These resilient franchises have shown throughout the pandemic how strong their business models are as they continue to engage with customers, despite the bottlenecks.
With New South Wales and Victoria currently on lockdown, take-out food services, pharmacies, post offices, newsagents and of course supermarkets remain open.
If you work in the service industry, how do companies continue to trade? Inside Franchise Business spoke with three franchisors to find out how they can cope with foreclosure restrictions.
Home maintenance adapts to the rules
Brendan Green runs Hire A Hubby. He says, “Most of our franchisees are a man in a van. They drive, pick up items by click and collect, they can work outdoors quite comfortably and safely. All of our work orders go electronically through our app, you read it, you get the job done, you move on to the next job. Everything is cloud based.
So far during the pandemic, Hire A Hubby franchisees have continued to trade except in Victoria’s most difficult lockdown. Right now in New South Wales there is an unprecedented shutdown in DIY work except for emergency repairs.
While not everyone can continue to negotiate because of this, some franchisees may find work, Brendan says.
“Some franchisees have built their businesses around real estate management and tenants have the right to secure things,” he says.
What is crucial at these times is the franchisor’s help in navigating the rules and finding any available financial support.
Hire A Hubby uses lessons learned from the previous Victorian foreclosure and takes a safe and consistent approach to finding and sharing government guidelines on restrictions and financial support.
“We collect the information posted on the government site, we verify it before sharing it, we make sure that franchisees understand that we will support them,” he says.
“First and foremost, we want to protect our guys and our customers, and find a way to do it safely, to take away any anxiety for our franchisees.”
Tutoring for children goes online
James Wells, spokesperson for Kumon Australia and New Zealand, said Inside the franchise business “While the Kumon franchises have undergone many changes to accommodate the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing lockdowns, our core product and service, Kumon worksheets and student instructions, remain unchanged. What has changed is the way franchises deliver Kumon products and services.
“During blockages, franchises provide worksheets via contactless pickup and delivery and provide Kumon instructions virtually, via Zoom and other digital technologies. We are incredibly proud of the ability of Kumon franchisees to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic. They continued to provide excellent customer service to students and families in Kumon.
Indoor outdoor fitness heads
When you run an indoor cycling business, locking in can be especially difficult, as CycleBar CEO Matt Gordin explains.
“Restrictions and blockages are a challenge for any business, but the fitness industry is really taking a hit. Uncertainty can be intimidating for franchisees, so ensuring open and honest communication is essential.
“It was important that our head office studio set a precedent. We moved our bikes to the parking lot, continued classes with masks, and gave members the space to reach out to financial hardship issues and did what we could to help.
“By staying at the forefront with communication to ensure transparency with our members and doing everything possible within the restrictions to allow classes to continue, we were able to dodge the Covid-shaped bullet.”
Mobile retail supports essential workers
Ajit Ponnambalam, managing director of mobile tool retailer Snap-on Tools, said, “Snap-on franchisees are in a somewhat fortunate position. They are a service provider for the essential repair and maintenance work of vehicles including trucks, ambulances, fire trucks, cars, vans and motorcycles.
“This means that outside of three local government areas in Sydney, our franchisees are able to personally visit and support their clients in their critical work. Of course, the rules change almost daily, and we’ve shared advice from the FCA and various state governments with franchisees to ensure regulatory compliance with the letter and spirit of the law.
“During the extended Victorian era lockdown last year, Snap-on worked with our franchisees to appeal to customers who asked us to visit, but also engaged in contactless delivery if needed. Snap-on also supplemented this by absorbing freight charges for direct deliveries to customers during the lockdown period. These and other initiatives have been well regarded and we are repeating them now.
“Our overriding goal today is to protect the network by ensuring the safety and emotional well-being of our franchisees. So, equally important, we are working again to make sure that we are removing unnecessary stress from the lives of our franchisees. We are able to support our franchisees on a case-by-case basis with financial assistance such as longer payment terms, delaying the shipment of inventory and also taking back inventory that would normally be non-returnable.
“One of the lessons of the previous lockdowns is that when the restrictions end, there is usually a sharp rebound in business. During the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021, our franchisees took advantage of this. When restrictions ease, we expect to see a similar rebound this time around as well. “