result of what we learned last year, for example, we tightened up our recruitment in New Zealand by importing some of the systems we had been using in Australia. On the other hand, we’re a bit more established in New Zealand so our services marketing is a bit more advanced – that’s something we export to the Australian operation.

‘Another thing I realised was that when it came to, say, communication with franchisees we didn’t have a succinct business model down on paper. This was something I developed for our Awards entry that has since become a very useful tool in our business.’

And for a company which has identified 35 countries as having the potential for a Fastway business, Suzanne says the Awards are an invaluable marketing tool. ‘When you go into a country where nobody’s ever heard of Fastway, it’s very important to be able to point to these awards and say look, we’re recognised as being one of the best franchise systems in New Zealand and in Australia.

‘It gives people confidence. Singapore is established and the first 15 courier franchisees are already working there. We expect to open Malaysia early next year, and Philippines and South Africa are very close.

‘It works at home, too. Our staff are over the moon with both Awards – it confirms that they’re among the best in the country.’

Action International

‘We’ll be back next year with bells on!’ That’s the promise of Rani Schwager, who is thrilled by the Certificate of Merit awarded to Action International. The company provides business coaching services, and was founded by Brad Sugars in 1994.

Action International only started franchising earlier this year, but Rani says that the chance to enter the Awards was too good to miss. ‘It was like being forced to take a look at yourself from the outside,’ she says, ‘and gave us the opportunity to evaluate the systems we had in place. Continually developing and improving is always important, but especially so for a new franchise.

‘As a result, we’ve identified a number of areas where we can improve. We’ve had a lot of rapid expansion and there are always so many new ideas around, but we’ve recognised the opportunity to be more pro-active in our planning two years or five years ahead.’

‘Action International is so new that they weren’t able to submit the business results which form a large part of the criteria for assessment,’ explains Chief Judge Jeff Luskie. ‘However, the judges were really impressed with their systems and the concept, and for that reason we awarded a Certificate of Merit. We would really love to judge them again in a year’s time and see where those systems have taken them.’

According to Alan Edelman, the company’s master licensee in New Zealand, the signs are promising. ‘We’ve already got eight franchisees on board – we call them licensed consultants – and things are going well. Two are in the top five in Australasia, so on average we’re out-performing our Australian colleagues,’ he smiles. ‘To win a Certificate of Merit so soon is a real feather in our caps.’

WestpacTrust franchising manager Rob Macready is delighted by the entries in this year’s Awards. ‘The winners exemplify the franchising excellence that the WestpacTrust New Zealand Franchise Awards were set up to recognise. It was good to see the range of franchise systems represented in the finals including financial services, retailing, business and home services, and their geographic spread. That reflects how much franchising is growing.’

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