It seems unlikely that a game ranger would find himself running a franchise let alone multiple units, but that’s exactly how Sheldon Williams’ career has panned out. Today he’s a multi-unit franchisee to eight Scooters Pizza franchises, one Fish & Chip Co, and there’s no stopping him.
The lead up to pizza
“Even though I was a game ranger, my future wife and I always had plans to be self-employed. In 2006, Lisa and her father identified two existing Scooters franchises in Vanderbijlpark for sale and, being two stores, needed management, so as the boyfriend I stepped up to the challenge. The plan was to purchase these two stores, make them as profitable as possible, and then sell them,” says Williams. So they purchased the stores, left KwaZulu-Natal, and embarked on a steep learning curve.
The early years
“I enjoyed the challenge of bettering a profitable store through proper management, and while there was lots to learn, we weren’t in a position of losing money. I was quite a pest to the franchisor asking for training and advice, but it helped in cutting our teeth,” he laughs.
Being very hands on both front and back of house paid off: Within four months the stores became very profitable. “With this confidence we opened a new store Springs in 2007 and realised we could make something of this and turned it into our strategy.”
A new strategy born
“Our strategy became to purchase distressed or badly managed stores. This can be for many reasons, but it’s usually because the owner-operator has lost interest, or they’re too hands-off thinking it’s the franchisor’s responsibility to manage the outlet. So our modus operandi is to purchase distressed stores and turn them around using proper management,” Williams explains.
“The key to making this work is to be absolutely sure you know why the store is underperforming and whether it can be turned around before purchasing it.”
Then another, and another…
“My wife and I learnt a lot in our first year and came to understand the model and operations very well, so come 2007 we opened a new store in Springs. Then in July 2009 head office drew our attention to a distressed store in Sasolberg, so we bought that. In October 2009 we bought up another in Alberton, in February 2011 we bought two stores in Pretoria, and in November 2013 one in Brakpan became available, so we bought that too!” With each purchase the Williams’ worked on a 50/50 split with unencumbered capital and finance.
Taking on a new brand
“We were in for a surprise when we added a Fish & Chip Co store to our portfolio. The advice I’d offer anyone is that it’s very important for franchisees to fully understand that even under one holding company, different brands have very different processes, locations, markets, operations, everything! It’s very different to owning and operating a Scooter’s, so when expanding make sure you’re clear on all aspects of the business.”
A change of pace
“Being very hands-on in the beginning, I found it quite difficult to delegate to my store and area managers. I sometimes had to tell myself ‘Just let go.’ My role now is to identify and grow good, reliable managers by promoting from within, incentivise them with perks, oversee the admin (which grows exponentially with new additions), and manage my medium-sized business that has investors to please. I’m also on the road a lot and go through two cell phone batteries a day.”
“What I learnt as I grew was that my time management had to change from about four stores onward.” Williams now manages a medium-sized business that employs 140 staff, has an annual turnover of R23 million, goes through 7,7 tonnes of flour and 4,5 tonnes of mozzarella a month, and has a fleet of three vehicles and 15 motorbikes. He travels in excess of 30 000 km a year and still finds time to work in-store and engage with customers. And it doesn’t stop there, Williams has designs to expand to 15 stores.
- 06:00 Wake up and spend time with the family
- 08:00 – 08:30 Hit the road
- 09:00 – 12:00 & 13:00 – 17:00 Spend half day in a store before moving to another one where Williams meets area managers and store managers
- 18:00 – 19:00 Start wrapping up the day
- 19:00 – 20:00 Go home, unless it’s Friday or Saturday, which is at 21:00
- Mondays Check stock-taking, oversee week’s orders, compile reports and two store meetings in the Vaal
- Tuesdays Two Vaal store visits
- Wednesdays Visit Joburg stores
- Thursdays Visit Pretoria stores
- Fridays As the busiest trade day, Williams rotates outlets and works in-store, engaging with customers
- Saturdays Two Saturdays of the month are worked in-store, like Fridays
- Sundays Catch up on admin and relax if possible.
- Visit: www.scooterspizza.co.za
- Call: +27 (0)11 608 1999
- Contact person: Dewald van Deventer