New columnist Kate Lester tells us why franchising Diamond Logistics in 2011 was the easiest decision she’s ever made
When I tell people I have franchised my business they look at me as if I have just told them I’ve joined a cult. ‘Hmmmm. Franchising, eh,’ they say rubbing their chins. I then tell them it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made in 23 years in business. It is not easy building a £40m business turnover – but franchising has enabled me to get on the path to achieve that with just a little support from my bank and a headquarters team of only ten.
And when these ‘chin rubbers’ ask for more information here’s the three major reasons I tell them I expanded my business this way:
The give a sh*t factor
Firstly it was about the type of people I wanted to run my depots. Having had a lot of experience in the previous 20 years getting insight into an employee depot-led organisation, I can say that the dilution of the message from the top was palpable to the people fundamental to the delivery of their services. I will be honest: many national networks were staffed with the jobsworths you get on the end of 0845 numbers who do not care where your package is, let alone deliver it. When I looked at how we could maximise quality in our network and ensure everybody in our supply chain was intimately involved and rewarded throughout our service delivery, franchising seemed ideal for this as each site would be run by someone whose livelihood depends on it. With little loyalty in the courier market other than that achieved by excellence in service delivery I knew this formula would mean the people at the coalface of our deliveries would step up to the mark.
We were also very aware that businesses were crying out for our services UK-wide – we were getting calls all the time – but at that point we had just two sites so had no way of assisting nationally. Nor, to be frank, did I have the capital to fund 30+ depot rollouts. Again, the franchise model, where the franchisee funded the establishment of the depots, was ideal. We’ve gone from two to 23 in two and a half years – with a further 17 by June 2015, which will put us in a parity position with our key competitors, in terms of geographical coverage, in just three years. That speed at low cost was all possible because of franchising.
It’s a pleasure doing business
Our franchise network has been like a dating service for Diamond partners. It’s been a recruitment rather than a sales experience. We get to choose people we like, who can specifically do the job (we only recruit logistics professionals) and that we know will be true brand upholders – singing from the Diamond hymn sheet and delivering the very best for our lovely clients. We believe our franchises are as much our clients as the people who book our couriers, so it’s all about service delivery to them, helping make their business grow and assisting in getting the message out to their local business communities. The atmosphere at our network events (we have three a year) is terrific and it makes it a real pleasure doing business. And that filters through the network. Our clients love the service they are getting, our franchises love being part of our team and we love seeing flashes of our pink logo going up and down the county as word of Diamond spreads.
To me a franchise is the very best of both worlds – you get to work with like-minded people to expand your brand, they are invested in making it a success and they are rewarded by the hard work they put in. It’s definitely a cult worth belonging to.