FRANCHISE AWARDS 2007 - FULL RESULTS
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It was all change at the Westpac New Zealand Franchise Awards this year as Carpet One and Fonterra Brands (Anchor) came through to take the Supreme Awards for the first time.
‘We're still trying to take it in!' That was the reaction of Alan and Michelle Cooke almost two weeks after they were named 2007's Westpac Supreme Franchisees of the Year. The couple, whose Anchor distribution franchise in Te Puke enjoys a seven figure turnover, took over their business just three years ago. Having never owned their own business before, they are now the cream of New Zealand franchising.
Surprise was a common theme at this year's Awards. Phil Harrison of Carpet One, which was named Westpac Supreme Franchise System of the Year, was rendered almost speechless on the night when the company won ‘the big one' on its first attempt against some very strong competition.
The awards were made at a glittering event held at Auckland's Langham Hotel attended by Helen Clark. This makes the third time in seven years that the Prime Minister has presented New Zealand's top franchise prizes and reflects well upon the government's appreciation of the franchise sector.
For 2007, the Awards entry and judging procedures were completely revamped with the assistance of the Business Excellence Foundation. The result was that all the entrants had to start from scratch, and comment suggested that this year's criteria were harder than ever. Despite that, entry levels in all categories were strong and there were a number of finalists in all categories who reached the very high standards set by the judges.
Alan & Michelle Cooke, Anchor Te Puke (Fonterra Brands)
Three years ago, Alan Cooke decided that, after 16 years working for the same company, it was time to strike out on his own. Although he had a strong grounding as a retail manager in the fruit and vegetable sector, when it came to running a business of his own he felt a franchise was the way to go. He soon settled on the Fonterra Brands franchise which involves the marketing, merchandising and distribution of popular brands such as Anchor dairy products, Primo, Zing, Calciyum and other Fonterra brands to supermarkets, dairies and other outlets. ‘Everyone's been brought up with Anchor milk and with a company like Fonterra providing the support as well as the brand, I felt nothing else came close,' he says. ‘In fact, I would say I learned more about business in my first 12 months with Fonterra than I had in the previous 16 years!'
The business also allowed Alan and his wife Michelle to work together for the first time, with her skills as a former financial officer with AA Finance and the IRD complementing Alan's marketing and sales abilities. ‘Michelle is the one to dot the i's and cross the t's,' admits Alan. ‘She manages the whole financial side and can cost anything. It means we work really well together as a team.'
The couple bought an existing franchise in Te Puke, where Alan had worked for nine years despite living in Tauranga, so he had strong relations with the community. ‘Relationships are vital when you're serving a small market,' says Alan. ‘I love getting out there, meeting customers, doing the deliveries and merchandising the product myself. Make sure you know all your customers by name, listen more than you speak and make time to hear what people want to tell you.'
This approach was specifically recognised by the Awards judges, who commented that Alan and Michelle demonstrated a very strong relationship with the local community which was crucial to retaining their 80% share of what is essentially a limited market. ‘That's been invaluable with our employee, Lance Rolston,' says Alan. ‘He's only a young guy but our customers have got to know him, they let us know how well he's doing and now we get feedback through him too.'
Employing staff has given Alan and Michelle a little more flexibility in their lives, although Alan says he has never minded the early starts because he gets the afternoons and evenings as family time. ‘I work on the truck alternate days and although I start at 4am I'm finished by 2pm and can spend the rest of the afternoon on business stuff. I love the early mornings, driving round empty roads with the sun coming up - it's my time. And now we can help out at school camps, take long weekends, enjoy activities with our children, who are 15 and 13. In my retail days I was never home before 7pm - this is better.'
Everything in the Cooke's business is carefully planned. ‘Of course you have to adhere to the Anchor franchise system and structure, but you need to plan to make the most of the opportunities it gives you. We set a plan for the year and then review it with Fonterra every month. Their local business development manager, Mark Stevenson, keeps us up to date with activities and trends we wouldn't be aware of otherwise, and we also have a great support network with other franchisees. Everyone's business is different so we tend to work with others of a similar size. For example, we get together with Andrew Weatherley in Katikati to benchmark all sorts of things and kick ideas around. We're both part of Fonterra's Bay of Plenty/Waikato region, and there's a bit of competition with the other regions around the country.'
