Franchisor Profile: Kwik Kopy

By Wendy Laursen

This article appeared in Issue 1#2 (Jan/Feb 2007) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

Franchisees are part of a club, says Kwik Kopy CEO David Bell, and protecting the interests of the club members is a job that he and his management team take very seriously.

“The franchisees have invested in a business and this is equivalent to paying a membership to join the Kwik Kopy franchise club. They want us to make sure we look after the assets of the club - the brand, they want us to have ideas for developing their business, and they also want us to make sure the people we let into the club are going to add value to the business,” says Bell.

“It is their money on the line. For the vast majority of franchisees it is money they have worked jolly hard to earn and they are investing it in a franchise, not because they can’t think of anything else to do with it, but because they want to grow it into something bigger and better. We have a real sense of responsibility to make sure that this happens for them.” 

Bell took on the role of Kwik Kopy CEO 28 months ago with a brief to take the franchise through to its next level of growth. Originally a chartered accountant with around 20 years of experience, Bell has used his financial knowledge to advance his career and has now been running companies for over nine years. In that time, he has developed a reputation as being an agent for change.

Kwik Kopy was already a well-run and profitable business-to-business franchise with 108 franchisees when Bell took the position. The changes he is initiating in Kwik Kopy are a focus towards fully digital technology and the development of a corporate culture that is more responsive to change.

“Print is no longer the main medium for communication. It is now part of a whole mix of mediums. Franchisees need to become proactive business partners helping their clients achieve their marketing and communication goals, rather than passively fulfilling a printing role,” Bell says.

Bell has a corporate team of 25 people including IT specialists and experts in marketing, equipment purchasing, recruitment, and accounting. The franchisees are also assisted by business development officers. These field officers help franchisees in all aspects of the business both pro-actively and as trouble shooters.

Franchisees pay a royalty to Kwik Kopy off their sales income but they are not obliged to purchase equipment from designated suppliers who then pay a commission back to the franchisor, as some franchise models require. Kwik Kopy does not have a mandatory pricing system either, although they do help with the setting of adequate profit margins, so franchisees are free to determine a suitable fee for the services they provide on an individual basis.

“I define it as a very ‘plain vanilla’ model because the franchisees know exactly what our income is from helping them run their business and there is no hidden income or hidden agendas. What is good for them is good for us.”

Bell has been impressed by the dedication and business acumen of the franchisees from the outset and he is keen to foster good relationships and encourage them in their success.

“We work hard on the relationship side of things. We are not a dictatorial franchise. We do, obviously, have some rules about how franchisees run their business but we tend to give them the basic framework and let them develop things according to their own style. If you have owners that you want to be entrepreneurial, you don’t want to straightjacket them.”

Kwik Kopy currently holds less than five percent of the very competitive Australian print market. According to Bell, you only have to be better than the average and you are going to grow at somebody else’s expense and his team of specialists are always studying industry trends, monitoring technological progress, and developing new opportunities for franchisees. It is a crucial advantage over independent business owners, he says.

The original Kwik Kopy franchise model included both an offset printer and digital technology but under Bell’s direction new franchisees will need a graphic designer but will not be required to have an offset printer. This reduces setup costs, providing a quicker return on investment for franchisees, and any requirement for offset print can be contracted out.

It is possible for a franchisee to have more than one site but Bell insists that to get the best business outcome, the centre managers must have some equity or ‘skin in the game’. Although there are many excellent employees, Bell believes those whose performance is directly linked to the profitability of the centre will work above and beyond what they would otherwise do.

Bell measures his success by that of his franchisees and sees the annual franchise performance benchmarks as a highpoint in his role as CEO. He looks for double digit profit growth from the franchise system each year and works with the franchisees to achieve a bottom line percentage of over 15 percent. This has been achieved over the past three years and Bell is optimistic about the prospects for new franchisees. We have got plenty of opportunity for growth geographically around Australia and we are serious about it,” he said.

Franchisees need to have business knowledge and to be comfortable about selling their services in a corporate environment. Bell has found that there is a strong correlation between the most successful owners and those having some experience in running a  business and building business relationships.

The Kwik Kopy recruitment process is intensive with prospective franchisees undergoing psychological testing and panel interviews. Although the franchise market is relatively tight at present and good franchisees can be difficult to find Bell chooses franchisees very carefully. It is his way of protecting the Kwik Kopy club and ensuring that franchisees achieve the high levels of success they expect. He is well on the way to fulfilling his brief for growth with a new fully digital Kwik Kopy centre opened in Gosford this year and several more stores in the pipeline.

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