Guruing around

You would be crazy not to!

Running a successful independent design and print business is not the easiest thing in the world to achieve. In the past, many would-be print entrepreneurs started by joining a franchise, but with the collapse of the Prontaprint and Kall Kwik franchise networks in 2011, choices in this area are severely limited. As a result of this, a group of experienced and successful former franchisees formed the UK Design & Print Network (UKDPN). UKDPN now comprises over sixty member businesses and now included members who do not have a franchise background.

Benefits of membership

Apart from the incredibly helpful on-line forum used to share ideas, best practice and provide assistance to each other the UKDPN group have worked hard to:

• Negotiate some great pricing deals in relation to the running of a design & print business
• Run an annual conference to help learn & share ideas
• Run events including product seminar days to help understand new ways of growing your business
• Provide a forum for help, advice and knowledge. Ask a question and someone on the forum will have the answer.

Last year we have run two training courses for members on AdWords and Cross Media which are also free of charge to attend (Birmingham location) and an annual conference at Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire. However apart from the paper and equipment deals that the purchasing team have negotiated as a bench mark for all our companies the biggest benefit is from the knowledge sharing. An example of this was when one member was purchasing a Xerox J75. Knowledge shared on the forum ensured that the member had the click price lowered by 0.3p fixed for 3 years plus a lower capitol purchase price. That deal alone would never have been achieved without being a member and will save him nearly £10K over the 4-5 year ownership. This is just one area where the collective wisdom of the members would help a good deal to be achieved.

As an example of how this has worked for the 2014/15 members there has been an offer on a trial pack of the new Multiloft paper which can be bought from Premier Paper at cost price (100 sheets) and on top of that on presenting your invoice to UKDPN there is an additional £65 rebate sent back which is from sponsorship funds.

What does all this cost?

Just £100.00 per year - but you can try it out for nothing!

Apply for a trial account (free for 3 months and no obligation) to check out the UKDPN forum to see if membership works for you. You would not have access to any of the members deals during the trial period.

To be honest anyone who is in our business (B3 / Digital / large Format / Design) would be crazy not to as the annual cost of £100 per annum is usually saved within a month or two. The criteria for being a member is simple and straightforward.

Please contact me on 07971 820 990 or
[email protected]

I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
 
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A free six year warranty from Apple?

The screen of my Mk1 iPad failed recently. Apple’s guarantee is twelve months and my iPad is over three years old, but I decided to take into the local Apple Store to see what could be done, half expecting to told to buy a new one.
It seems that Apple have their own interpretation of UK consumer law, because although my iPad was not covered under Apple’s warranty, they gave me a new one free of charge! The staff in the Apple Store call this “The six year rule”, and it applies to any Apple hardware. The process (including deleting the data from my old iPad) took about ten minutes - no quibbles.
There seemed to be two factors that influenced their decision. I originally bought my iPad from the store that I took it back to, and my iPad did not look “knocked about”.
So if you have a Mac, Apple monitor, iPhone or iPad that has failed, but is in “good condition” - and is up to six years old - take it back!
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On being welcome…

I was recently chatting with one of my customers. This is someone who has taken a failed print business and really turned it round, but he was having trouble arranging meetings with customers or prospects.

This fellow was finding it difficult to get appointments with his customers and prospects in order to develop relationships and increase sales. I had two questions for him:
How do you feel when a friend in business, or someone you feel will help your enterprise calls for an appointment? - or - How do you feel when you receive the same call from a sales rep?

Clearly, it depends on whether you think the appointment will really help your business. So what can you do to make your customers actually want to meet you?

Add value! One way of adding value to your customer relationships is to offer practical advice that will benefit their business. I used to offer free marketing advice to small businesses. As my business came to be perceived locally as successful, I was able to offer sales and marketing advice by giving examples of things that had worked for me. I found that I no longer had to sell to these customers. As we built their marketing campaigns together, I designed and printed whatever they needed!

So before you pick up the ’phone to call a customer, ask yourself about the value of the call for them.
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Has your business hit the “Glass Ceiling” yet?

