last updated 12/09/2019
Franchise Awards 1997 - Full Results
last updated 12/09/2019
November 1997 - Winners of the 1997 Franchisee and Franchise System of the Year titles share a passion for making their businesses even better
‘We had the TV people round yesterday, the newspapers in today, and the shop’s starting to look like a florists. We’ve had faxes from all our suppliers, and even congratulations from the Salvation Army. Canterbury people know how to celebrate a victory…’
Three days after being named Franchisee of the Year, Alistair Boyd is clearly still on a high. The Brumby’s Hot Bread Shop he and his wife Debbie operate in Edgeware, Christchurch has attracted lots of new faces since the news got out, all eager to find out just what it is that makes the Boyds the best in New Zealand.
Having strength in depth is clearly part of it. The day that Alistair flew up to Auckland to attend the glitzy Awards Dinner, Debbie stayed home to achieve the shop’s best day ever – as Alistair proudly announced when he accepted the Award on behalf of them both. ‘Maybe I should spend more time on the golf course,’ he joked.
Alistair and Debbie won both the Franchisees of the Year title in the Retail category and the Supreme Award, presented by Trevor Pilkington, WestpacTrust’s Regional General Manager - Auckland.
The title of Franchisees of the Year for the Service category was won by Garry and Sandra Payne, of Green Acres Lawnmowing – East Auckland. The judges also awarded a special Certificate of Merit to Matthew Twigge of Pit Stop in Tauranga.
1997 marked the third year of the New Zealand Franchise Awards, organised by the Franchise Association of New Zealand. This year, WestpacTrust were major sponsors, and the occasion was celebrated in style at a black tie dinner in Auckland’s Hyatt Hotel.
Actor and comedian Mark Hadlow was MC for the evening, and over 150 people from the franchise community celebrated the success of both franchisees and franchisors in the prestigious event. As Stewart Germann, Chairman of the Franchise Association, said in his welcoming address it was a great turnout for a really exciting evening and capped an exciting and eventful years for the Association.
Additional support for this year’s Awards came from Franchise New Zealand magazine, Snap Printing and Unitec.
Entry was open to all franchisees currently operating in New Zealand, whether Association members or not. They were required to answer questions on all aspects of their business according to tough criteria laid down by the New Zealand Quality Foundation. The judges, for the second year running, were Alan Marriott (National Quality Manager for Telecom Business Systems), Doris Robinson (Director of Quantum Learning) and Leith Oliver (Senior Lecturer at UNITEC and a business mentor to many companies).
Although Alistair knew that he and Debbie were finalists in the Franchisee of the Year competition, actually winning the top award ‘left me gasping like a stunned mullet,’ he says.
The Boyds bought their Brumby’s franchise in 1996 after Alistair was made redundant from his job with a Christchurch-based photographic importers. ‘I’d been with them for 18½ years, and had been national sales manager for the last nine years. There were clearly some major changes on the way, and Debbie and I had started looking for other opportunities. We’d found Brumby’s in Franchise New Zealand, and were already talking to Mike Roberts, the franchisor. When the boss told me I was going to be made redundant, I could have kissed him!’
In his acceptance speech, Alistair paid tribute to his franchisor. ‘Throughout that period when we were looking at the franchise, and then in the two months of training before opening, Mike was very much a friend to us. He made it incredibly easy for us to move into running our own business despite having no experience.’
‘It was actually Mike who sent the entry form for the Awards to us,’ says Alistair. We read through all the criteria and thought “whew, this is a lot of work but it’s asking some very good questions”. I felt it would be a wonderful exercise to have a really close look at our own business and check our own progress. It never occurred to me that we could win.’
Looking back, Alistair reckons he spent 43 hours collating the information required and putting their entry together, ‘then I got Debbie and Mike to give me their comments. There was a lot of information to put together on the financial side which I had never analysed quite that way before. The results were fascinating.
‘The Brumby’s system sets exacting standards, requiring you to look at certain aspects of the business every day and every week. But as a result of sitting down and working through the various processes for the entry, we gained an even better understanding of our business.
