4 ways to kickstart your franchise operation
When Gill Kennedy emigrated to Australia, she planned on returning to the print and design industry, little did the mother of two know just four years later she would be heading up her own business in the growing regional district of Caboolture.
“I always saw myself owning my own business one day but never quite had the confidence to take the reins and do it,” Gill said.
“If you told me 10 years ago I would be a business owner before I was 40, I would have laughed in your face.”
The latest franchisee with global print and design business, Minuteman Press said she was inspired to become a franchisee after securing a graphic design position at a Minuteman store in Brisbane.
“I loved it. I loved the interaction with the clients, the variety of work and the feeling we got when a customer walked away with a product they loved. I love the challenge of coming up with a product that fits a brief but comes in under budget,” Gill said.
Tasked with launching a brand new store for the network, Gill’s proactive approach to customer generation, client satisfaction and community involvement has turned her Caboolture franchise into a thriving commercial hub.
Now the first-year entrepreneur is sharing her tips on how new franchisees can kickstart their business.
1. Understand the operation
By working as an employee within the Minuteman network, Gill was able to gain an inside look into the operational standards and support structure offered to franchisees.
“Since I previously worked with Minuteman Press, I was given a raw insight into how things worked and how well you were supported as an owner,” Gill said.
“The onsite support and the training in New York give you a great foundation to build on an already reputable brand and add to it with your own finesse.”
While it may not be financially or professionally viable for all new prospective franchisees to begin their journey as an employee within their desired business, a similar insight can be gained through extensive discussion with the existing network.
Speaking with current franchisees should be an integral part of any prospective franchisee’s due diligence process, as it can provide valuable insight into and information on the day-to-day running of the business.
2. Focus on customer service
For any business owner, a brand new store presents a particular set of challenges relating to customer development and client generation.
Gill suggests the best method for generating interest and sales is for franchisees to get out there themselves.
“Starting from scratch, I knew I needed to get out into the community to introduce myself and to spread the word we were ready to serve,” Gill said.
“My goal was to meet and interact with every customer, building rapport is so important to make every customer feel important and valued. I wanted to make every order as easy as possible for each customer and take the stress and complications out of printing for them.”
Her previous experience working as an employee in a Minuteman franchise in Brisbane allowed her to see the value of customer service in action, which she has since replicated in her Caboolture outlet.
“I have a very high expectation for customer service when I am the customer – I want to feel valued and important however big or small my order is, so I have carried this ethos over to my own company – if it’s not good enough for me, it’s not good enough for my customers. We strive to make every experience a positive one – if that means going the extra mile to look for an unusual product, I will do it.”
3. Delegate duties
Like many first-time business owners, Gill said she found herself wearing many hats, often spreading herself too thin; it wasn’t until graphic designer Renee joined the team that she understood the importance of delegation.
“We had our ‘teething problems’ but since Renee, my graphic designer, joined the team, I truly feel like we are now a force to be reckoned with,” Gill said.
“I am a perfectionist in my work and I have struggled letting go and handing over some projects. It was very surreal moving away from design and letting Renee take over – she is very competent and knows even more than I do, but it’s hard changing roles but something I feel I have done well and learned a lot from.”
Gill believes it’s important for franchisees to understand that owning a business isn’t just about leveraging your own industry-specific skills, but also about creating a culture of skill-sharing and combined values.
“Your staff needs to carry the same values and work ethic you do to make sure your customer service expectations are fulfilled when you are not in the store. I must trust who I leave behind while I am marketing to be the face of my business and uphold my expectations.”
4. Form social alliances
Face-to-face interaction with the community isn’t the only step franchisees can take in developing local engagement, with Gill suggesting partnerships with organisations that align with the business’ social values provide a great platform for engagement.
Gill said a shared love of animals turned a simple internet enquiry from Australian brand, Prestige Pet Products into an ongoing sales opportunity for her store.
“I was lucky enough to have an internet enquiry from Becki Mulcair, their marketing coordinator,” she said.
“I responded to her as I would with any internet lead – promptly, and with a desire to help her. We instantly had a connection with our love of animals and as Becki needed to have newsletters printed monthly, sometimes to a tight deadline, I was happy to help.”
Identifying a common interest or social mission is great way for new businesses to demonstrate their values and belief systems, which could provide a franchise with a competitive edge over its competition.
While success in franchising has come swiftly to Gill, the Caboolture franchisee acknowledged that it hasn’t been an easy journey.
“Leadership is a challenge. I had only come from mid-tier roles and was not used to giving orders or managing other people’s workloads,” she said.
The mother of two managed to get through the difficult early stages however, revealing it was important she demonstrate the grit and determination to succeed that she hopes her children grow up to embody.
“I wanted to be a good role model for my daughters and show them that with hard work and dedication you can succeed at anything you put your mind to – something in which I am still a strong believer.”
Could you be a perfect franchisee like Gill? Take a look at all opportunties in the business services sector here.