last updated 26/05/2020
Helping franchisees #1 – Home Services
last updated 26/05/2020
A special series looking at how franchisors are helping their franchisees during lockdown. In this first case study, we talk to V.I.P. Home Services
V.I.P. Home Services has over 120 franchisees around the country providing lawnmowing and gardening, and domestic and commercial cleaning services. Estelle and John have been the National Franchisors for around 25 years.
Estelle and John, thanks for talking to us. You’ve been in business for a long time and supported franchisees through all sorts of crises from health concerns to earthquakes, but there’s never been anything like this before. Here are some questions for you.
1. Are your franchisees able to do any part of their normal business at the moment and is any part of their business classed as essential?
No we are not able to carry out normal business. Our franchisees usually service around 10,000 clients, and currently we are only providing service to 8! All of our lawn and garden franchisees are unable to work – the 8 cleaning jobs are for essential services customers.
2. How are you supporting the financial well-being of your franchisees through this period?
We have assisted franchisees in the following ways:
- To apply for the wage subsidy for themselves. This is available to franchisees as small business owners;
- To apply for the wage subsidy for any staff – many of our franchisees employ one or more people;
- V.I.P. franchise fees are charged monthly on a fixed fee basis. When the lockdown was announced, we immediately suspended 100% of franchise fees to franchisees for April. We will review to extend this if required, dependent on the lockdown criteria and our franchisees’ ability to go back to servicing clients;
- We provided information and support on bank offers of mortgage holidays, and what they really mean for our franchisees. It’s important to realise that although a mortgage holiday can relieve cashflow problems for now, it does mean that you will be paying the mortgage for longer overall;
- We provided information on the necessity of doing cashflow projections and keeping them relevant and flexible;
- We offer advice on budgeting and watching spending, and drip-feeding the wage subsidy to themselves so that it doesn’t get spent on non-essentials;
Some new franchisees are on income guarantees. We are honouring those guarantees and paying them.
3. How are you supporting the personal well-being of your franchisees? What communication systems are you using?
We set up a register of our franchisees and who is in their bubble. This helps us to support not only the franchisee themselves but also their family and sometimes extended family.
We have also set up a help me line so franchisees who feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed can just hit the Help Me Please button and we will help them or get them the help that’s needed. We also include a list a contact details in our newsletters for counselling, Lifeline, Youthline, mental health help, etc.
In terms of communication, we use Google Meet for franchisees and staff, and publish email newsletters twice a week. These include:
- Highlighting what info is important and relevant to them, and what it means;
- Inspirational quotes or stories;
- Letting them know what we in the franchisor team are doing / working on;
- Suggesting jobs they can be doing – this is a great opportunity to be working on their business rather than in it. ie. maintenance on their trailers, vehicles, equipment; reviewing and updating job lists; getting accounts up-to-date, etc.
- An activity kit for the kids in their bubble: puzzles, quiz, colouring, cooking, stories, competitions - some with prizes;
- Inviting interaction with us and other franchisees showing what they are doing in their bubble;
- A mind puzzle for the adults – who can get it right first!
4. How are you supporting yourself and your head office team in working from home? What are they able to do?
The first two weeks have been frantic, to be honest! There have been decisions we’ve had to make, setting up offices in our homes, looking at the short, medium and long-term effects to franchisees. Providing PPE gear (Personal Protective Equipment), products and chemicals to franchisees.
There are new franchisees who had just started their business and had it halted, so supporting them is crucial. In fact, as franchisors we are still working full-time, and we’re hoping to slow down a bit ourselves so we can get something done at home!
5. What steps are you taking to help franchisees to restart their business once this period ends?
We have started one-on-one business reviews with franchisees through Google Meet, looking at different aspects of their business and planning for the resumption.
Lawnmowing franchisees will be frantic with the growth; cleaners will have a slower return to their business. We expect overall that we will lose some customers initially as they may not be able to pay for the service.
Through our VIP IN TOUCH newsletters we will be preparing them on how to resume their business, give advice on who needs service first, and guidance on keeping to a geographical schedule so they can get through as much work as possible. What PPE gear they will need to have and use – not just for their own safety, but for the assurance of our customers. We’ll be reminding them on the need to have all their equipment serviced, supplies of chemicals, cloths, etc up-to-date and trailers all packed and ready for the green light.
We have written letters from V.I.P. Head Office to our customers. This shows our commitment to them, and helps franchisees to keep their clients informed on what is happening. Each franchisee is distributing them to their clients.
6. You’ve been very busy – from a franchisee’s point of view, it must be good to know that someone cares, that they are not isolated and that they have someone else thinking about their business with them.
We have taken a very holistic approach to supporting our franchisees and try to encompass everything and everyone in their bubble – spouses, partners, children, grandparents, boarders, even pets! This means we are actually supporting close to 400 people in the wider 'VIP Family Bubble'. For us, the five key aspects are:
- Physical – keeping fit and active;
- Emotional – their marriage, family, health;
- Social – keeping connected to other franchisees, the brand, customers and the outside world;
- Spiritual – recognising their belief systems, giving support and comfort and offering positivity;
- Mental – ensuring their wellbeing and supporting them through stress, financial pressures, uncertainty, anxiety, depression and just the unknown. Being there for them no matter what!
Thank you for sharing that with us, and good luck to all the V.I.P Home Services franchisees and support team in the next few weeks.
This article is the first of a 10-part series looking at the support franchisees have received during Covid-19. This series of case studies across different industries focuses on the responses of franchise teams to Covid-19 in all sorts of areas from finance and fees to mental health, with input from a specialist franchise banker and accountant. See all 10 episodes.
Read a summary with links of where to get up-to-date and accurate information about the relief available for businesses.
Franchise Accountants has prepared a resource which outlines how employers treat the Wage Subsidy and related matters. This guide answers a lot of questions and covers off some practical examples and tips. Download your copy of the guide here.
Note: the Franchise Association of New Zealand is hosting a series of 45-minute Virtual Meetings via Zoom for all interested franchisors and/or their staff on the topic Positive Actions Franchisors Are Taking. These are open to non-member franchisors – to be invited, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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