Alan says that entering the Awards might have seemed daunting at the time but has proved to be excellent for their business. ‘Not just from the publicity point of view, although that's been great, but in terms of seeing where you are and where you're going. It's not until you set everything down on paper and someone from outside asks you searching questions that you actually measure what you've achieved and what you can still do. We've found out where we are as a business and a team, and we're stronger for it.'
Carpet One New Zealand
Another first-time winner was Carpet One, the mobile carpet retailers who were named Westpac Supreme Franchise System of the Year. ‘We've had the Awards in our sights for a while, but didn't want to enter until the timing was right for us,' says Phil Harrison, the company's group sales and marketing manager. ‘We have made quite a lot of changes in the system recently to take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technology. We're introduced PDA's for all franchisees which carry our pricing system and a customised laser measuring system that makes quoting easy. We wanted to bed that down and make sure all the franchisees had mastered it before we put in an entry.' It was a wise decision - head judge Mike Watson specifically commented on ‘the innovative use of technology to meet customer needs, drive greater efficiency into its system and deliver far greater profit to the bottom line of both franchisees and the system itself.'
An international brand, Carpet One has been operating in New Zealand since 1997 and is a good example of a franchise evolving to meet the needs and opportunities posed by its local market. ‘We run things a bit differently from Carpet One in the rest of the world in that the franchise here is totally mobile,' explains Phil. ‘Our franchisees drive mobile showrooms which take more than 1000 oversized samples of floor coverings direct to the customer's home. This makes it easy for customers to assess options in the correct light and setting and, of course, we can visit at a time that suits them - evenings, weekends or whenever.'
And while some aspects, like Carpet One's sales training which Phil describes as ‘second-to-none' are still applicable, the different delivery method has meant developing a unique structure and tools for New Zealand. ‘We have 43 franchisees - soon to be 44 - and an office team of 9 people. There are two franchise managers who are constantly on the road with their sole purpose being to support our franchisees. We train franchisees well and get them into the right habits early, but our guys are on the road so that if someone needs help or advice they can have someone right there with them. The managers also go out on appointments with franchisees, so they have a very clear idea of what's happening in each area and what help a franchisee might need.'
Thanks to the new PDA's, all franchisees can download pricing information and upload customer data to the central server on a daily basis. ‘I can look at their KPI's at a very advanced level, which means we know what's going on and can spot any issues at a very early stage,' says Phil. ‘Our franchisees can evaluate various aspects of their business against their goals, know what's happening and react faster. It also means our franchise managers can see all the information before visiting a franchisee, so meetings are more productive.'
All this technology might sound scary but, says Phil, it has actually made life much easier for franchisees who worried about the technical side of the job. ‘Carpet is a high-ticket item and, as a franchisee, you don't want to get it wrong. But with the laser gear and the PDA's, measuring, quoting and gross profit are all calculated for you so you can concentrate on selling carpet and looking after the customer. The technology works out the most efficient cuts but it does it in such a way that the customer gets the best appearance and the best wear. The most economical way is not always the right way, and it allows for that.'
PDA's were chosen because they had all the power while being ‘friendlier' than laptops. ‘We developed, tested and rolled out the system gradually, and it took about two years to get 100% implementation across the system,' Phil says. ‘There are lots of things we'd like to add further down the track and now everyone is using the system and seeing the benefits, it's getting a whole lot easier. New franchisees can come on board and start hitting budget in their first month. In fact, the biggest problem we have now is too many leads! We have the best franchise system in the country and need more franchisees to keep up.
'Phil says that Carpet One were ‘stunned and delighted' to receive the Westpac Supreme Award from the Prime Minister herself. ‘We were up against some big names. Project manager Beryl Steele had spent probably two weeks on our entry and there were some things that we identified we could be doing differently. It was a great process for us - an opportunity for us to look over the changes that we've made with a dispassionate eye, clarify things and see opportunities for further improvements. Winning was the icing on the cake.'
Sponsored by BDO Spicers
Franchise System of the Year- Fastway Couriers
Napier-based Fastway Couriers has won four awards in previous years including the Supreme title, and this year they took out the highly-competitive Business Services category. Starting from small beginnings in Hawkes Bay in 1983, the company now operates in 10 countries and generates a global turnover of $385 million.