One of the limiting factors for the development of a small business is the “Glass Ceiling” that prevents the business from growing past a certain point. The limiting point will vary according to the nature of the business, but will usually be somewhere between six and twelve employees.

There is no universal solution to this problem. The factors limiting growth will vary from business to business, but the most common reason for businesses staying small is because the owners try to do too much themselves.

Growing a profitable business is hard work, but business owners that are running around, opening the post, fixing IT problems, constantly involved in production, and are always the first person to answer the phone - are doing themselves no favours!

Most people are familiar with the pareto 80/20 rule which states that 20 percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. As far as many small business owners are concerned, less than 10 percent of their time is spent on marketing and sales so how will they ever grow?

By entering growth
MODE:

Market - and sell!
Outsource
Delegate
Establish

Market - and sell!
You don’t need me to tell you how important this is. Perhaps you will be able to devote more time to this by using the items below.

Outsource
Your time is extremely valuable. Failing to outsource non income-producing activities is simply a false economy.

Delegate
Your time is extremely valuable. Recruiting, training and retaining good staff is the most important way to liberate more of your time, so that you can concentrate on growing your business.

Establish
Establishing a clearly defined operating system, based around a fully implemented MIS system, is the foundation of any successful print business.

Take a day away from your business to consider the business, and ask your self these two questions:
What would you do with your business if you could not fail?
What would you like you business to look like in five years time?
Then plan how you will get from here - to there!

Need help with this?
Then please click here.
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What makes some small printers more successful than others?

In the twenty years I spent running my own Prontaprint centre, and in the seven years spent visiting customer’s print businesses, I have been fascinated by the difference in sales success between different business owners.

If a franchisor is involved, they will typically have a series of marketing programmes, designed to drive customers to the business. This is a valuable activity, but should only be part of a sales and marketing strategy.

Sales training for customer facing staff is essential, but this usually concentrates on disciplines such as sales call rates and the basics of sales and negotiation techniques.

There is a missing link between the marketing and the direct sales activities that I have noticed is usually present in the most successful small print businesses.

Networking. The old saying that “People prefer to buy from people they know” is as true now as it ever was. Networking can mean different things to different people. It can be anything from joining a local breakfast club or business club to networking in conjunction with a sport or hobby. I know one small printer who, having had some success with customers in a particular industry sector, joined the trade association (for an industry that he wasn’t actually part of) - and achieved great success supplying that industry!

Supporting local charities and sports teams etc. is always good for public relations, and getting involved with local organisations will also bring you into contact with other local businessmen, and can provide another kind of networking opportunity.

Of course, as a small businessman, with so many daily urgencies, it’s difficult to get everything right. All one can do is to employ the best technology and staff that one can afford in order to release as much time as possible for gaining good customers - and to be lucky!

On luck. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
Seneca, 5BC - 65AD
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Fly - or roast?

Don’t you just hate those business clichés, the ones used by trainers and consultants (like me!). I can’t say I like them much. They usually sound a bit worn and hackneyed, but occasionally I hear one that makes me smile - and pause for a moment to question the intent of the metaphor, just to check that I’m not missing something.

Here’s one you’ve probably heard - maybe smiled at - and then dismissed.

BUT…

Perhaps it’s worth another look? Maybe it’s more significant now than it was previously?

“You can’t fly with the eagles if you work with the turkeys!”

The eagles referred to here are talented (having talons,) flying in a direction determined by vision and intent. Making opportunities. Soaring over the competition. Taking the prize.

Turkeys always have their heads down, struggling and scrabbling for whatever comes their way, stuck in the moment of the days routine.

So what are you, high flying - or oven ready?

Oh good!

