4 tips for a franchise career change

By Nick Hall | 12 Jun 2019 View comments

Fourteen years after a career change, Minuteman Press Footscray owners Fiona and Ed McDonnell have become staples in the local community.

The decisive and driven pair were not always destined for franchise futures. In fact, Fiona admits that the marketing, digital print and design industry came new to her when she bought the franchise.

“I had just returned to my first full time account management role after having our son, Scott,” she said.

“I was working hiring plants and maintenance services on plants into 5-star hotels and corporate offices when Ed got the idea that a Minuteman Press centre would be our future.”

It was a gamble that would see the husband and wife team move into the unknown as first time-franchisees, but one they approach with conviction.

So, with little industry experience and a new business on their hands, how did Fiona and Ed turn the opportunity into a meaningful franchise career change?

Spend time with the network

While Fiona acknowledged the prospect of a career change into entrepreneurship was exciting, she also revealed that initially, the opportunity was not going to be her full-time gig.

It wasn’t until the pair attended the Minuteman Press International training that she saw the real potential of the business.

“I was supposed to be part-time but got so excited by the time we attended training on Long Island, New York,” she said.

“I thought that it would be the last industry I would ever work in and yet I love it. The industry offers a lot more creativity than you can imagine looking in from the outside.”

It was at this training that Fiona and Ed met a number of new and existing Minuteman Press franchisees, forming business relationships that have carried on over the years.

“The opportunity to spend time overseas and in Australia with peers from the Minuteman Press franchise family of owners has been far more rewarding than we could have imagined 14 years ago,” Fiona said.

Forming working relationships with other franchisees within the network has allowed the pair to build a brains-trust of experienced personnel.

Andy Barratt, Minuteman Press International regional vice president for Melbourne said the McDonnells have now come full-circle, with new franchisees seeking them out for their advice.

“Fiona and Ed make an impressive team and their hard work over the years while following the Minuteman Press franchise system has really helped them build their business and do right by their clients,” he said.

Build relationships with suppliers

It isn’t just the franchise network that Fiona and Ed have formed relationships with, however. Fiona believes strong partnerships with local suppliers have also added great value to their Footscray outlet.

“We had a client call one day to say that the pizza he ordered for the lunch took longer to arrive than our business card order. A good relationship with the couriers certainly helps to establish a reputation in the community that we are so fast – you’ll get windburn if you stand in our way,” she said.

“We had a client going overseas the other day and I was literally dropping the job on his doorstep as he pulled his cases out the front door – he thought there was no chance the manuals would be done in time. I got the biggest hug and a fab google review.”

Fiona admits that managing clients’ expectations is one challenge of the job, but reiterates that it’s equally important to manage the expectations of her employees.

Hire the best people

When starting out in a new business after a career change, having an experienced team can help steer the business’ growth.

Fiona said a big part of getting off on the right foot is finding people who share your value set and making sure they stay.

This involves a detailed training and on-boarding process, as well as consistent career progression and goal setting.

“Our whole team jumps to ensure the phones are answered within three rings and with a smile on their faces. We put the title of ‘solution provider’ on all our business cards for a few years to remind us that is our prime reason to do what we do.”

Footscray manager Adrian agreed, revealing that the majority of the workers within the outlet share the same passion for client satisfaction.

“Most of our team has been with us over seven years and, like us, they enjoy the diversity of a day at Minuteman Press, where you may be printing anything from branded toothbrushes to tea canisters along with more typical jobs of business cards, magazines and publishing books,” Adrian said.

Get involved with the community

For first-time franchisees entering the market after a career change, getting the local community on-side is critical.

For a business like Fiona and Ed’s, providing solutions to high-profile clients with a strong community presence, such as local football clubs and charities is a great way to get the ball rolling.

Luckily enough for the McDonnells, the local football team just happens to be national AFL organisation, the Western Bulldogs.

Fiona revealed that working with the team was not only a thrill for lifelong fan Ed, but a massive boost to their community equity.

“Ed’s faith paid off and for many years The Bulldogs have been a trusted client. When they won the premiership flag our A2 ‘Woof Woof’ Posters were on every seat in the stadium,” Fiona said.

A”s a thank you for all our help and support in that winning season we proudly hosted the Premiership Trophy in our centre, allowing us and our team to be photographed at our leisure as part of the ‘Doggies’ Championship team; and that (as the advert we printed for them says) was priceless.”

Aside from an increase in exposure, the boost in presence saw the community respond positively to the McDonnell’s outlet, highlighting them as local, relatable operators.

That community aspect is something that Fiona and Ed have leveraged throughout their franchise journey, helping to build a network of return customers and satisfied clients.

Initiating a franchise career change

For aspiring entrepreneurs considering a career change, franchising can offer an accessible entry into business ownership.

Like any prospective opportunity however, franchisees should be prepared to perform an extensive due diligence process.

Speak with the franchisor, seek professional advice and do independent research before committing to any franchise.

Remember, not all franchise businesses require industry experience. Follow your passion, do the research and get into business for yourself.