Franchisee of the Year - Jenny Chen, Paramount Services Auckland
Jenny Chen launched her Paramount commercial cleaning franchise in March 2006 and has grown rapidly. She now has 20 commercial clients and a team of five staff, but still checks jobs personally and actively seeks client feedback. She was also commended by judges for investing considerable time in staff training and incentivisation.
Sponsored by Franchise New Zealand magazine & website
Franchise System of the Year- Fonterra Brands (Anchor)
Fonterra has proved that big corporates can make good franchisors. It created the Anchor franchise following deregulation in 1992-93 to manage and support its milk distribution system and now has 80 franchisees around the country. Judges commented on the company's emphasis on building strong and successful partnerships with Anchor franchisees - something evidenced by Alan & Michelle Cook's success in being named Supreme Award winners.
Franchisee of the Year - Alan & Michelle Cook, Fonterra Brands (Anchor) Te Puke
Alan and Michelle returned to the stage at the end of the evening to collect the overall Franchisee of the Year title for 2007. They say that communication with the franchisor is vital to the success of our franchise. ‘We strongly believe as franchisees that if you have the same goal as your franchisor you will both achieve the desired outcome.
Sponsored by franchisebusiness.co.nz
Franchise System of the Year - VIP Home Services
VIP Home Services has won the Home Services category for the third year in a row. The quality of the company's system is demonstrated by the fact that both finalists in the franchisee category were also from VIP. The company is run in New Zealand by Estelle and John Logan, with five master franchisee around the country, and was commended by judges for its strong leadership and robust planning processes.
Franchisee of the Year- Yann & Susan Le Moigne, VIP Home Services West Auckland
Yann & Susan Le Moigne bought their lawnmowing franchise in West Auckland almost two years ago. Six months later they diversified into gardening and property maintenance work and it now makes up two-thirds of their business, keeping turnover high all year round. Clients include a property developer and several property management companies with judges noting the couple's strength in developing personal relationships with clients.
Sponsored by Snap Printing
Franchise System of the Year - Roost 2007
Roost was previously known as Mortgage Choice before its dramatic re-branding last year which saw the company increase its awareness dramatically. Since then, the franchise has been purchased by AMP although its dynamic founder, Miranda Caird, has stayed on. The AMP purchase has enabled franchisees to diversify their income streams by offering insurance products. ‘This is a very professional franchise,' said the judges.
Franchisee of the Year - David Compton, Quest Serviced Apartments, Newmarket
Quest Newmarket places a strong focus on its customers - something that won David Compton and his team the Franchisee of the Year title in this category. Opened in 2003, the apartments are part of the Quest chain which has revolutionised the accommodation sector and provides a popular alternative to hotels. Judges commented on Quest Newmarket's dedication to ‘anticipating the needs of guests and supplying solutions.'
Sponsored by The Franchise Coach
Franchise System of the Year - Carpet One New Zealand
Carpet One New Zealand went on to win the Supreme Award, with judges being impressed by everything from the laser measuring tools franchisees use to minimise waste to the handheld PDA's that produce customer quotes on the spot.
Franchisee of the Year - Colin & Maggie Stacey, Mr Rental Hamilton
Colin & Maggie Stacey opened their Mr Rental store in Hamilton in 2002. Five years later the store, which rents home appliances, is run by their daughters Nina and Holly and has over 650 customers. They pride themselves on going the extra mile for their customers and were commended by the judges for their commitment to continuous evaluation.
Link Business Broking
Link is one of New Zealand's best-known business brokers which has helped hundreds of owners of small-to-medium sized businesses maximise their value and exit smoothly. The company has a particular interest in franchising with specialist brokers and an in-house franchise consulting team. Link has embraced franchising itself, with a franchised office in Wellington and more planned in NZ and Australia over the next 12 months.
The 2007 event marked the 13th year of the New Zealand Franchise Awards which are organised by the Franchise Association of New Zealand. Results from previous years are available here:
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Franchise New Zealand magazine & website has been proud to sponsor the Franchise Awards from the very beginning in 1995 - our congratulations go to all the entrants, finalists and especially the winners of this year's Awards.
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