I’ll see you in the air then!
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The Numbers Game/2

Selling to busy professionals is tough in any industry, but especially for small print businesses. Do you find it difficult to attract the attention of new customers? Unless you differentiate yourself from the competition and inspire new prospects from the first point of contact it will be an uphill slog. Most of your competitors will also have a compelling, customer focussed and cost effective story to tell, so how will you engage the attention of prospects ahead of your competition? Delivering engaging and thought provoking pitches and proposals is routine for attracting new customers, but waffling about your kit list and the so-called advantages of dealing with your company can be predictable and disappointing for your prospect to hear.

It’s not about you!
Understanding and practising the “It’s not about you, it’s about them” philosophy has assisted professional sales people to develop relationships with prospects where others have failed.

What can you do differently? By using the correct processes any salesperson with a quality product can succeed. It may be just a matter of using a more customer focussed philosophy.

  • Inspire and influence. A mixture of passion and expertise is inspirational. Displaying a real interest in your customers growth plans and issues will assist you in building a successful business relationship.
  • Pay attention. Changing suppliers carries a risk for any purchaser. Can you identify that risk and resolve any issues surrounding it?
  • Add value. Your worth to the customer will be determined by their perception of what they get for their money.
  • Volunteer creatively. Enter into discussions about your customers marketing plans. Volunteer ideas to promote their business, even ones that don’t involve you own products and services!
  • Use a reality check. Does what you have to say pass the “So what” test? Otherwise you’ll be wasting their time, as well as your own.
  • Follow the process. Always be attentive to the details. Follow up calls, delivering on time, gratitude. All the thing you know you should never forget.

The stresses of running a business can sometime make us forget the basics. It’s too easy to spend time worrying about sales figures, when more time spent thinking about customers’ concerns would probably lead to greater success. If you can focus more on the customers needs this will differentiate you from your competitors in a way that will be relatively difficult for them to emulate.

Clearly, there is no quick fix for sales success. It takes hard work, persistence and the ability to handle rejection. Success can, however, be made a little easier by remembering that it’s not about you, it’s about them.
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Why conventional training doesn't work

As anyone who delivers training courses (and follows up afterwards) will tell you, the limitation of most conventional training sessions is the human brain’s capacity to retain information. Most of the delegates at a typical one day training event will only remember a small proportion of the information imparted in the training session. 
 
There are two solutions to this problem. One is to follow up the training remotely. The other is to re-think the training strategy and, if practical, deliver it in a series of shorter sessions. This is why, where practical, most of the training delivered by Business Momentum consists of one hour, direct, on-line sessions.
 
These sessions are highly cost effective because they are customised to the customers requirements and delivered over a series of weekly sessions. Prepaid, one to one sessions, delivered in this way can cost as little as £65.00 each.
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Ten things to do when times are hard

It seems that the past couple of months have been particularly tough for small printers. I always found that when business was slack I was personally busier than ever. It can be hard to keep a sense of perspective when times are hard.

Here’s a short list of actions that I found useful in hard times:

  1. Get on with it! The good decisions you made when business was good are almost certainly still good. Don’t allow procrastination to get in your way.
  2. Make sure that all your regular sales and marketing activities are proceeding as normal. It can be hard to maintain your momentum in these activities, but it’s more important than ever. I know this sound obvious, but I’ve seen how difficult it can be to achieve.
  3. Be open and honest with your staff, but be positive. Let them know that times are hard everywhere - without scaring the proverbial out of them!
  4. Don’t sell too cheaply - you’ll only regret it later.
  5. Create special offers, perhaps offering more for the same price, to stimulate business without cutting your base prices.
  6. Follow the 80-20 rule and make sure your top customers are happy. They’re the one’s that will carry you through to better times.
  7. Consider re-negotiating your rent. For an informative article on this, click here.
  8. Talk to your suppliers. I don’t mean to say that you should tell them everything, but you are more likely to get an extension of credit (if you need it) if they don’t feel that you are avoiding them.
  9. If business is so bad that you need to make a redundancy, do it quickly. There is absolutely no point in prolonging the agony.
  10. Have the weekend off! Try to involve yourself in a non work related activity that will absorb you and allow a fresh start on Monday. If you don’t look after yourself, whose going to look after your business?
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What does it cost to get a new customer?

