Why did you choose to expand?
I wanted to achieve a certain lifestyle. My original store was profitable, but I began punching the numbers to figure out how to make an even greater return. Only a multiple-unit franchise model could give me the returns I was looking for.
What challenges did you experience as a result of expansion?
The initial challenge was to establish an efficient central infrastructure to cater for the needs of all of the branches. I employed an experienced general manager, who was tasked with standardising the quality and presentation of our product at each branch.
An office-based administration assistant took control of the ordering and deliveries. I also had to employ a full-time driver, and an HR manager to manage 70 employees.
The major challenge, however, was raising funds to purchase and open more shops. It was a lot more difficult than I anticipated.
How did you manage finance and cash flow when expanding?
It involved a lot of negotiating. Banks are extremely conservative. As I established relationships with suppliers and our franchisor, they began to trust me. They allowed me some extended terms which helped with daily cash flow.
Our franchisor began supporting me in every aspect of the business, and allowing me access to resources like their marketing department to help me with my expansion plans.
How did your role and responsibilities change from one unit to several?
Delegation was crucial. I quickly realised I could not be all things to all people, and needed to focus solely on where my skills would most benefit the company. No longer was this a ‘one shop one man business’.
I had to adjust my mindset and allow the structures that were in place to do what was intended.
This was a massive growth period for me personally, as I had to learn to rely on others.
What is the single most important thing to know about being a multiple-unit franchisee?
It really is a ‘copy and paste’ concept now that my infrastructure is sound. The customer profile varies slightly between branches, but the formula and standards remain constant across the group.
People are the key to success in this business. We only employ experienced, competent and enthusiastic individuals.
The product is a huge contributing factor, but if the branches have weak management, bad attitudes, and high absenteeism, and the staff morale in the shop is poor, customers sense it, quality suffers and the brand is damaged.
You really need to be as hands on as you can — difficult, as the word ‘multiple’ really means you have to be in all places as much as possible. It’s like being a parent — you can’t give one child more attention than your others.
How do you maintain work-life balance?
With difficulty. But I have an understanding wife who appreciates that the busiest times in the business are weekends and evenings. It can be unpredictable too, and on occasion I have to drop everything and go to one of the branches.
I enjoy a game of golf once a week and I try to be home every afternoon to spend time with my children. For this business to work there has to be balance.
- Franchise: The Fish & Chip co
- First store: 2012
- Number of stores: 7