When Steven Gleisner started The Courier Guy in the late 1990s, he had no plans to start a franchise. He didn’t even have plans to start a business. He accidentally started making deliveries on his bike, and discovered that he was considered affordable, reliable and he had a name that stuck.
As the business developed and he began employing people however, the key elements that had led to the growth of a business (reliability and customer service) were suddenly missing. Customers started complaining and Steven learnt a valuable lesson:
You need to consistently deliver on quality, or you will lose your clientele. It’s the reason he started franchising, and it’s a firm rule in The Courier Guy group – the customers always come first.
How did you start The Courier Guy?
My cousin asked me to take a sample for her to the printers (she was in corporate gifting). Her regular courier had let her down, and I had a bike.
At the time I was waiting for a visa to come through for Mozambique and wasn’t doing much, so I said sure. When I got to the printer, he asked me if I was the courier guy, and if I could go past Sandton for him. Instead of explaining that I was just helping my cousin out, I said sure.
He asked me how much it would cost, and I said R20. I had no idea what the going rate was. I then left him my number so he could track his package.
The lady I went to in Sandton asked me if I could do something for her, too. Again, I said sure, and pretty soon they had referred me to their acquaintances.
What was your business background?
By the late 1990s I was in my mid-30s and I had dedicated 15 years to the food franchise industry. I had worked for a number of big food-focused franchises, from training people and opening new stores to being an area manager.
But I couldn’t get finance to open my own store. I reached a point where I needed to get away and think about what I wanted to do with my life.
I sold everything, bought a bike, and was in the process of getting my visa for Mozambique when my cousin asked me for the favour that would completely change my path in life.
Up until that point I hadn’t considered starting my own business, but The Courier Guy was a perfect fit once it started taking off.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt in the early years?
That people with skin in the game care about keeping customers, and therefore offer better service. I bought a bakkie within six months of becoming ‘the courier guy’.
I was busy. I offered great, fast service, I was friendly, I was very cost-effective and I was always reliable. Word of mouth meant I was soon too busy to do everything myself and I started hiring drivers and purchasing vehicles.
And then clients started complaining. The level of commitment had changed, they didn’t feel that their needs were being addressed, or that their businesses were our priority.
I needed to get guys in the vans who had a vested interest, who cared about the business, the customers and growing the brand. This is when I struck on the idea of franchising. I had a strong background in franchise systems, and I wanted to help other people realise the dream of owning their own business.
How has this shaped the franchise?
Our model is based on the owner/ driver. We take care of the tracking, invoicing and waybills, and we have a central warehouse where parcels move between areas and franchisees, but the franchisee is the face of his area and operation.
We promise same day or next day service, and we get to know our customers very well. It’s a model that has worked extremely well because we always offer that personal touch. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, or which industry you are operating in, successful franchises are built on always having a strong customer oriented focus.
If your service levels start slipping, your customers will notice and will most likely take their business elsewhere.