Do you know how much it costs you to find a new customer? Have you ever calculated the cost? Try this costing calculator and find out how much you need to spend on telemarketing to improve sales turnover. In the example below I’ve used sample figures to see how much you need to spend to win new work. By using your own figures, you will be able to see how to budget for the cost of winning new business. Click here to download a budget calculator spreadsheet free of charge. The spreadsheet automatically calculates all but five of the cells.

Telemarketing budget sheet
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"Why oh why do they believe someone else?"

I was with Bob, a business owner the other day and he asked:

"Paul, Why is it that when I suggest and idea to my staff, they don't act on it – then you or someone else tells them the same thing and they act as though it's the first time they've heard it?"

"Bob" I said. "Have you ever heard the saying that a prophet isn't recognised in their own land" Well; it's true!
1. When the boss tells his or her people that a certain way of achieving more is brilliant – some of the people think that the boss has a hidden agenda.
2. When someone from outside the business explains the same ideas they usually come at the problem from a different perspective.
3. The person from outside the business may be (or should be) skilled at presentations.
4. People believe authority figures.

You see; part of the problem lies within the inaccuracy of the old expression which glibly states: You have to be heard to be believed

When the reality is: You have to be believed to be heard

So can you be more effective in communicating new ideas to your staff?

1. If the idea came from a book – give everyone a copy of it. That's what I did with a book I was so taken with about business organisation. It was called "The E-Myth Revisited" the author is Michael E. Gerber. And, I so loved the ideas that I bought all the members of my team a copy and we used some Gerber's ideas to help re-organise , and improve the efficiency of our business.
2. If the idea came from a TV or radio programme – play the programme at a team meeting.
3. If you have yearly meetings – get a professional speaker to present their (and your) ideas at that meeting.
4. Get recommendations from others who've used the ideas.

Two of the key factors in persuasion are authority and social proof. If you can use those, perhaps you can get your people to believe.
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Does your business have the right workflow model?

Does your business have the right workflow model?

Over the past five years, I have visited most of the centres in the network. One of the most common characteristics that I find is that centres tend to have an evolved workflow. The centres workflow may have been thought out several years ago, but custom and practice will have changed the workflow pattern over time. The result of this is often less than ideal.

Not many design and print businesses would survive today by using the same business model that was used ten years ago, so using a ten year old workflow could be costing you money. This is an ideal time to look critically at your centres workflow and modernise it if necessary.

Centres that have both litho and digital production usually run parallel workflows. This article is mainly concerned with the digital workflow. Is your digital workflow as automated as it could be? Why automate? There are several reasons to automate some aspects of your digital workflow.
  • Handle more jobs automatically.
  • Operators often have less focus on repetitive jobs. This leads to more errors - and more reprints, so automation can lead to fewer errors.
  • You probably already have the technology, so little or no additional investment.
  • Greater productivity.
  • Less waste

Every error is lost time, lost profit, and a potential lost customer.

So how can you reduce errors by automating more of the process without making a large investment in new equipment?

Any print MIS system should have the facility to create job templates. PrintSmith, for example, will save any estimate or invoice as an invoice template, or any job as a job template. Using job templates in PrintSmith will enable you to incorporate all the required charges and job notes into the template whilst leaving you the freedom to edit any aspect of the job. This will help to drive consistency through the workflow, thereby reducing mistakes and omissions. Older versions of PrintSmith required you to manually copy any template created to all the other workstations. The current version (8.1.x) is able to save any template to the shared templates folder on the PS master. I have noticed that very few centres use templates effectively, but those that do, derive significant benefit from them.

Using PrintSmith site is a way of channeling your customers orders directly onto your workflow. The latest version is much more user friendly than previous versions. A small investment is required, to but it remains competitively priced compared to other on-line ordering systems, and it is the only one that integrates directly into PrintSmith.

If you have a digital colour production machine, you may already be using an EFI Fiery controller that will accept JDF digital job tickets from PrintSmith. I’ll be writing more about this in the new year.

