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The Extra 1% – A lesson from Quest Founder, Paul Constantinou AM

From humble beginnings in his parent’s fish shop, Paul Constantinou could see the value of hard work and riding the highs and lows of business.  Paul Constantinou AM, inductee to the Franchise Council of Australia Hall of Fame, started his working life in the accounting industry.  After realising he enjoyed working away from a desk, he embarked on a career in the hospitality industry that would see him achieve great success with Quest Apartment Hotels.  Whilst enjoying the rush and excitement of the industry, Constantinou sought to achieve greater things identifying a growing market within the Accommodation industry for business-based travellers.  He identified the specific needs of this segment and began to customise his product to suit.  The first property, Quest Royal Gardens, was opened in Fitzroy, Victoria in 1988 and the expansion has not stopped there, with Quest Apartment Hotels expanding across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and recently branching out into the UK.

 

Building success with your Franchisee also comes down to having a disciplined format and following the processes. Learning from big market Fast Food Franchises in the 1990s, Constantinou saw the opportunity for a franchising format which didn’t exist in the Hotel industry.  “We applied a simple basis of how do you run a business, how do you open the door, which allowed us to look at people that wanted to come into our business with a entrperneruial approach to hospitality. They didn’t need a degree, just a passion of where they wanted to go with us”. 

 

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary, is the 1%.  The ‘extra’ we talk about is the one percent”, says Constantinou. “If you don’t lose sight of your purpose or your desire to fulfill your goal, then you will achieve emotional fulfillment and financial reward”. Constantinou believes choosing the right franchisees who are willing to put in the extra 1% every day is the key to business and franchise success. They might not be the potential Franchisee with the deepest pockets, but if they have the drive and passion in combination with discipline provided by their franchisor, it is a powerful combination.

 

One of the challenges Constantinou believes the industry faces is the lack of structure and accountability that some Franchisors have.  He believes more structure and some reform of the regulations in the industry could be a great benefit. “I think what we need to look at in franchising as a Franchisor, is an obligation to make sure the Franchisee has the ability to run a business, they are compliant, and understand the risk in commercial environments”.  I find that business today is sometimes a bit too rushed.  When we engage with our potential Franchisee and really understand their purpose, what they’re going through, where they are at in their life, it will lead to better alignment and more success”. He believes ensuring more parameters in the industry will ultimately lead to industry growth, simply taking on a Franchisee as they have the investment amount available may not be wise.  He believes that understanding their motivation and even their personal circumstances, greatly increases the rate of success.

 

Continuing to grow goes hand in hand with supporting the Franchisee, this is an element that Mr Constantinou says is critical.  Not only ensuring discipline and consistency within the organisation, it is about education. “It’s the education we need to do to ourselves as a Franchisor, to enhance knowledge about the industry that we are in, and how do we sit in that industry from a competitor perspective? I’m not saying we have to be doing better than our competitors, but we need to be aware of what is going on”.

 

Looking forward to technological changes like artificial intelligence (AI) and how that will affect the industry Constantinou says, “The important thing to realise when we talk about the future of the industry, it’s understanding that things are going to change and you as a person and as a business have to create the adaptation inside your business. Not change your customer.” In speaking about the role of AI Constantinou believes that there will be great opportunity to harness the time saving power of AI in collection of data and information.  This can be used to follow which industries and corporations are growing and to mitigate risk.  “AI is a tool that should be allowing us to spend more time with our customers, it’s your freedom to relate to your people”.  It’s not about saying I’m going to build a great business and hope people come, AI will make that process a lot more defined, make the decisions easier and quicker by providing more and more information”.

 

The Franchise industry future is looking bright.  “Families drive business. That helps grow the economy and increase GDP, many SME have the opportunity to become a franchise, those disciplines exist, those business formats exist.  The wealth of Quest came from its Franchisees and its customers. It didn’t come from us at the office”. It is the extra 1% that is the key.  Find a Franchisee willing to do the extra 1% and you will find growth and success.