Burning Rubber

After swooping down on the tyre industry nearly 30 years ago, Supa Quick remains poised for growth.

Burning Rubber

Supa Quick was launched in February 1986, making it the first auto fitment franchise system in the country. It was the brainchild of Bill Taylor, then CEO of Firestone. His objective was to protect smaller dealers from large conglomerates that dominated the market. The company was registered under Federal Mogul that same year, sold to Murray & Roberts in 1991, and subsequently bought by Bridgestone Japan in 1996, which still owns the brand today.

Between 1986 and 1989 the stores were licensed dealerships selling tyres and batteries, but in 1989 the business format was changed to franchised dealerships.

The fleet concept also originated under this new structure and is still an integral part of Supa Quick. Signage was put into place and was recognised as an all-important element that would play a major role in making Supa Quick more visible to the consumer.

By 1991, Supa Quick franchises become fully fledged auto centres, supplying shock absorbers and brakes in addition to tyres, batteries and exhausts. In 2004 the company was renamed Bridgestone SA Retail.

“At that time, it was a challenge to convince suppliers that franchising tyre outlets would provide a controlled platform for their product distribution,” says Christo Jansen van Rensburg, divisional head, Supa Quick.

“From a handful of independent tyre dealers that served as an establishing platform to subsequent investment-associated company-owned stores, the brand enjoyed quick growth. The holding group later sold off the company stores, which facilitated a second wave of growth, because independent operators had come into the fold and were deriving returns from the unprecedented growth in the tyre industry.”

Supa Quick Milestones

  • A brand that has been in business for more than 28 years
  • It has the largest footprint of any other fitment channel in Southern Africa
  • Franchisees amassed more than R2,1 billion in turnover in 2014
  • Of the original 24 founding franchisee families that signed up to be a Supa Quicker in 1986, 20 are still involved
  • There is a collective franchisee owner experience of 2 636 years
  • With 238 outlets, the brand is on target to achieve 288 by 2020.

What makes Supa Quick stand out from the competition?

In what has become a highly competitive market, Supa Quick remains poles apart. The Supa Quick franchise is owned by Bridgestone South Africa, a subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation of Japan, the world’s largest manufacturer of tyres and other rubber products, which is celebrating its 84th anniversary. Bridgestone South Africa has two factories in the country, where passenger and commercial tyres are manufactured to meet the local tyre demand making Supa Quick unique with regards to this support structure.

Bridgestone SA Retail has a team of highly trained specialist staff that assist in key business areas:

  • Franchisee relations
  • Marketing support
  • Operation support
  • Financial analysis support
  • Fleet and corporate
  • Administration support
  • New business development
  • Property development
  • Training
  • Supplier relations
  • Technical support

The Supa Quick brand is represented by a national council, an advisory body elected by the franchisees to interact and engage with Bridgestone SA Retail both monthly and quarterly. This representation means that Bridgestone SA Retail is always in touch with the market and the dynamics at work within it.

Making tracks in the industry

The biggest challenge facing Supa Quick today is the proliferation of other franchise businesses with a similar offering. “This means we have to stay ahead of the game by constantly being more innovative,” says Jansen van Rensburg.

“There are great opportunities that come with embracing modern technology and approaching the retail tyre fitment space with a view to always ensuring the customer receives the best service. We also believe that customer education is key for the success of the industry going forward.”

On the question of expansion and new outlets, he says Supa Quick’s commitment to all its customers is convenient service.

“The opening of new stores is based on where they will best serve all our customers, both consumer and fleet. Extensive due diligence is done on each site to ensure that the dealership will be a viable economic unit which will serve the franchisor’s need for product distribution and give the franchisee a decent return on investment.”

The ideal Supa Quick franchisee

The ideal franchisee will have the following characteristics:

  • Sales oriented mind-set
  • Assertive yet professional
  • Nyembeation and communication skills
  • Willingness for ongoing development
  • Excellent networking skills
  • Entrepreneurial outlook: You will be in a start-up company, yet backed by proven systems
  • Ability to focus 100% on building your Supa Quick Franchise store
  • Strong motivation and the drive to achieve success.
  • Confidence and enthusiasm for the product or service being sold, and not merely a desire to make a profit
  • Not only good at learning new things, but also able to motivate and train others
  • At least five years’ experience as a manager in the business world or other significant leadership experience is recommended.

What is expected of the Supa Quick franchisee

  • A commitment to the franchise and the brand
  • Dedication to growing their business
  • A determination to succeed
  • Hands-on management
  • Maintenance of high service standards, and ensuring the brand’s standards are maintained at all times.

According to the Supa Quick formula, a franchisee should break even between months eight to twelve, and achieve return on investment within 36 months.

“As with any other investment, we recommend that prospective franchisees do a thorough due diligence,” says Jansen van Rensburg.

“That means finding out about the industry by talking to existing players, and making sure that you have the start-up cash to see you through those initial months. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme but a lucrative long-term investment.”

Franchisee training and support

Franchisees can expect a holistic approach to support and training. The Supa Quick Training Prospectus covers training for all staff involved in the business, from the franchisee to the storekeeper.

There are compulsory and optional training topics for every function in the business, the aim being to enhance the knowledge and skills of everyone involved.

Training takes place in three ways – in the classroom, online, and on-site. All training is presented by highly skilled Bridgestone trainers, while specialised additional training is outsourced to professional service providers. This ensures high standards throughout. All courses on offer are accredited by MERSETA.

The brand takes a three-pronged approach to ongoing franchisee support. An area manager calls on each outlet every four to six weeks, support is provided as needed by head office, and fellow franchisees are always available to assist.

The thrill of the ride

For the head of Supa Quick, being ‘good’ is not good enough; instead, he seeks to inspire greatness in every customer interaction.

Christo Jansen van Rensburg began his career in the tyre retail industry in 2005 as a sales person, becoming a store manager just one year later. After leaving to focus on his own venture, he returned to the industry in 2010 as an assistant regional manager and was promoted to regional manager in 2011.

He joined Bridgestone South Africa as the GM of Supa Quick in 2012, and went on to become the divisional General Manager of Bridgestone Retail, the franchisor for Supa Quick, in 2014.

“I am driven by the desire to be a great leader, and to think creatively and strategically,” he says. “In such a customer-centric environment, integrity and the drive to constantly better our company and our franchisees is key. In my time here, I have learned the value of humility and that there is always a better way to do things.”

Franchise set-up costs

The investment required for the standard shop set-up is:

  • Equipment costs (dependant on size of the shop) R1 875 000
  • Building refurbishments (dependant on size of the shop) R285 000
  • Guarantee for trading account R600 000
  • Working capital requirement R400 000
  • Incidentals R120 000
  • Franchise joining fee R65 000
  • Total investment R3 345 000

Fun Fact

  • 1,6 million tyre units sold annually
  • 150 000 shock units sold annually
  • 120 000 battery units sold annually
  • 50 000 brake units sold annually
  • 103 000 exhaust parts replaced every year

More than two million customers make use of Supa Quick’s services annually, including balancing, wheel alignment, suspension labour, exhaust labour and products that vary from tyres, brakes, batteries, shocks, wheels and exhaust.

Monique Verduyn
About the Author
Monique Verdyun is a regular contributor to Franchise Zone. Franchise Zone is published by Entrepreneur Media SA. It offers advice and franchising opportunities in South Africa.

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