As 2017 bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year finalist, Graham Duckworth, Driver Hire’s Franchise Sales Director sat a Q&A with the bfa.
As you can read below it discusses the systems Driver Hire has in place to gauge franchisee feedback, how franchisees are incentivised, milestones this year, the support provided to franchisees and advice for anyone looking to set up their own franchised business.
What systems do you have in place to gauge how franchisees feel about you as a franchisor, and how do you use that information?
We survey our franchisees generally on an annual basis. We commission an independent survey that asks questions about different areas of the business, including: training and support, the franchise system, culture, value and rewards, the management of the business and overall satisfaction. Our franchisees rate individual departments and have the opportunity to write general comments.
The survey provides a forum for franchisees to deliver confidential feedback, and gives them another opportunity to be heard. Whether it’s a problem affecting the many or just one person, it gives us a chance to act.
The data and comments are analysed in detail by the senior management team, and a series of actions created (in response to the survey), aimed to improve the business.
Franchisees also provide comments and feedback on a more regular basis, through regional meetings, cluster meetings (a handful of franchisees), Driver Hire’s online forum, and to their area managers.
What incentives do you offer to your franchisees?
This year we launched our sales incentive ‘The Best of the Best’, which is effectively three competitions, each run over 10 weeks. There is also one overarching competition, which spans the full 30 weeks. By breaking the competition down to into three phases, it keeps people interested throughout the entire incentive.
It was launched on Driver Hire TV – our internal YouTube channel – and then followed up with a series of cluster meetings, in each region. Here we explained the competition rules, how to accrue points, and the prizes on offer; we also delivered refresher sales training.
The prizes are substantial and will reward both the franchisee and their team. Each of the 10 week competition winners can select from a technology pack, an experience day, or a group trip to a major sporting event (the value being around £2,500). The overall prize is £7,500 worth of holiday vouchers to be shared amongst the franchisee and their office team.
Driver Hire TV is a great way to communicate with our network in a fun and personable way, on a wide-scale basis. Whether we’re providing updates, or recognising success, it receives great feedback and maintains a competition buzz.
It’s been a big year of milestones for the business, so what does the future hold for Driver Hire?
This year is Driver Hire’s 30th year in franchising (our first franchise opened in Newcastle in 1987) and our UK network has passed £100 million turnover, for the first time. We feel these are both very significant achievements; demonstrating both our longevity and strong financial performance.
Of course, we’re not resting on our laurels and there’s still huge scope for further growth. The market for temporary and permanent logistics staff (not to mention training) is huge – the UK temporary driver market alone is estimated to be worth around £3b. Driver Hire is the largest provider of logistics staff in the UK, but we still have a relatively small market share.
In the last year, 48% of our franchisees exceeded £1million turnover and it would be great if we had 100% reaching the £1m milestone. Therefore, there’s so much scope for future growth. We will continue to train, support and encourage our current franchisees to help them achieve their potential. In addition, we want to recruit people with the skills and drive to run a successful business.
How do you ensure your franchisees are receiving the support they need?
Our 30 years in franchising has helped us develop an excellent understanding of how to support franchisees. Training begins before our franchisees open for business (up to 6 weeks of pre-start training), and continues via our Franchisee Support Programme (typically for a further 6 months).
Every franchisee is supported by an Area Manager (ADM), who regularly visits the franchisee’s office and actively helps them grow their business. For example, the ADM will attend customer sales meetings with the franchisee, to help them win new customers. Of course, franchisees have different strengths and weaknesses and the ADM can tailor their support accordingly.
With over 80 staff at our Bradford head office, our franchisees can call upon a lot of support – including marketing and PR, IT support, national accounts, HR, training, finance and franchise sales.
It’s very important to encourage and facilitate positive working relationships between franchisees. This is achieved through regular regional meetings, an annual conference, our online forum (shared and cluster meetings. Peer-to-peer support is just as valuable as support from the head office team.
Driver Hire has been a bfa Franchisor of the Year finalist for 11 of the last 12 years, so hopefully we’re doing something right, when it comes to supporting franchisees. Feedback gained from franchisee surveys, and from regional meetings, helps to identify that franchisees are happy with the levels of support provided.
What have you learnt along the way and what advice would you give other companies thinking of franchising?
You will need to ensure that your business can be successfully replicated in another location, before franchising is possible. Supporting a franchisee, or franchised network, may be very different to your current company structure, so it’s important to map out the required changes. You will need a franchise agreement, for example. Will you need to recruit new staff, invest in new IT system etc.?
Working with franchisees is different to managing employed staff. Of course, you will have systems and processes the franchisees are required to follow; however, a good franchisee relationship doesn’t involve you “telling” people what to do. Franchisees invest their own money and will expect their investment to bear fruit. If things don’t go as well as expected, the franchisee is likely to be more challenging than an employee, so it’s really important to provide the right level of support.
As you would expect, becoming a franchisor is a major commitment, so carry out your research and seek specialist advice, from the outset. The British Franchise Association (bfa) website has an excellent guide to franchising your business, including a list of its affiliate members, and this is a great place to start. Engage with a franchise consultant, a solicitor and an accountant who specialise in franchising, plus one of the major banks with a franchise team. These specialists will help you understand the practical steps, legal requirements and financial aspects of running a franchised network.
It could also be very useful to visit one or two of the major national franchise exhibitions, to talk to franchisors and perhaps check out the potential competition. Contact other franchise brands, who’ve recently franchised their business, to see if they are willing to provide some pointers. A company in the same sector may not be willing to share its experiences but the franchise community is generally very friendly and helpful.