Henry Johnson is the MD of four Pirtek franchises around the country, and he’s about to add a four ton truck and expand his retail offering. But you need to rewind to 1996 to see where it all began. Henry, an accountant by trade, owned a small engineering company with a partner, and in 1996 was introduced to the Australian Pirtek brand.
“I always wanted to attach myself to a specific product, and franchising gave me the perfect opportunity. Pirtek makes high quality hydraulic hosing and fittings and has a mobile replacement service, so when it came to South Africa in 1998, I knew it was something to get involved in. In 2006 I approached Pirtek to buy a franchise, and by 2007 I was up and running with my first operation here on the West Rand.”
Starting out small
When Henry opened his first franchise, it was a small operation that grew organically with profits reinvested into the business. “The whole space fitted into 100m2 and I had to do a lot of multi-tasking. Though I had a management, engineering and mining industry background which acted as an excellent base, I found myself doing invoicing, procurement, admin, and seeing clients.
Back then we had four staff, myself included, and as we grew we added staff. Now I employ 145 across four branches that are 500m2 each, twenty on-site workshops at mines, and five mobile units. This means my role has changed a lot and my management background has paid off.”
“My first store broke even within eight months of opening. Pirtek was able to generate some leads, and of course they negotiate national contracts that affect all franchisees, but we put in a lot of work ourselves. Thereafter we took bigger and bigger bites, so new break-evens were set and managing cash flow was absolutely critical. Presently our week-by-week sales match what we did in the whole first year. We sell 10 000 metres of hose and 8 000 fittings per month — this requires close monitoring, so every day I have informal meetings either face to face or telephonically with my managers.”
Having a bit of fun
Everyone likes to blow off a bit of steam, so Henry’s West Rand staff have their very own oval track car to play with. “This is our second one, we broke the first,” he laughs. “When there’s time the guys get to build it, and then we have a track day where wives, kids and staff get together and they take it around the track. Now we’ve had the staff in Kathu asking if they can build their own for the oval track near them too. It’s a great way to build up morale and team spirit.”
“The main driver of the business is a simple but challenging goal: Seven new customers every month. We’re awaiting the arrival of a four ton truck that can handle the larger hoses and fittings for big machinery, and we’re in the process of opening two more Pirtek franchises in Postmasberg and Welkom.”
While the franchise consists of the basic centre, mobile service and a retail concept for automotive parts, Henry is spearheading the retail concept and securing on-site workshop contracts with mines.
Advice for aspiring franchisees
“Like any business, you have to do your homework. This means researching the product you want to sell, understanding its application and market, as well as basic business practice. Don’t think that a franchise will offer a solution if you don’t do your homework. Pirtek SA has provided us with system support, guidance with product mix, tech and commercial support, as well as encouragement and moral support because we’ve shown our commitment to the brand and we do our homework every time.”
04h00- Rise and shine
05h00- Have meetings with mine workshop supervisors after mine shift-change
06h00- Check emails and banking
- If he’s not travelling to his Kathu, Northern Cape branch, he heads off to his unit on the West Rand.
- Informal meetings are conducted daily with managers to look at stock, sales, staff attendance, service or quality issues, and plan customer visits.
- Visit: www.pirtek.co.za
- Call: +27 (0)11 608 2299
- Contact person: Ray Wentzel