A franchising milestone at 7-Eleven

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

Erdal Ismail is celebrating 25 years with convenience franchise 7-Eleven. He shared his franchising journey with Franchising's Sarah Stowe.

“I bought my first store in 1986 and opened the doors on January 3, 1987. You never forget the first day.

“I had found out about 7-Eleven through a couple of friends in the franchise network; we had all worked together in Coles management – I started with the supermarket straight out of school at 15. I went to visit them in the store and thought, I could do this. As I wasn’t satisfied with my work at Coles, I did some research on 7-Eleven. I wanted to know how much money there was in the business.

“I was happy with what I heard, so I opened a store in Newport, Melbourne. It was an existing store and so I paid goodwill for the business. It wasn’t the best or the worst decision I ever made but I learned a lot. Initially it didn’t make the money I was expecting but I saw potential and I kept the store for 15 years.

“In 2000 I had another opportunity to purchase a 7-Eleven store, a petrol station outlet in Williamstown. I kept that for about four years and then sold it to buy a former Mobil store in Melton in the western suburbs – and had that outlet for six years.

“My son had dropped out of uni and I didn’t want him working with me – or roaming the streets. I realised he had potential and bought a 7-Eleven store for him to manage. He did the full franchisee training course with 7-Eleven and I helped him with shortcuts in the business.

“I have two stores now, East Keilor, which my son manages, and Taylors Lake, and that’s close to home.

“Franchising is about financials which gives me the lifestyle and freedom to do what I want. I spend two to three months overseas each year. Once I’m on the plane and I’m gone, I know it’s out of my hands. Even from the beginning I trained my staff so I could take time out to travel, and of course it’s better now my son is involved. But I don’t switch off completely, it’s my business so I still get the store figures emailed every day.

“I started at 23 and it was hard to get the finance. I had super and savings of a few thousand dollars. Put together it was about $15,000. My parents loaned me $30,000, my sister loaned me $30,000 and my brother, who became my business partner, put in $10,000.

“By 1988 I was able to borrow from the bank and I paid off my parents. When that loan was finished I borrowed more to pay off my sister. We had discussed this as a long term plan beforehand.

“In 1991, in the recession, my brother decided to get out of the business, and I paid him about $40,000.

“I found I was able to make decisions more quickly after that. It was good to have a partner to share the pressures of business, but there are other pressures that come with a partnership. I found it quite difficult. It gives you pressure you don’t need and you have to be more flexible with family involved. Now it’s my wife, my daughter and my son.

“Of course with family involved you can control costs in the payroll and pilferage. I can always put in extra effort to make more money, if I work the till I can increase my income. In franchising you get back what you put in.

“Now we have about 25 staff, and it’s hard to find staff who share the same ‘get up and go’ attitude. It’s hard to inject the passion because it’s a job for them. But you can’t expect staff to do everything at 100 percent, and when they do it’s a bonus.

“Now my role is like a fire fighter, solving problems.

“My advice for a potential franchisee is to do your research. Don’t be lazy, don’t take one person’s word. Find long term franchisees and speak to them about the good and the bad aspects of the business.

“You have to be in tune with your business. I have always enjoyed retail. Even at an early age, before I was 10, I used to sell chewing gum to my friends and siblings in Cyprus.

“My plan is to retire at 50; I’m 49 now, and I’m going to buy a boat and go fishing. But if another opportunity comes up, well, I’ll have to take it.”