Whatever MIS system you are using, It’s only as good as the information it contains. The quiet week at the start of January is the perfect time to ensure that your stock prices, press, copier and charge definitions are correct and up to date. Because none of the innovations mentioned in this article will will be of any use if they are not.
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Six tips for great customer care

Customer care is a top priority for any business. Your customers needs should be the of the highest priority. Creating a culture of great customer care is a challenge for any business. Here are some tips to help improve your relationships with this vital group of individuals.

1.
Encourage a culture of care

Customers will only receive the level of care they expect if every member of your organisation understands that the needs of the customer should always be the top priority. Encouraging a culture of this kind can be a difficult task.
You should start by explaining to your staff why customer care matters. Every individual in your business should understand that the success of the firm (and, therefore, their own employment prospects) depend on the happiness of your customers.

2. Say what your’e going to do, and do what you said you would do

There is nothing more likely to incur the ire of a customer than a broken promise. Do not be tempted to make commitments that you cannot honour. Expectation management is really at the heart of good customer service; the customer wants to know exactly what they can expect, and then see it happen.

Unless customers are dealt with by a single member of staff, strong communication within your business is important if promises are to be kept.

3. Qualify the customer

Customers, especially business to business customers, are often not as easily impressed by shiny new products as one might think. Instead, they want to buy solutions to their problems and goods or services that fulfil their needs.

You can better care for your customers (and increase your sales) by considering their needs above all else. This might mean changing your offering – or it might be as simple as considering ways that you can make dealing with your business a more pleasant experience for customers.

4. The answer is… 'yes'

It is easy to underestimate the power of positivity. Wherever possible, your default position should be to say ‘yes’. Customers understandably react badly to negativity, but appreciate it when businesses actively try to solve their problems. So, you should make sure that you are as flexible as possible.

Remember, though, the dangers of promising too much. You need to strike a balance between flexibility and realism, and ensure that you only promise what you can deliver.

5. Learn how to apologise

No matter how great your customer service is, sometimes things will go wrong. In these inevitable instances, it is vital that everyone in your business knows how to apologise. From the outset, you should understand that the customer might not always be right – but that doesn’t mean they should not be accommodated. It is generally considered better to swallow your pride and take responsibility than to argue the toss.

Having apologised to a customer who has had a bad experience, you should then make sure that the same mistake does not happen again. Learn from past experience, and consider ways that you can avoid those outcomes in future.

6. Ask for, and listen to, feedback

No-one has as good a view of your customer care as your customers themselves – so you should make sure that you are listening to them. Consider ways that you can encourage feedback from customers. This could be as simple as asking for an opinion at the point of sale. You might also choose to leave comment cards on your premises, or follow up orders with an email asking how the customer thinks the transaction went.

Again, make sure that this feedback is followed up. There is little point in collecting the information unless you intend to act on it, so set aside a regular time in which you can go over the comments you receive and work out how you will incorporate them into your planning.

Your relationship with your customers is at the heart of your business; you ignore them at your peril. Think about ways that you can develop a good relationship with your customers and you will reap the rewards.
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How can FSC certification form part of your marketing plan?

How can FSC certification form part of your marketing plan?

The FSC Standard is a Chain of Custody Standard. Put simply, this means that to maintain the standard, all you need to do is to ensure that any product that an FSC claim is made for has it’s transit through your workflow recorded, and that that record is kept and maintained in a way that can be inspected and analysed when required. A correctly set up MIS will do most of that for you. It will also facilitate reporting. In PrintSmith, for example, it is possible to report on the stock used and the product descriptions applied to any jobs that are invoiced or estimated.

It is well known that marketing to existing customers is more cost effective than searching for new customers - using reports from your MIS is probably the easiest way to manage it. Your MIS should be able to produce a report either as a document or as an export file for further analysis or variable data use.

So what might your marketing message be? FSC Certification helps your marketing message in four main ways:

  • It shows a commitment to The Environment .
  • It conveys an impression of good management practices.
  • It discriminates us from the competition.
  • It projects an image of corporate responsibility.