‘For example, tracking product sales and customer counts hourly gives us some really useful information for planning staffing and production, sell-out times, minimising wastage and so on. We know what effect the weather has on our shop, which is minimal, but we can also tell you the difference in trading patterns between the football and cricket seasons. All those bits of knowledge help you to be that little bit better and provide that little bit more to your customers.’
Alistair and Debbie share credit for the Award with their staff - four full-timers and six part-timers. Debbie is a former primary care nurse, and Alistair says her experience with people is very much a strength in the business. ‘She is also very organised, and excellent at time management – you had to be in her old job.’ Although Alistair is the ex-sales manager, it is Debbie who takes on that role in their Brumby’s outlet. ‘We have taken on different functions, but we meld together very well as a team,’ he says.
They use lots of staff incentives to keep energy levels high. One innovation is ‘Brumby Bucks’ – staff dollars awarded for good service which are saved up for use in a blind auction at the end of the year. ‘The idea came from a Brumby’s newsletter, but we’ve elaborated on it a bit.’
They also maintain two important books – a complaints book, which must be written up in front of the customer and which enables Alistair or Debbie to contact the customer later to ensure that they were satisfied with the outcome, and their own Most Excellent Sales Book, which is designed to encourage staff to take pride in doing a good job.
‘Bea is one of our teenage staff who really knows her stuff. In the early days, we had a gentleman come in for a sandwich loaf who asked about the other breads. Bea spent a lot of time explaining which bread went with what and so on, and he was so impressed he took home a dozen loaves. Now he comes from across the other side of town every week for his Brumby’s bread.
‘Staff write in the book themselves, and we read it out weekly. It allows us to recognise them for excellent service.’
The other people that Alistair and Debbie consider a vital part of their success are Debbie’s parents, ‘who have been absolutely marvellous,’ says Alistair. ‘With two boys – aged nine and five – and a seven day business, we just wouldn’t have coped without them at first.’
And now that their first shop is running smoothly, the Franchisees of the Year are considering opening a second – and larger – Brumby’s…
Right place – right time
Apart from excellence, something else that the Service Franchisee of the Year has in common with Alistair Boyd is redundancy. Garry Payne was also pushed out of a job and into self-employment, and he has never looked back.
‘I was operations manager of a large freight terminal for the railways. I’d been with them for 24 years, and I knew there were changes in the wind but I’d been told my job was safe. Then when I came back from holiday, bang! My job had gone – and I had just turned 40. I was very sour at the time, but looking back it was a blessing in disguise.’
Garry bought a franchise with a lawnmowing outfit called Green Acres which had only been going for three months. He was just their tenth franchisee.
‘I mowed lawns for nine months, then Adrian Kenny came to me and said “I’m changing the way we operate by putting in master franchisees for each area. How about becoming one of the first?” I had the management experience and I knew how the system worked, so I went to my solicitor and talked it over. We reckoned everything was straight up and it was a pretty good bet.
‘I’d have to say now I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.’ Today, Garry and Sandra Payne have 36 lawnmowing franchisees in their territory.
‘It was quite a shock to win the Award,’ says Garry. ‘We didn’t really give ourselves much chance. We’d agreed that it would be good for the business to enter, but it was only when Green Acres sent us the form we decided to go for it.’
Like the Boyds, Garry and Sandra put a lot of effort into their entry. ‘We worked at it every evening until about one o’clock for two weeks. The last night I gave up at three o’clock, and Sandra came to bed at half past four!
‘The questions really made you think. We talked about what we did in each instance, put down some rough comments then nutted it out into written copy. I guess over the last five years we’ve made a lot of improvements along the way – everything’s happened to us, and we’ve always worked it out,’ Garry says casually.
But it is clear that Garry and Sandra’s success is the result of a lot of dedicated hard work. Take, for example, their approach to gaining a competitive advantage.
‘Part of the area master franchisee’s job in Green Acres is quoting on new work. We’ve got quite a large Asian community in East Auckland, so Sandra and I went to night school and learned to speak Mandarin Chinese. We used to go home and try out a new word on our Asian neighbours every night, and they were delighted.’ He demonstrates a couple of key phrases: ‘Do you want me to cut your grass?’ and ‘Twenty dollars!’ The approach works. ‘I have never gone on to a property where I’ve used the Mandarin and walked off without getting the job.’
