Snap-On's loyal franchisee
After 27 years in the mobile tool retail franchise Snap-on, Chris Edwards hasn’t looked back. “I was buying the product as an employee. I was in the trade and was excited by it. I’d always been interested in sales and was really attracted to selling a quality product. It was something I believed. It was just logical – I’d be working for myself and working in sales.”
He and his wife took on the franchise together, relocating from Perth to Bunbury where Snap-on was not known.
“Small business is always a challenge,” he says. “But I was young and had blind enthusiasm. A lot of people asked if I would go broke, but I never thought about it.”
Quite the reverse in fact. Edwards has shown his business smarts; he’s a member of the Snap-on Million Dollar Club, a select group of franchisees bringing in turnover of more than $1m. Not bad for a mobile set-up!
In almost 30 years, technology has had a major impact on the Snap-on world. While the day-to-day routine of visiting mechanics at their workplaces is still the method of doing business, Edwards says he has seen massive changes within the automotive industry, most significantly the introduction of multiple computers into single vehicles.
Providing the right tools for a mechanic to do their job is essential, which is where Snap-on’s R&D is crucial to business success. “There’s no doubt the company is a world leader in diagnostics,” says Edwards. This makes it an attractive proposition to both franchisees and customers.
It is not uncommon for him to be on the road servicing customers for up to 10 hours a day, then at the weekend he is washing and restocking the truck. “I work long days but I enjoy it,” he says.
“We have a break of seven to 10 days mid-year and two weeks at Christmas because most of our businesses are closed then,” says Edwards.
“When I started, if you had told me I would still be here in 27 years I wouldn’t have believed you. After six months I thought I had saturated the market, that I couldn’t possibly sell any more product. I misled myself.
“It keeps going. There are innovations, new products, new demands. As long as you can keep abreast, and keep up your service and enthusiasm, you can work a lot.
“I think for anyone in business it’s about being self-sufficient and successful. If you really, really enjoy it, why retire?”
Self-motivation has to play a significant role in continued success, particularly over nearly three decades. So what is different now in how Edwards stays focused?
“You have to reinvent yourself and your enthusiasm for what you do. Back at the beginning there is the pressure to reach targets, to break even, so you stress.”
Staying on top of the job is fundamental, and that means investing in the business as well. Tired, worn-out trucks do not present the right image to customers, so Edwards has invested in updating his trucks over the years. “Business is all about image,” he says.
It helps if the franchisor is also investing in the brand’s development and presence.
“In 27 years I have never seen another brand with a similar number of products spread across an array of industries. No other manufacturer, supplier or equipment company comes near.
“There is loyalty to the brand, and the company’s loyalty to the franchisee. We have a strong bond, company, dealer and customer.
“I couldn’t walk away. If I did anything else it would be second best.”