From employee to business owner

Gavin Culmsee, General Manager. Bedshed

How to know if it’s for you and how to make the transition

Over the years at Bedshed we’ve seen a percentage of store managers graduate to owning their own Bedshed franchises.

It can be a highly successful transition as managers already know the business and have a lot of the skills they need to make good franchisees.

It’s no surprise store managers start to dream bigger. As an employee, there is a ceiling to your earning potential. When you make the shift to business owner, the sky’s the limit. However it’s not just about the money – there’s a level of personal satisfaction that comes from working for yourself and more flexibility in the way you work.

These factors drive some store managers to think about buying a business as the logical next step in their career. However, it’s important to remember that owning a business isn’t for everyone – it might not be something that suits you or your skill set. How do you know if owning a franchise is for you? What does it really take for a store manager to become a franchisee?

Bedshed has been in franchising for more than 30 years. We have a long heritage in the industry and a good understanding of what it takes to be a successful franchisee. Here are some tips and traits we’ve identified that are necessary to make the transition.

Identify existing skills and knowledge that will help you succeed

As a store manager, you already have lots of skills that will stand you in good stead to run your own successful franchise:

• Strong product knowledge

You know the product range and are well equipped to help your customers find the product that’s right for them.

• Sales and negotiation skills

Having worked successfully within your chosen franchise, you understand how to sell goods. This skill is transferrable to selling your business to prospective new staff and managing business relationships.

• Existing relationships within the business

A good established relationship with your franchisor and other franchisees is a valuable asset and will allow you to hit the ground running.

• Understanding of business processes

As a current store manager you have in depth knowledge of how the business runs allowing you to easily identify opportunities to improve efficiencies.

• People skills

You know how to motivate and encourage your staff to perform at their best and how to deal with difficult customers which will become a bigger part of your role.

• Company philosophy and culture

If you’ve worked within a franchise, you have a good idea of the company philosophy and whether this matches your own values. This is incredibly important and will ensure the franchisee/franchisor relationship is harmonious

What do you need to learn?

It’s great that you have these skills already in place as they really set you up for success. However, there are specific skills you need as a franchisee that go beyond what you would have built up as a store manager.

For a franchise owner, the big picture is much more than day-to-day sales, staff and management of the store – it’s all that plus the long term vision, solving problems and identifying and leveraging new opportunities. The following are the key areas where most store managers would need to upskill in order to be successful. These are all areas that many franchisors cover in their training of new franchisees.

• Cashflow

The cash flow of the business is, as a franchise owner, your responsibility. You need to be sure that you are confident managing the money that flows in and out of the business. A basic understanding and appreciation for the importance of maintaining positive cash flow is critical to  be able to pay bills on time and having a brain for figures helps too.

• Paying creditors

From stock and rent to electricity and phone bills, all businesses have bills to pay, which is why cash flow is important. As the franchisee, it will be up to you to make sure bills are paid in a timely fashion to keep your businesses running and maintain a good credit rating.

• Inventory management

You’ll be used to seeing stock coming into and out of your store. However, the management of this, what you buy and in what quantities is something that perhaps you’ve not been responsible for previously. As a franchise owner, you’ll be required to order stock, predict trends and  make sure new inventory is delivered in time to meet customer demand.

• Business decisions

One of the biggest shifts from store manager to owner is being responsible for business decisions. From discretionary discounting to make a sale to decisions about hiring and firing staff and even local marketing, you’re responsible for making and standing by these decisions.

Each of these areas are important but it doesn’t mean you can’t be a franchisee if you don’t have these skills yet. The benefit of buying a business within a franchise network is the extensive training and support you will receive in the areas where you’ve had less experience.

It’s personal

We’ve worked with lots of franchisees over the years and what success ultimately comes down to is a combination of aptitude, attitude and drive. You need to have some level of aptitude for the industry you’re working in and for the business skills you need as an owner; you need to have a go-getter attitude and you need to be committed and driven to succeed. What does that look like in practice?

• A strong work ethic. Franchise owners, especially new franchisees, work extremely hard, and a strong work ethic is critical. It will pay off in the end!

• You need to be motivated to succeed. Of course it helps that as the owner of the business, you’re working hard for your own benefit.

• An important quality for any franchise owner is resilience. In taking responsibility for a franchise, it’s natural that not everything will go to plan. A propensity for resilience is necessary for the success of a new franchisee. In the driving seat

When all is said and done, to own a successful franchise you need to have the drive to do so. Your store management skills already stand you in great stead to be able to make your store really successful, but ultimately it is the qualities of resilience, responsibility and motivation that are the most important. The skills you might lack from a business perspective like cash flow and inventory management can be taught if you’re willing to learn.

If you’re a store manager and you’re thinking about transitioning to owning your own business, franchising takes away a lot of the risk. You’re working within an established brand, with support and training not only from the franchisor but also from other franchisees. If you are thinking about making the shift, my best advice is to start having conversations – with your boss, with other franchisees in the network and with the franchisor staff. They’ll guide you in the right direction, but ultimately if you have the aptitude, attitude and drive, you will be successful. Go for it!

Gavin Culmsee has been at Bedshed since 2008, taking the helm in 2010. His career spans more than 20 years in retail including senior executive roles at Freedom Furniture and Bedshed.

Bedshed is one of Australia’s largest specialist bedding and bedroom furniture franchises with a network of more than 30 stores across the country. Bedshed has grown steadily since it started in Western Australia in 1980 and is currently expanding on the eastern seaboard.

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