An Australian Franchisee Case Study
Name: Brian Meknas
Location: Sydney, NSW
Franchises: Newtown and Kirrawee
Why did you choose franchising?
I had always worked for somebody else, and at some stage in my life wanted to start my own business and work for myself. Fifteen years ago I actually managed one of the stores that I now own – I picked up the Newtown franchise as a Pizza Haven store in 2008. When it was time to start working for myself, I decided to go with what I knew best, and went in to franchising in the quick service restaurants (QSR) industry.
What did you do before taking up a franchise?
I’d previously worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years running a nightclub in the late 1990s for six years, managing a function centre part-time for a period, as well as managing a hospitality portfolio of 800 temporary job seekers for Bluestone Recruitment finding solutions for major Sydney hotels, Telstra Stadium, and the Sydney Convention Centre among other clients.
How did you raise the finance?
Part of my employment history also involved working for Fieldforce, and when things started to pick-up surrounding the carbon credits scheme, and everything started happening around energy saving, I was promoted and given my own team to manage. This promotion in turn gave me enough money to start my own business, enough to justify taking the leap and making the other half while working in my new franchise.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
Initially, Pizza Haven provided little support and training, and as a franchisee I was basically left to fend for myself. Sales in my first year as owner of Pizza Haven Newtown began to suffer – the store was nearly at breaking point and I was contemplating closing my first business venture not even a full year into the enterprise.
Soon after, I was contacted by Eagle Boys and invited to a conference giving me the option to convert into one of their 100% Australian-owned and operated franchises. I had already invested most of my money into the Pizza Haven business as it existed, so it was quite a feat to raise the extra capital to convert to Eagle Boys. I was in a pretty vulnerable position, but Eagle Boys were very supportive in ensuring I was provided with all the facts, and made a real effort to understand my situation. My mother suggested I throw what I had left into the Eagle Boys venture as I had nothing to lose – and I must admit I was more confident in Eagle Boys’ ability to turn things around given their track record in supporting their franchise network and reputation for quality and competitive products. The new Eagle Boys Newtown store topped what revenue it would make in a week as a Pizza Haven franchise in its first four days of operation – and doubled what it would make by the end of its first week!
What challenges have you faced?
Perhaps my biggest challenge has been converting to the Eagle Boys store.
Every position I have worked in has had similar pressures, but with franchising there is an extra responsibility involved – that of your employees. You not only need to lead and facilitate a productive working environment, but also ensure you are appeasing customer demand by focussing on developing quality products that satisfy and appeal to your customer demographic. You’ve got to be both human resources and business-minded.
Although you have some level of support from head office, you still have to take responsibility for researching your local area and tailoring products to suit – this is a common factor those entering franchising neglect. The greatest challenge a franchisee will face is pinpointing what works in their local area, what works for their particular store, as demographics vary from store to store. You really have to work hard in dedicating yourself to the business – it’s a lot of sweat and tears, and time, but it’s worth it. As with any occupation, you have your ups and downs, the challenge is not to let it get you down and keep striving forward.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Yes – I am a lot more confident in what I do these days. As soon as I say I own my own business, I get a lot of interest from people wanting to know how I started out. As soon as I say that business is an Eagle Boys franchise, people are even more interested, as they are aware of the company’s reputation for quality products, especially here in Sydney where Eagle Boys is such a fast-growing brand.
While entering into franchising and extra pressure go hand in hand, opening my own business has also fostered my independence.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
Those considering buying their first franchise should not do so half-heartedly – make sure you want to do it 100%. If you’re not sure, you won’t have the mentality required to dedicate your heart and soul to making it work, and you shouldn’t set yourself up for failure.
Franchising will take a lot of your time, and you’ll need to volunteer a lot to make it work. It also helps to have some prior experience or industry knowledge. While training is almost always provided initially, you still need to know the tricks of the trade and how the industry operates – it can make the difference between an acceptable and excellent identity. In my opinion a company’s successful track record automatically gives you a 70% chance of success – in the end it comes down to the franchisee producing the right product for its demographic and keeping customers happy.
What are your plans for the future?
I have already opened two Eagle Boys franchises, and the goal is to open five stores. It’s a challenge and a goal – it may not necessarily happen, but if I don’t set goals that I can strive toward then there is no chance of them happening and of moving forward. For any successful person, I think setting goals that are reachable rates highly – they need to be constantly motivated to do their best.
Would you do it again?
Irrespective of how far back I entered the QSR franchising industry – there was always going to be a turning point where I worked for myself. I always hoped to be self-employed at some stage of my life, so I would definitely do it again if it meant achieving this feat.
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