last updated 20/04/2020
Helping franchisees #6 – Home & Building Services
last updated 20/04/2020
When you’re running a small business, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to plan ahead. One of the benefits of being a franchisee can be that your franchisor has done that for you. We talk to Tony Burnette of Exceed about being prepared and how it’s paid off
Exceed provides specialist repairs of windows, doors & conservatories, as well as installation of insect and fly screens. Founded 30 years ago this year, the company has 27 franchises around the country operating 85 vans, and is the reigning Home & Lifestyle Franchise System of the Year. General Manager Tony Burnette is himself a franchisee in Christchurch, giving him particular insight into the challenges.
1. Tony, thanks for sharing your experience with us. Are your franchisees able to do any part of their normal business at the moment? Is any part of their business classed as essential? If not, what else do you suggest they do?
Because of the nature of our service, we are classed as an essential service under Covid-19 Government guidelines. That means we are able to go to commercial and residential properties but we must follow STRICT health and safety guidelines, and only repair things that cause a security risk or a health and safety risk to the customer.
This means less work than usual in some areas, so I am encouraging franchise owners (our franchisees) to work on their businesses as opposed to in them, and use the time wisely so when we start back properly we have 85 well-oiled machines heading in the same direction.
I am encouraging everyone to attend free online courses to upskill them and their teams during lockdown. These have been an amazing benefit to the group, helping not only with business but the health and well-being of the entire team. Each team member in the support office has attended a minimum of three courses run through the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce and covering such things as building business & personal resilience; how to lead through challenging times; post covid recovery; and emotional intelligence.
2. How are you supporting the financial well-being of your franchisees through this period?
We have always encouraged all franchise owners to have a buffer of three months in cash reserves. As soon as we went into lockdown, I made various Zoom calls and made it a priority for all franchise owners to do a cash projection for 12 months, based on 4 months of no income. I needed to ensure they had enough to support themselves during this unprecedented time. I then worked with owners one-to-one to work through their personal circumstances.
We provide a daily via what’s App update on ALL things Covid-19 including Government subsidies which we were very proactive in applying for. All of Exceed had applied for these within 72 hours of them being announced.
Our franchise fees are calculated on a royalty basis as a percentage of turnover, so when the franchise owners are doing well, we do well - but, on the flip side, when they are not doing well neither do we. During this time our owners are not paying operations fees as there is no income coming in for them. We have also reduced advertising levies during this time.
Our support office also negotiated reductions in GPS tracking monthly fees which benefited us as this service was not required while our fleet of vans was not in use.
3. How are you supporting the personal well-being of your franchisees? What communication systems are you using?
Health and well-being is the highest priority with me as GM. I lead a team of over 100 and I need to ensure they are all OK at all times.
- I use What’s App to communicate to the entire group, support office, service technicians and franchise owners;
- I touch base with all franchise owners personally on a weekly basis;
- We have Zoom calls as required;
- As a support office, we call franchise owners on a weekly basis to check in on them and their families;
- Weekly emails and monthly newsletters are still going out.
4. How are you supporting yourself and your head office team in working from home? What are they able to do?
Just before Christmas, the leadership team and I sat in the conference room dreaming up every single possible disruption that we could think of, from the franchisor passing away and leaving nobody able to pay the bills, to one of the team no longer working at Exceed and none of us knowing the passwords to access his/her computer. We also thought of what to do if the building burned down: how would we continue to function as a support office? We set up procedures around possible disruptions, not knowing that in less than five months we would need to put this plan into place due to Covid-19.
Thanks to this planning, when we were placed in lockdown, we were fully set up in our homes operating as normal within hours. From taking calls in our communication centre to having huddles with franchise owners all over the country, you would think we were still in the office in Mt Maunganui.
All our support office team are working from home. I have a daily ‘huddle’ with all of them, even if they are not working – they are attending off their own bat, which says a lot for the team culture we have and continue to support;
We also have daily calls via Zoom, and one-to-one Zooms as required.
5. What steps are you taking to help franchisees to restart their business once this period ends?
We are 100% working with them on the process of ‘what happens next?’ We are producing content and videos involving franchise owners and their teams from remote locations through NZ which is not only giving the team something to do but is also teaching them new skills.
We have said: ‘Use this time to look hard at your business, leave no stone unturned and reset yourself as a franchise owner. This is the perfect opportunity to work on your personal development, your business objectives and your work life balance.
‘Please remember we are all in this together and we will get through this. Speak to each other and be there to support each other. I challenge you to pick up the phone and say hi to a franchise owner or a member from the support office who you normally don’t speak with on a regular basis, check in and make sure they are ok.’
I believe this forced lockdown is a good thing for many different reasons. It is giving us an opportunity to slow down and work out what is important in life. It is giving us an opportunity to spend more time with our families, and it is also given us a great opportunity to finally work on our businesses as opposed to in them. Everyone is working on different things but there are common themes like, exercise, talking to peers, talking about new ideas, having a decent break, and planning for the return to work.
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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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