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SA Franchise Brands welcomes (Sheldon and Lisa Williams), Multi-Unit Franchisee for Scooters for Vanderbijl Park, Vereeniging, Sasolburg, Randhart, Springs, Waverely, Les Marais and Brakpan to share some aspects on being a Franchisee.

What questions should prospective franchisees ask themselves before buying a franchise?

New Franchisees should first and foremost ask themselves what their own expectations are in joining a franchise and running your own business. Once they have come to this realisation that franchising is a job and although you have a partner in terms of support, marketing and industry experience the business is still your own and it is going to be your input that makes it a success or not. Researching the chosen brand is also vitally important to understand what the brand is currently doing, what its future plans are, and importantly what sort of industry you are getting into. The benefits of joining a franchise in an industry that you have no experience in is that you have support and guidance all the way, but it is still down to the owner to empower himself and learn and understand what the franchise is all about in order to make the business successful.

What made you decide to buy a franchise?

My wife and I were always keen to own our own business, but we didn’t have the knowledge or experience to go at it alone. Joining a franchise then was a logical move for us, in that we had support and guidance in getting into an industry we had no experience in, formal training to teach us what we needed to know from the franchisor and it took away all the logistics of a start-up scenario in that structures for the business were already in place.

How important is it to investigate a franchise and what criteria did you use?

It is vitally important, in my opinion, especially to understand the industry that you might be getting into and how that impacts on you. For example the franchise that we got involved in trades from 9 in the morning to 10 at night, every day of the year with the exception of Christmas Day. This is important to understand in that this business, which is hands on and requires your input daily, is one that might not suit someone who is more accustomed or wants the standard 9-5 hours that an office orientated job will give you. Knowing that the franchisor has longevity is also vital as this is a substantial investment that you will be making and in doing so you want some surety that the franchisor is going to be around for a while.
Most big franchises have their own websites so this is always a good starting point. Read up on their history, and what the company has achieved since its start up. This will usually give you a good idea of what the franchise is all about and whether they are capable and competent. If they are listed on the JSE or have published financials read up on these as well, try and speak to current franchisees if at all possible, and arrange an interview with the respective franchisor to enquire about opening a franchise. Make sure you ask the right questions once there, in particular to what the expected returns could be and what the franchisors future plans are.

What made you buy aScooters franchise?

My wife and I knew some current Scooters Franchisees at the time, and were impressed with the aggressive growth and performance of the brand when we started and bought our first two outlets. We were impressed with the strategy and rapid growth of the brand and once we met with the head office after being interviewed we decided that this was the right brand for us to get involved in.

What early challenges did you face?

Both of us were fairly young at the time, and had little experience in the food industry or the financial knowledge and basic accounting that is required to make sure that the business is run profitably. We were fortunate that the Franchisor was there every step of the way in the early years for guidance and support, so we attended a lot of training that they provided. Also dealing with the staff in the business was a major challenge at first, coming from jobs where we were employees following direction from senior managers to know being in charged was very challenging as the buck now stopped with you. Decisions now had to be made – some of which in the early year were very wrong – and staff had to be encouraged to perform to the best of their abilities at all times. We learnt very early on to be firm, but fair with the staff and this is something that has served us well in the years we have been involved with the business.

What training and support does the Franchisor provide you with?

Franchisor training is ongoing, and varies from time to time depending on what requirements there are in the system or what strategy the franchisor is trying to implement. Initially I was really interested in operational training, actual kitchen operations as I am a firm believer that this is where it all starts in our business. This sort of training is provided in depth to kitchen crew in new stores, but also to new franchisees that come into the system. Once that was done I attended cashier training for new cashiers, and finally management training which covers various things from stock control, to understanding and managing the Gross Profit of the business and finally the understanding what cost cutting measures can be introduced to improve profitability. I really did attend just about every training course that was run in the first couple of years to better empower myself and I must say these were most useful to getting to grips with the business. The Franchise Managers also provided a lot of guidance and in store training during KPI reviews in their monthly visits which highlighted areas in the business that can be worked on to make the outlet trade better or lead to a better bottom line. Over and above that each outlet has 24 hr. support in the form of the Franchise Manager who is available for guidance and support should you not know what to do or have a problem in store.

How important is the Franchisee’s relationship with the Franchisor?

It is vitally important that there exists a good working relationship between the franchisor and franchisee, because although this is not a partnership in the true sense of the form it is a relationship that if strong can lead to a lot of success. This is driven through the interaction of the owner and the Franchise Manager through support and guidance that is received and also during the monthly store visits. These visits are also a time when the staff of the outlets gets to interact with the support office and if constructive can go a long way to motivating employees through recognition of achievements and guidance in terms of on the spot training that might be required. A strong relationship means success all round, and is morally right as well since at the end of the day we are all part of the same team.

What advice would you give to prospective franchisees?

Understand what your expectations are when getting into franchising, how this is going to impact on your life and what you want to achieve by joining a franchise. Then make sure you are comfortable that you are joining the right industry, and finally make sure you are comfortable that you are joining the right Franchisor and have done the necessary research so you don’t get any unexpected surprises down the line.

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