Just when I thought business had reached a peak in transforming from old fashioned face-to-face delivery to a sleek digital model, I found I was wrong.
In the past year or so, there’s been another significant jump in the number of potential franchises which have upped their game, not only in the way they are structured as digital businesses but also in the kind of business involved – slick, simpler niched businesses seem to be the way to go.
Having been involved with franchised businesses since the 80s, I have seen how businesses passing my door reflect the latest changes. And the latest I see are not really new, they simply reflect the increased pace of change generated by COVID.
Over the past few months, I have seen business people who have long had a traditional service business suddenly realise they’re ready to take the step into franchising simply because they’re also ready to simplify and take the step into becoming a sleek digital business. Previously, these business owners were buried in the day to day running of the business and they just couldn’t see how they could step away. Nearly two years of COVID though, has brought the realisation that it is possible to step up and leave others to get on with the job.
Three mindset changes are involved.
The first involves the boss giving away control
Lockdowns have meant that staff have had to go out alone, only connected to the boss through Zoom or phone and often quickly cobbled together, difficult to use operations showing what is to be done and how.
So, getting good, cloud-based systems up and running or upgraded into something efficiently usable by staff in tricky situations has been an essential part of this transition. Systems like this are an essential foundation for successful delegation and it is well managed delegation that allows the business owner to step away from the day to day and live a more fruitful life.
A franchisor with a gutter business comes to mind. Installing, cleaning, and maintaining gutters can be a dangerous job. And, as a service business, it involves the tradies doing the job also having to deal with the client. It is essential every step, from customer relations, including converting the sale, to climbing onto the roof and fixing gutters and roof plumbing, that the job is carried out with care for safety, professionalism, and a smile. Not something often associated with trades-based service businesses in the past.
The franchisor involved here originally held his 10-year-old database with thousands of contacts on an excel sheet. His marketing was based on word-of-mouth referrals and text messages. His training and operations were held in his head. So, although he and his staff provided an excellent service, his franchise journey has also involved a journey into automating many parts of the business. Most loved by the franchisor, his staff and franchisees are the cloud-based operations systems he created with our help. This has meant he no longer needs to be directly involved with every job because his systems provide answers to questions on how to get stuff done.
We have examples of so many similar trade-based service businesses (garden maintenance, cleaning and roof restorations and so on) with long held dreams to franchise, suddenly coming to us post COVID and saying, ‘I am now ready to franchise. COVID has given me the time and exposure to digital business methods to be confident about making the change from day-to-day management of my staff to delegating responsibly with the expectation they can do the job my way without me’.
This realisation may never have come without lockdown time and forced exposure to the digital world and the need to let staff get on with the job without helicopter management given by the changed environment associated with COVID.
Second, new businesses on the block
New kinds of business come up all the time and yes, I know, the gig economy has been around for ever. But somehow, COVID seems to have pushed people into thinking outside the box and more and more new business ideas seem to be emerging, many bringing the gig economy to new sectors.
Most are based on niching existing business types.
Perhaps the time to think given by lockdowns and the need to find other ways of making money when the day-to-day job disappeared encouraged the creative juices.
So many examples reported in the press come to mind – many associated with local, small-production gourmet food. Rural smallholders making cheese and selling it direct online (thanks to Australia Post’s fast food delivery services) and the boom in really good home-based doughnuts come to mind. The markets are a great way to test these types of specialist product. For example, Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers, who focus on serving gnocchi-based dishes in their restaurants, now have seven outlets in two years. They started by testing their gnocchi and sauces in their local markets then, when they realised how popular the dishes were, they set up their first restaurant and take-away outlet in Paddington, Brisbane.
Other categories of franchises are also becoming more niche. Food trucks have been around for a while but they are increasing in popularity or cleaning businesses focused on very specific areas of the market and, if you play it right, specialist markets can be a great place to concentrate on small ranges of clever merchandise.
Third, the impact of knowing the life we want to live and having the money to live it
While lockdowns and losing jobs have given us time to create, COVID has also given many of us the confidence to change our lifestyle.
Many of us have decided that we:
- Don’t want to work long hours in our own or someone else’s business
- Don’t want to commute for ages every day
- Don’t want a city lifestyle so much anymore
- Do want more serenity
- Do want more control over what we do with our lives and who we spend it with
What this means we are moving homes and changing the way we work or do business to leverage our way out of the day-to-day.
Then there is the current property boom. What this has done is given so many of us the money and the business confidence to take steps we would usually procrastinate over. This property boom in Australia has given us options.
And what I am seeing is the associated cash injection and renewed confidence is the thing that is encouraging business owners to make changes and take the next step. All the way from my granddaughter setting up her first surfboard design business to the most experienced business owners deciding now is the time to simplify, automate and delegate and build a franchise group to leverage themselves from working in the business to working on it with an eye to not working at all in the future maybe.
Brian Keen has been involved in the franchise industry for more than 30 years and, today, is the Founder of Franchise Simply. His on-the-ground business experience as a multi-unit franchisee, franchisor and consultant helping many of the big names create their own franchise systems and growth over the years has been fed into Franchise Simply, helping today’s SMEs grow their business by franchising. www.franchisesimply.com.au