Garry and Sandra enjoy what they do thoroughly. They work hard and play hard, both being keen runners in events as far away as Fiji and Raratonga, but Green Acres is their business and their passion. ‘We love what we do, and intend to be here for a lot longer. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else,’ Garry says.
Making dreams happen
Last year, Matthew Twigge was a guest at the Franchise Awards evening. He thought, ‘I want to give this a go next year’, and this year he found himself up on stage.
Matt is used to making his dreams happen. The A-Grade mechanic and his wife Joyce moved from Palmerston North to Tauranga to take up the opportunity of a Pit Stop franchise there. They took over a ten-year old business, and set about revitalising it.
‘We knew when we bought the place that we’d have to move premises, and we’ve gone from an industrial area to nearer the retail centre. That means we get more mothers coming in – they know they can do the shopping while we’re working on the car. The rent has doubled, but the sales have gone up as well.’ In fact, the new landlord is about to enlarge the building to accommodate Matt’s expansion plans.
Pit Stop Tauranga has three mechanics, with a fourth to join when the expansion is complete. ‘The Certificate of Merit is their award as well,’ says Matt. ‘But it’s also a reminder that we need to do everything we do to the same high standard. The plaque was hung up on the wall first thing Monday morning, and all the guys know we have to live up to it all the time.’
‘Our aim is always to exceed the customer’s expectations,’ says Matt. ‘After hours the business phone switches through to our home, and we try never to let anyone down. The other night we got a call from a family towing a boat from Rotorua to the Coromandel – their brakes had gone. We contacted the local supplier, got the brakes, fitted them and got the people back on their way – all after hours.
‘There are the simple things, too. We always meet our deadlines unless something happens that you just can’t plan for, and if there is a delay we tell the customer before they turn up for the car. Pretty basic, but important.’
‘It’s easy to forget the basics when you’re running your own business, though. You get the blinkers on and just focus on getting the job done. You need to stand back and see the big picture, know where you’re heading next. Entering the Awards was very good for me – it got me working on my business, not just working in it.
According to the judges, this is precisely what the Franchise Awards are designed to do. ‘The very process of entering is an important business tool, both for franchisees and franchisors,’ says Alan Marriott. ‘There were some outstanding examples where people were forced by the criteria to get some information together that they hadn’t had before.
‘Once they had the information, you could see the immense value it had for them, and how they realised there were things they could be doing to drive their businesses forward. Watching that happen was both exciting and rewarding.
‘I hope next year we’ll see an even larger number of both franchisors and franchisees entering – and reaping the rewards.’
Franchise System Awards - 3 Out Of 3 For Stirling Sports
The sports goods retailer has won the supreme title of Franchise System of the Year for 1997. In addition to the supreme title, Stirling Sports also won the title of Franchise System of the Year – Retail, making it three out of three for the franchise. The company won the same titles in 1995, and won the Retail section in 1996.
The company, founded in Auckland’s Dominion Road in 1964 by Colin & Lynn Taylor, now has 48 franchised outlets throughout New Zealand and is one of the country’s strongest retail brands.
The title of Franchise System of the Year in the Service category was won by home services franchise Green Acres – another well-known brand. Green Acres have also been recognised in the Awards before, but this year had the added pleasure of seeing one of their operators claim the Franchisee of the Year title in the Service section.
And a total newcomer received special mention – Bill & Ben’s were awarded a Certificate of Merit for their entry.
Alan Marriott was chairman of the judging panel. ‘Something all three winners had in common was a focus on quality and continuous improvement,’ comments Alan, who is National Quality Manager for Telecom Business Systems. ‘None of them has been content to rest on their laurels; all have been quick to identify areas where they can improve their business, and then to involve their franchisees in doing something about it. It is that sort of approach which makes these businesses successful not just in the Awards, but in the competitive commercial world.’
This was the third year that the Awards have been organised by the Franchise Association of New Zealand. Major sponsorship came from long-time supporters of franchising WestpacTrust, with additional support from Franchise New Zealand magazine, Unitec and Snap Printing.
