Lessons from a local franchisor who launched a multi-million-rand global business in under five years.
Franchising is usually promoted to young aspiring entrepreneurs unable to launch businesses due to financial constraints and a lack business acumen. While becoming a franchisee is a great entry-level entrepreneurship strategy, you don’t need someone else’s successful business idea to launch a profitable, replicable business. Start your own and multiply your own success.
Just ask 29-year-old Bertus Albertse. At 24, while still in varsity, he launched electro muscle stimulation (EMS) business Body20 and franchised it a year later. It wasn’t a simple switch, from thriving business owner to first-time franchisee, but he learnt the ropes fairly quickly:
“Franchising means running a much bigger system, with much bigger needs. I had to learn that I can’t control every single thing. I needed to adapt and change and be what the business needed me to be.”
Today Body20 has sold three franchises in Florida, in the USA. Here’s how Albertse has achieved success in a niche market as a young franchisor:
1. Thrive on service in a niche market
When Albertse launched Body20, he knew that his wasn’t the only EMS technology service business in the market, so he had to find a key differentiator to succeed in building his brand.
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“There’s no exclusivity,” Bertus explains. “There are multiple tech providers available, and no one holds patents. There were also already competitors in the market, so I knew this wasn’t my competitive advantage.”
This encouraged Albertse to differentiate his business on something he knew all his clients would appreciate over exclusivity – service. And it worked. His passion and success were alluring and soon clients where asking how they could do the same.
2. Turn your customers into franchisees
Body20’s rapid success is largely due his franchisees understanding, being excited about and multiplying their business success – this along with the fact that his service works well enough for people to believe it is a viable business option.
“Virtually every franchisee started off as a Body20 client,” says Albertse. As the idea to franchise took shape barely a year after he’d launched his business, he realised that franchising was an opportunity to scale the business, but also foreign territory he’d need to familiarise himself him in order for his brand and all these new business owners to succeed.
3. Understand the transition
“The most interesting lesson I learnt is that being a franchisor is completely different. It requires a different business model compared to running your own solo business,” he says. “You can go to a franchise attorney to draw up your franchise agreement, but that doesn’t tell you how to operationally run your franchise.”
Switching roles from an independent business owner to a franchisor means putting up an operational infrastructure to support other people to be as successful as you’ve been. It may be daunting when you don’t even know what they need yet, but as Albertse puts it: “It’s almost like you need to jump in. In entrepreneurship, you only get clarity through action.”
4. You don’t need to be responsible for everything
While being a first-time franchisor entails an increase in responsibility, remember that you’re all in it together. Ensure that owners know there are variables and they need to understand the inherent risk of those variables, advises Albertse.
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“Whereas I used to carry all risk and responsibility for those variables, it’s no longer in my control.
Once you realise you’re not responsible for each franchisee, what happens in return is that those people reinvest in you as a person,” he says.
This reinvestment could be in the form of multi-unit franchisees realising their ability to take on more stores, or shared knowledge from your business network on business operations.
- Customer service is a key differentiator when your product or service isn’t exclusive
- The best candidates for franchisees are customers who believe in the success of your business idea and its profitability
- Understand the challenges of becoming a franchisor after operating as an independent business owner
- Share the load with your franchisees and explain everyone’s role in the business’ success.