An Australian Franchisee Case Study
Father and daughter combinations are a rarity in the franchise industry but for Anita and Duncan Lennox, working together is simply good business.
Successfully growing a previous franchise business with a turnover from $100,000 per annum to $600,000 per annum in four and a half years, and then selling the business in 2008 at a significant profit, Anita and Duncan know from first-hand experience what makes a franchise work.
Successfully navigating their way through the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the 2010-2011 floods, their latest venture, Minuteman Press Brisbane, was recently recognised as providing the Best Customer Service on the southeastern seaboard for the franchise group.
They reveal their approach to making money and building a business that works.
It’s all about relationships
Surviving in business, especially in periods of economic turmoil, essentially comes down to whether people want to do business with you or not. If contacts like you and trust you, it’s more probable they will come to you for your services. This is the opinion of 28-year-old Anita, who believes that without strong relationships with suppliers and initial customers after the Brisbane floods, their new business simply would not have survived.
“We started Minuteman in October, 2008 – right at the beginning of the GFC. Some would say it wasn’t the best year to start a business, but we did, so we had to find ways to make it work,” Ms Lennox said.
“In the early days we worked hard to establish relationships – door knocking for customers, networking at events – you name it, we did it.
“Although we soon established a good client base, when the storms hit we lost half of our customers – they were literally washed away. We knew, to keep our business long-term, we would need to help the businesses around us survive, so we gave a lot away to help them grow.
“We converted our office into a respite / drop in centre and gave people coffees, as well as providing simple services that would make people’s lives easier, like helping them charge their mobile phones and handing out cold drinks to people working on their homes.
“By building relationships and helping people out during this time we engaged a lot of our current customers. A lot of those businesses have now become long-term clients. For example, we gave business cards to a start-up company and they just placed a $4500 order.”
As well as having established excellent working relationships with customers, Ms Lennox attributed a large part of the success of their Minuteman franchise over the past three years to the strict systems in place.
“It’s crucial a franchise has great systems and procedures so the offering stays the same. No matter where a new store opens or who takes over the management, customers need to be able to trust the brand and know they will still receive the same quality product or service.
“If franchisees stick to the systems, they make a profit; if they don’t that’s when they go out of business or struggle to get a good return on investment”
Moving into business in 2003 after finishing a Bachelor of International Hotel & Tourism Management from the University of Queensland, Ms Lennox said it was ironic that she moved into running a business with her father.
“I never planned to be entrepreneurial – it just happened as a natural progression really. Going into business is one of the best things I’ve done – I’ve learnt so much by actually working in the industry,” she said.
Anita and her father both had little prior knowledge about the printing industry before they started with Minuteman Press. As part of their franchise training they attended an intensive ‘print school’ in New York where they were taught all aspects of the business, from layout through to design.
Thorough market research is key
Anita and Duncan only decided to look for another franchise model after their previous franchise chain was sold three times in the space of a year.
Attending a Franchise Expo and researching more than 100 businesses over a 12-month period, Anita and her father finally decided on the Minuteman Press model. Their decision was based on facts and figures – from what they could determine Minuteman Press provided a significant return on investment compared with other models they had investigated. Ms Lennox said although starting a franchise is a safer option when you first go into business, you still need to know that the model you are buying into is an effective one.
“Minuteman Press has a free and open model which allows room to grow. It also provides and delivers services nationally, which was important to us as well.”
Stay emotionally detached from the business
Ms Lennox said not being emotionally attached to any particular type of business allowed them to analyse potential franchises purely in terms of profit and the return on investment.
“We investigated Kwik Kerb, Snap Printing, Holy Sheet – we looked at so many different types of franchise models – it didn’t matter what we went into as long as we could see the potential in it. Initially we had no intention of moving into the printing industry – all we were looking for was a solid business model.
“Minuteman Press offered one of the best return on investment structures we had seen in any franchise, and their head office support team continuously made an effort with us to show us how reliable the business model was, so they were deciding factors in choosing to go with them.”