What is Brett Houldin up to next? And 6 more must-ask questions

By Sarah Stowe | 22 Nov 2019 View comments

Craveable Brands chief Brett Houldin is leaving the business at the end of November so Inside Franchise Business took the chance to quiz him on the essentials.

1. What are you going to do next and why?

Firstly, I’m going to take a short break with my family and then kick off early in 2020 with my next venture. I’m passionate about franchising and small business and will continue to focus on that as I believe I can add significant value across the industry. 

2. In the five years you’ve been at Craveable what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the team I was able to build and the culture that was formed. The performance achievements we yielded came from a highly accountable, professional approach to turning the business around yet we still managed to have a lot fun along the way. 

3. How difficult has it been to steer the business through public and regulatory scrutiny?

Actually, I was particularly well prepared for this scrutiny having come from running a casino, one of the most regulated industries in the country. 

When you run three iconic food brands serving more than one million customers per week there will always be opportunities for people to critique what we do. It is vital that we remain focused on how we engage with those customers and our franchisees every day and look to continuously improve.

The regulatory focus on our industry over the past few years has required everyone to consider how best to operate. I believe Craveable is one of the best franchisors in the industry, and as such I have actively pursued putting us out there to represent our people, our brands and our industry. 

4. What do you think food franchisors need to do to prove themselves both good franchisors and good employers?

You need to be setting the standards that the public expect and monitoring them all the time. This is across food safety, work health and safety and employee relations. 

These three are non-negotiable and if you want the opportunity to have a successful business then there needs to be an operating rhythm that focuses on each with a zero tolerance approach. It comes from the top and a culture embedded across the franchisees to raise the bar will be noticed in the community. 

5. What advice do you have for a franchisor looking to take on a second brand?

Running a multi brand business is not easy, there are conflicting priorities and resourcing challenges to manage. However, there are significant benefits to having a diversified portfolio that can be leveraged for the whole network if executed correctly. 

You would want to ensure the existing brand is already at scale and not requiring unnecessary resources. It is vital to understand that a new brand in the portfolio can (and possibly will) require many of your key people to diversify and dilute their focus which could result in both brands and the whole business sagging. Distraction is a killer for businesses, so moving to a multi brand network needs to be thoroughly considered and resourced.

6. What are your 5 top tips for managing change as a franchisor?

Change is constant, it is hard to believe that today is the slowest rate of change everyone will experience, change is exponential.

My top 5 tips are;

  1. Ensure you have a diverse and dynamic skill set across your leadership team 
  2. Bring in subject matter experts to supplement management expertise
  3. Engagement with franchisees is critical, bring them in early in the planning phase.
  4. Change is not easy – new initiatives need constant focus and attention to ensure they stay on track and that your team are on board. 
  5. Measurement is key. Ensure there are performance indicators that will know if you are driving change in the desired way 

7. What’s the biggest myth about franchising?

That franchising is set and forget! I’ve spoken to early stage business owners and franchisors, they underestimate the ongoing effort to ensure the business operates as you anticipated. 

It’s a partnership – franchisor and franchisee – there is a lot to do on both sides to ensure it works. The mindset of winning together helps get through this.