Banking on business pays off for award winning franchisee
Just named a top franchisee winner at the MYOB FCA Excellence in Franchising awards, Nellie Dicks is a die-hard banker. When you love what you do, why would you change it? And it's brought her success - and now a national trophy.
What does she love most about the world of banking? It is the customer interaction, which made it hard for her to think about leaving her role at NAB. But the opportunity to run her own business while doing what she loved was just too great a pull.
She describes the role she loves: “I put myself in my customer’s shoes and figure out transactions – what the customer needs and what the bank needs. Then I guide the customer through the process.”
Dicks clocked up 20 years working in the frontline of banking, eschewing head-office roles to maintain that customer contact. But she reached a point where it was time to move on. “Being my own boss was the driver,” she says.
While she considered moving into other markets, her heart was still in the banking sector. Finding she could invest as a franchisee in the Bank of Queensland (BoQ) made all the difference, she says, and clients followed her from her NAB branch to her new business.
Dicks signed up for a five-year term, and is now in her 13th year as a BoQ franchisee having renewed her agreement twice already.
“Initially transitioning from a corporate role to being my own boss was a challenge,” she admits. “It probably a took bit longer and was more difficult than I thought.
“I took it for granted the mindset about banking but also having a business, but I have staff so need to hire and fire. Finding staff members and looking after them is a challenge.”
This problem resonates with small-business owners everywhere, she says. Using a small-business ownership model itself, the bank tends to attract small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“As an owner/manager, I am the same as an SME. You can understand cashflow and the frustrations. We have to do everything a business has to do. Of course we have other clients, but these are easier shoes to fill.”
Dicks worked long hours at NAB, and while little has changed in that respect, she now chooses to work longer. However, she does admit that work/life balance is important.
“It’s about making money. If you’re not thinking about the bottom line, you’re not going to run a profitable business.”
Taking business to the next level
Banking regulations require compliance, so working within a framework was familiar for Dicks. However, she still has freedom to make decisions outside of the regulatory remit.
One of the benefits of being with BoQ is a coaching program, which she says has proved significant in lifting the business up to the next level. “A few of us were bogged down in our businesses. We were speaking to customers but forgetting about the business.”
Tailored coaching is the basis of BoQ’s Fit for Biz plan.
Key to Dicks’ business boost was admitting that she didn’t know everything, taking a step back from the day-to-day business procedures, and holding herself accountable. A mentor keeps her on track with her work/life balance as well.
The investment in her mentoring has paid off. Dicks has made it to the finals of the Franchise Council of Australia’s national awards in October, nominated for her performance as a franchisee with two or more staff in Victoria.
“The awards are nice, but it won’t change what I do or how I do it,” she says. “What is important is building a better business. When we started the coaching program it became a catalyst for change. It’s about right-sizing, re-setting the business, and the challenge is to make those changes.”
That includes recognising when it is appropriate to let go a staff member, a tough decision Dicks had to make about one of the two team members who joined her from her NAB days.
She has now adopted flexible working for staff members to make her business attractive to high-quality workers.
“I want to be someone people want to work with. I stand behind what I say and do,” she says, pointing out that it is about finding people who can fill her skill gaps so she can work smarter, not harder.
The experience of the past three years has far outweighed the achievements of the initial 10 years as a franchisee, she says.
“It has exceeded my expectations. I couldn’t do anything else! It’s about relationships, not about buying and selling. It’s the perfect fit for me.”
- Nellie Dicks won the award for Single Unit Franchisee of the Year, Two or More Staff.
- This article appeared in our September/October edition of Inside Franchise Business.