FSC is a market based initiative that is being progressively adopted by printers, and their customers. Increasing market pressure will soon make certification an essential part of every printers marketing message.
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How do I set up an online brochure?

I was recently asked to investigate online brochure services for one of my clients, for the kind of online brochure that features an animation of the pages turning. After a little research I came to the following conclusions.

There are a number of online brochure services available on the web. Generally you submit a pdf of the brochure artwork and the service sends you back an animated version of it. There are a variety of payment models which are mostly variations of either subscription, or pay as you go schemes.

www.uniflip.com - Appears to be the most cost effective starting at £49 per document with volume discounts (if purchased in advance). See a sample here: www.uniflip.com/online-magazines/3/1233/30230/pub/index.html

www.pagegangster.com - designed mainly for magazines rather than brochures.Prices start at $349 per magazine and reduce with volume.

www.webpublication.co.uk - Looks really professional, but prices only by quotation.

www.digipage.net - Highly sophisticated presentation, but prices only by quotation.

www.ebxp.com - Looks a bit old fashioned compared to the others. No pricing on the website, but the site is all about selling their design service.

One of my readers has recently recommended
www.issuu.com which has free options if you don't mind some unobtrusive advertising, or a subscription option for USD 19 per month which removes these ads. You can also embed them into your own website, and I believe also sell 'eBooks' too though I've not looked into this.

Alternatively there are software packages (like
www.emagcreator.com)available from about £1500 that would enable you to do it yourself. This would not the most cost effective method unless you were already working with Flash (or offering web design), and anticipate sufficient volume to justify the cost.

If you would prefer to have Business Momentum set up your online brochure for you,
just click here!
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The Numbers Game/1

In my years as a salesman, sales manager and business owner, one of the most important methods of measuring sales activity, has always been to monitor the pipeline process.

Why?

Because I had learned for years of experience that a given level of activity would invariably produce a given level of sales.

Of course - results from the same level of activity will increase as the salesperson becomes more skilful. Sales efficiency will always increase with improvements in skills knowledge and attitude.

If the performance of my sales people dipped, it was always worth checking the pipeline. Usually the problem would be obvious - a lack of pipeline process activity(appropriate activity) in earlier months resulted in poor results in later months.

So…

What are the process activities in your pipeline?

What needs to be done
now to feed the pipeline process (and create sales) for next month, or the month after.

Because successful sales activity really only consists of two things:

  1. Communicating with enough people (The numbers game).
  2. Communicating with them in a consistent and organised way.

How well do your salespeople feed the sales pipeline (on a daily basis) to ensure that there are enough potential sales coming through the pipeline.

Something to think about?
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When is giving paper away good for business?

Special stocks - give them away!

One of the uglier characteristics of many of the print businesses that I visit is the section of the stock room that contains customers special order stocks. These are stocks that the printer would never normally carry, but at some time or other has ordered for a specific customer’s job.

The temptation (of course) is to print the job, then put any left over stock on the shelf thinking “I’ll sell that to someone else”, and (also of course) you almost never do.

Hopefully, the customer will be paying for all the stock that was ordered anyway. So instead of cluttering up the stock room with odds and ends that will never be sold - why not do this…

Offer the customer a deal that will use all of the stock. This is only common sense, and will enhance you reputation with the customer.

Or - If the order was for letterheads, offer the customer a deal on compliment slips printed at the same time.

Or - Offer the customer a quantity of plain continuation sheets for “free”!

Or - Offer the customer some “free” jotter pads - or anything else you can think of - made from the surplus stock.

Any of the above could be offered at little or no cost to you. Doing so would certainly help to improve your relationship with the customer…

…and just think of the space you’d save!
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Its all about the money!

