Before leaving the corporate world to become a franchisee, Geoff Bierman did his research. He knew he was choosing to invest his hard-earned pension in a business and that even franchised businesses can fail. He wanted to make sure he was investing in the right brand.
“At first I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to go the franchised route,” he explains. “I weighed the pros and cons of starting my own service centre versus joining a franchise, and I realised that the support and systems offered by franchisors are invaluable.”
Bierman was creating something for himself and his family, but he didn’t want to completely forsake the security of the corporate world he had been a part of for 29 years. “Systems allow you to begin operating under a known brand immediately,” he says. “You receive training from the franchisor, an IT system, recommended partners – in a way it’s a business in a box.”
But how does one go about choosing the right franchise for you? According to Bierman, magazines, franchise directories and web listings gave him an indication of which franchises were available and how their costs compared, but it was actually meeting the franchisor that proved to be his decider.
“I had already researched the sector, put together a business plan and calculated my costs, but I needed a better sense of the actual franchisors,” he explains. “So I attended a franchising expo to meet the various players in the industry.”
It was at this show that Bierman met Elvio Jardim, franchisor of Autoway Service. “Elvio invited me to a presentation outlining Autoway’s systems and franchisor support. This gave me a clear picture of what I would be joining if I invested in the franchise, but it also gave me a chance to get to know the franchisor, his head office team, and other franchisees.
“Ultimately, joining a franchise is not only about having a system and ready-made brand to work with – it’s about human support as well. This means you need to share the same values as your franchisor. You don’t need to be best friends, you just need to agree with their brand vision – and know it aligns with your own business ideals.”
Building on growth
Since buying his first Autoway franchise, Bierman has bought and rebranded an additional service centre in Rivonia. “It was much easier buying an existing business and turning it into an Autoway centre,” he says. “Setting up from scratch and securing customers is tough. My advice to any potential new franchisee is to find a business for sale in the sector and area you are looking at, and then rebrand it.”