Meet the Challenge

Stephen Giles, Chairman, Franchise Council of Australia

Q: What is Australia’s biggest franchise system (by network reach and retail points of presence)?

A: Australia Post.

It is a measure of the success of the franchise business model that a 4000-store former Government enterprise chose a franchise future when it was put onto a commercial footing a number of years ago.

What Australia Post realised is that the strength of its great retail network was best realised by putting the stores into an individually-owned franchise network, rather than employing thousands of public servants to run them (as had previously been the case).

Now those stores are facing new challenges as the traditional letter posting business diminishes. Australia Post franchisees are having to grasp the challenge and turn it into opportunity.

The head of Australia Post retail, Christine Corbett, explained how the company was addressing the challenge at the annual convention of the Franchise Council of Australia, NFC12, in Canberra recently. Ms Corbett was one of a number of high profile business leaders to address the convention – all of whom reinforced the event theme -- Intelligent Connections.

Many speakers were leaders in the franchising community; members of the Franchise Hall of Fame, and dynamic FCA member companies, both retail and service, established and emerging businesses.

A feature was the keynote address on leadership by former Prime Minister John Howard. Not only was Mr Howard eloquent and passionate, but he thrilled the audience with his obvious interest in, and historical connection he retains for the franchising sector.

We refreshed our political connections at NFC12, with around 40 CEOs participating in a private meeting with several of our leading politicians at Parliament House. A topic of acknowledgement and discussion among Ministers and shadow Ministers was the magnificent contribution the franchise sector makes to the Australian economy. It is not well enough known that the Franchise Council of Australia represents more successful small businesses than any other organisation. Franchising remains almost the only format that enables small business to compete effectively with large corporations.

Too often our light is hidden under a bushel.

The facts about franchising merit constant repetition:-

• Over $130 Billion in annual turnover;
• 1100 franchise systems;
• 70,000 franchised businesses;
• Employing over 600,000 Australians.

In my keynote address at the Convention I reflected that it had been a challenging year for the FCA. I noted that whilst we are used to franchising not getting as much credit as it deserves, it was disappointing that we have had to endure attacks on the credibility of franchising from some State parliamentarians and a handful of individuals with personal agendas. I observed that we have responded well to those attacks, countering rhetoric with fact and promoting the positive franchising stories through initiatives such as our Franchisee Success Club.

In my last address before handing over to incoming FCA Chairman Michael Paul, I asked our assembled franchise leaders to consider three things that I feel will be important if the franchise sector is to continue to prosper and lead the Australian small business sector:-

1 We must never say that these are tough times. They are not tough times. They are simply challenging times. And our job is to meet the challenge.

2 There is nothing as inspiring as a positive attitude. As a franchise leader the most critical element of leadership is having a positive approach;

3 A reminder about patience and persistence from founder Jeff Bozos: “In some cases, things are inevitable. The hard part is that you don’t know how long it might take, but you know it will happen if you’re patient enough. eBooks had to happen. Infrastructure web services had to happen. So you can do these things with conviction if you are long-term-oriented and patient.”

So in your business, figure out what is inevitable, act with conviction, and be patient.

Success does not always come to the brightest or fastest to act, but it always comes to those that adapt and persevere.