Happy, as I am, to help anyone with management, training, or sales & marketing issues, I’ve always sought assistance for myself where finance is concerned. I have been fortunate to benefit from the advice of a number of financial experts over the years. One of the most useful and practical of my advisers has been Phil Wilson. Phil’s advice and guidance helped to ensure the success, not to mention the survival of my previous business through two recessions.
Phil now heads up a consultancy called Franchise Insight
http://franchiseinsight.co.uk. The services that he offers are not only limited to franchising and would be of great benefit to any small business.
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A simple story of franchising folk

Franchising…

…a fairy story.

Long ago, in a land far away, a clever man discovered a new and exciting business idea. The man brought the idea back to his country and, with his partner, opened a business widget centre. He carefully developed the business and nurtured it as he watched it grow.

Before long it was time to expand the business, but instead of simply opening another branch, with all the investment, and the worries that staffing the new branch would have created, he decided to franchise the widget business. The franchised business grew swiftly, but he always retained the original business centre for training, and for the development of new widgets. He carefully developed the franchised business and nurtured it as he watched it grow.

After several years the time came for the clever man to sell the large and prosperous business that he had created. Over the years the man had made lots of friends who worked for him in the business. He sold the business, in bits, to his friends who had worked for him in the business. Each of them owned a bit of the business in partnership with the others. They carefully developed the franchised business, nurtured and watched it grow.

For a while the business went well, but after a little time had gone by the friends realised that if they sold the business, they would get lots of money - and still keep their jobs! So they sold the business to a private equity company - some of them kept their jobs, but some of them didn’t because the private equity company had it’s own business friends that it wanted to run the business. The new men tried to carefully develop the franchised business, nurture it and watch it grow, and it did. It just didn’t do it enough.

The men from the private equity company realised that they didn’t really understand how franchised businesses worked. So they sold the business to a group of companies that thought it knew better. This group of companies decided that a lot of changes would need to happen if the business was going to improve. They sold the original business widget centre and moved the office to another part of the country, so nearly all the people with the knowledge of how the business should work had to leave. The men from the group of companies said that we didn’t need the original centre any more, for widget development, because all of the knowledge was out in the franchise network, with the franchisees - and do you know what? - quite a lot of the franchisees actually agreed with them! So they sold the original centre. The group of companies tried to carefully develop the franchised business, nurture it and watch it grow. It just didn’t.

After several years of trying to push the franchise into prosperity, but failing to develop or successfully innovate within the business, stagnation was setting in and the apparent decline of the business was looming. So the group of companies sold the business to a foreign investor.

The foreign investor bought the business. They installed a new managing director and waited for the profits to roll in. They waited for over a year, but there wasn’t much profit. So the managing director had to leave and a new one, a curiously animated man, was installed. The new man was a man of little imagination, but he did have one talent. He could count. He realised that if he cut back on services to franchisees and lost some of the staff he could make the business appear to make more profit even if sales did not increase! So that is what he did in the first year. He was going to try and do more in the second year, but he realised that there were limits to that particular trick.

Earlier, when the franchise had been successful, it had employed lots more supportive and creative people, but these were the people that the man who could count lost. He preferred other people who could count! Soon over half the people at head office were people who could count! Sadly these people were not contributing to the development of the business, or the creation of new widgets, but they were able to record its decline perfectly. Eventually the foreign investor began to realise that lack of sufficient investment for several years meant that they weren’t making any money. Realising that they could not fund the investment required to save the business they decided to sell - even at a loss.

A new investor was found that was able to buy the business cheaply and invest in new products, technology and business methods. The royalty that franchisees paid was now used in a fair way to fund and develop the entire business. The future prosperity of the franchise was assured…

…I told you it was a fairy story!
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The PFA Conference

Speaking at the Prontaprint Franchisee Association’s National conference in February was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever let myself in for. 
Normally, I’m quite happy to stand up in front of a room full of strangers, but there were people in that room that have known me for over twenty years. It’s quite chastening to know that there is very little that you can get away with!
The conference went really well. All the other speakers were very interesting. I especially enjoyed Phil Wilson’s talk on financial planning, and the information about FSC Certification from The Process Group. My own thirty minutes seemed to go down quite well, and I came away unscathed!
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