Entrants this year were challenged by a new format for the Awards. Drawing on the experience of the judges, the entry requirements were amended to reflect the internationally recognised criteria of the National Quality Foundation. This required entrants to address seven key areas of their business:
- Strategic Planning
- Customer & Market Focus
- Information & Analysis
- Process Management
- Business Results
Win Robinson, Chairman of the Awards Committee, explains the reason for the change. ‘The purpose of the Awards is to encourage all those in franchising to adopt the principles of “Best Practice”. By adopting international standard criteria, we were able to draw on the expertise of the New Zealand Quality Foundation and ensure that the very process of entering the Awards would offer significant benefits to franchisors and franchisees.
‘Every entrant was forced to examine the fundamental parts of their business critically, and identify just what it is they do well, and where they could improve.’
The Award winners all agreed that it was a tough process.
‘The questions really get your brain going,’ says Adrian Kenny of Green Acres. ‘You’re going through it, thinking about what you do, and then suddenly you think “This is what I’m doing now, but should I be doing it another way?”. It forces you to stand outside and take a long hard look at your own business, which is incredibly valuable. It’s helped us to set our own targets for next year, and driven us to want to reach even higher standards.’
All three winners agree that even if they had won nothing, they would have learned enough just from entering to make all the effort worthwhile.
Franchise System of the Year – Supreme Award
Franchise System of the Year – Retail Category
As Philip Howe, general manager of Stirling Sports, commented, ‘Changing the criteria this year was quite a challenge. For a start, we had to throw away everything we’d done before and start from scratch, which was really very good for us. Fortunately, we’re not afraid to change and to keep on changing – I think that is one of our strong points as a system. We always try to recognise areas which aren’t working so well and address them.’
How has Stirling Sports changed since winning the first Franchise System of the Year title in 1995?
‘Two major areas would be franchisee relationships, and benchmarking,’ replies Philip. ‘We enjoyed good relationships with our franchisees before, but you can always improve. We started using some of the tools we learned from Australian franchise psychologist Greg Nathan and we’ve found them very effective. Things like two-way evaluations, where our franchisees rate our performance as well as vice versa.
‘The other major project is benchmarking to achieve what we call high performance retailing. We’ve developed it with our Franchise Advisory Council of franchisees on the principles laid down by a consultant called Peter Latchford. Basically, what we have done is identify and quantify key factors which make us successful: brand image, locations, store layout, product knowledge and so on. We then focus on being absolutely brilliant at the basics.
‘The purpose is to make sure you know who you are and what you’re trying to do all the time, without getting at odds with the basic principles of retailing. The whole thing is set down in a key document which is the guiding tool for everyone in the company. That document is only about 30 pages long, and we don’t want it to get any bigger (although it’s cross referenced to the manuals). It means that every time anyone is doing something new, they remain really focussed.’
The document also maps out future directions. ‘The impetus for change comes from key franchisees who always want to be better, and from ourselves – they push us and we pull them. While we’re successful in our own minds, none of us think we’re good enough yet.’
The international quality criteria encourage companies to assess themselves according to a variety of ‘performance excellence factors’. They are tough; according to judge Alan Marriott, most businesses would score 2-3 out of 10. A very good company would score 5-6, and world class organisations might achieve 7-8. Marked against these ratings, Stirling Sports has clear ambitions.
‘We think we are around 6-6.5,’ says Philip Howe. ‘We want to be scoring 8 or 9.’
Franchise System of the Year – Service Category
With over 450 franchisees, Green Acres is arguably New Zealand’s largest franchise (only Lotto has more), and it is the franchisees that Adrian Kenny credits with bringing the Service title back to Green Acres in 1997. ‘In fact, we went one better than in 1995,’ says Adrian, ‘because this year one of our franchisees was a winner too.’
Green Acres operates a three tier system of franchisor, area master franchisees and franchisees. ‘The area master franchisees are the ones who recruit, train and support the franchisees at a local level,’ Adrian explains. ‘We discovered very early on that this system was the only way to maintain good service to franchisees all over the country.’
