Curating and Building a Successful Franchise Model

Curating and Building a Successful Franchise Model

These days, if you're not changing, you're going backwards. It used to be that the first step in creating a successful franchise model was identifying and proving a novel idea with a vivid brand suited to small-business replication. However, that is no longer viable in today's market. Instead, you need a system which is capable of rapid evolution. So if your system is showing signs of stalling, if you’re not getting the growth you hoped for, it might be time to look harder at what’s going on around you, your relevance in the mix, and at what market or regulatory changes you need to prepare for.

I developed four franchise systems before Poolwerx, and the more I learned, the more I understood that the greatest strength of franchising is bringing organisation to chaotic and fragmented industries, which is why I chose the pool and spa aftermarket as my own end game. During an extensive international tour, I saw that throughout the world, this industry was primarily populated by stand-alone owner-operators with little idea about collective buying, marketing, retail systems, training, emerging technology and brand. These were family businesses, but children were disinterested in taking over the reins from their parents despite this being a multi-billion dollar sector with a captive audience. Good times or hard times, once you have a pool, you can't ignore it.

So it took me four attempts to get to Poolwerx, and while each one was successfully passed on, each time it was 'start again'. These days I don't think that has to be. If you're not growing, ask yourself if there's a way to blow the dust off your system and bring better organisation to the industry you're in. As Franchisor, your network is depending on you and your team to out-think, outpace and outflank everyone wanting a piece of your action. You might have to consider a reboot, but that doesn't have to be seen as a negative.

The first Poolwerx model was vans servicing domestic pools. These days, individual franchise partners control multiple store empires supported by fleets of mobile service units for domestic, institutional and commercial markets. The model has now grown to support operations in Australia, New Zealand, the USA and soon in Europe.

Based on my own experience, these are the rules in which I follow to manage Poolwerx:

1. You must create a culture of respect

Whatever your altruism, franchise systems tend to go through a phase of 'them-and-us' in terms of relationships between the support team and franchisees - and for that matter, suppliers. Some never get past it. Some do, and then back peddle back into it. In Poolwerx, there is zero-tolerance of disrespect for franchise partners, suppliers and our support team.

2. Never stint on training

Poolwerx has sophisticated training facilities in Brisbane and Dallas, Texas, providing industry and government-accredited modules for franchise partners and their staff. These are now recognised as best in the world for our sector. The net result has increased the profitability of individual businesses, improved staff retention and a greater sense of future. In Australia, it is the largest school in the Southern Hemisphere. 

We were recently awarded a five-star rating under the independent FRANdata system. I believe this is reflected by the support and training Poolwerx offers employees, which is essential for any franchisee.  We encourage anyone in our network to embrace training and complete their CFE Industry Certification - the highest qualification in the franchise industry. As of this year, Poolwerx currently has the most (seven) accredited CFE graduates in Australia.

3. Your most important KPI must be the profitability of the individual businesses in your network

If your franchisees are making a living comparable with their effort and risk and can see a viable end game, then generally your system remains stable. It's when people feel backed into a corner financially, or corners are cut, then this is when issues will arise.

Also, while it has taken a lot of money and forbearance to get there, we spend almost nothing on litigation. So as you develop your system, you need to know in real-time where each franchisee's profitability is sitting against your benchmarks and take remedial action in cases where fractures begin to show. Most often a process of 'intensive care' works. 

4. Open as many lines of communication as you can

Create a sense of community within your network. Lead by example, providing regular internal communications and ensure two-way feedback through business meetings. Measure who is opening what network communication and how often they do so. If it’s flagging, find a new and better way.

5. Stay as true as you can be to the person you were when you embarked on your enterprise

Remain at the helm for as long as you can, and invest in culture as much as the balance sheet.

John O’Brien founded Poolwerx – his 5th successful franchised network, 27 years ago and has grown it into a global, multi-award-winning system. John is an inductee into the FCA Hall of Fame, past Chair of the World, Asia Pacific and Australian Franchise Councils and is a founding member of the Australian Federal Government’s (ACCC) franchise advisory group.
 
Last month Poolwerx was one of the first franchisee systems in Australia to be awarded a 5-star FRANdata rating for high performance. Here he talks about how to curate and build a successful franchise model and why it's essential never to give up.  
 
Poolwerx is the world’s largest pool service brand in the industry. Founded by Australian CEO and entrepreneur John O’Brien in 1992, Poolwerx has grown to be the only global pool brand with over 575 service vehicles and 160-plus stores in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. With significant investment in a professional development strategy, recurring revenue streams and a technology-driven and scalable model, Poolwerx swims ahead of its competitors. Poolwerx is also a champion of promoting the importance of teaching life-saving water skills through its annual community initiatives, Learn2Swim Week and April Pools Day.