It also provides some of that ‘pushing’ that Philip Howe refers to. ‘Our area masters keep us on our toes,’ says Adrian. ‘They talk, they listen, they think, they propose ideas and they’re always looking for better ways of doing things. That really stops us getting complacent.
‘Retail and service are two totally different things. We’re selling service, not stock, and we have no control over the environment in which our service is delivered. In some ways, that makes it harder to put values on things. Our search for quality has to be based on training our people to do a first-class job all the time, every time, and we’re constantly working at it.
‘I said to one of the other franchisors at the Awards evening “hey, don’t think we’re perfect”. We like to think we’re good, but there are so many things we’re still trying to improve, and there always will be. We’re grafting all the time. Winning the Award obviously means we're on the right track, but you’ve got to keep on looking for those improvements.’
Bill & Ben’s
The Certificate of Merit awarded to Bill & Ben’s is recognition of seven years’ hard work. The franchise offers garden and landscape design and maintenance services and is, to their knowledge, the only one of its kind in the world. Clients require everything from total landscape packages worth six-figure sums to ongoing garden and lawn maintenance services. The company operates via area master franchisees who co-ordinate franchisees’ activities.
‘When we started the franchise, we found we were having to invent everything from scratch,’ says founder Gavin Watson. ‘There were no examples of landscape companies to copy – even bad ones. It took a while to learn what worked and what didn’t.’
The company grew slowly at first as Gavin, his wife Jane and co-founder Bill Butterfield struggled to develop systems which were appropriate to a unique business. Gavin had been trained to do things properly from an early age. As the youngest mechanic on New Zealand’s champion Formula One motor racing teams in the 1960’s, he had undergone a baptism of fire in a fiercely competitive environment where anything less than perfection could mean disaster. The same attitude now drove Bill & Ben’s.
‘The aim for Bill & Ben’s was to achieve superior service, sophisticated operator skills, and the very best job that could be delivered at the upper end of the market. In order to deliver these consistently through our franchisees, we had to have superb systems and superb people,’ recalls Gavin.
The total landscape package offered by Bill & Ben’s requires their master franchisees to have considerable organisational skills, and the company found that once it began getting the systems right it was attracting a very high calibre of people.
‘Our masters might not be very experienced in franchising, but they have a lot of top management experience. They have complementary skills, and are always helping us find better ways of doing things. At first, the idea of franchising and losing total control of the business was frightening, but now we know it’s inspiring,’ says Gavin.
‘Winning the Certificate of Merit is very encouraging. It hasn’t been easy getting to where we are today – we took a wrong turn at one point and it took a while and a lot of hard work to put it right,’ Gavin admits frankly. ‘But we learned and it made us stronger. Now we’re halfway through establishing the whole network of area masters and looking for the individual franchisees in each of the services.
Evolution & Growth
According to judge Alan Marriott, the 1997 WestpacTrust New Zealand Franchise Awards were the most successful yet. ‘There were two themes this year – evolution and growth,’ he says.
‘The range of businesses entering this year was broader than ever. The maturity and standard of the entries went up again, and the standard of presentation was very high. Some people had spent a lot of time collating the information, and it was clear in some cases that they had learned a lot about their businesses along the way.
‘The change in criteria was a definite evolution. I know many of the entrants found them a real challenge, but everybody I spoke to who had made the effort to enter commented that as a result of going through the process they had found something of real value to their business.
‘It was also apparent that those companies who are already adopting a policy of continuous improvement are seeing real measurable business results coming through.’
In addition to improved results, Award winners are also benefiting from the considerable publicity attached to the titles. As Philip Howe of Stirling Sports says, ‘Not only does the title make it easier to recruit the right people for new stores, but it also increases the value of our existing franchisees’ stores. When the time comes for them to sell, they will all benefit.’
Trevor Pilkington, Regional General Manager of WestpacTrust Auckland, saluted all the entrants. On presenting the Supreme Awards, he commented: ‘We appreciate the entrants’ commitment to their businesses. Franchising is a dynamic and growing sector, and reflects a changing society’s requirements and desire for quality and professionalism.
‘The efforts of all the entrants in entering the WestpacTrust New Zealand Franchise Awards 1997 will serve to help build their businesses and enhance the standard of franchising within New Zealand.’
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