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March/April 2020

All in the Family

Support from loved ones is key to running a successful business, and franchise businesses are no exception. In fact, many franchisees across the country are taking this support to the next level, enlisting their relatives – partners, children, siblings, in-laws, and more – for help in operating their franchises.

Keep reading to learn how the four featured families in this article are mastering the art of working with family members to maximize their business success.

Concierge Home Services

Kathy and Scott Brown first came across Concierge Home Services while searching for someone to check in on their cat and house while they were on vacation.  They were impressed with the company’s website and professionalism, and liked the idea of operating a business themselves.

“It was good timing for everyone,” says Kathy. Scott had recently retired; Kathy, who ran a commercial embroidery business from home, was ready for a change; daughter Carolyn, freshly gradated in Hospitality, wasn’t sure she wanted to work in the hotel or restaurant sector. “When you start a business there’s a big learning curve, and you’re bound to make mistakes. We figured that by joining a franchise, a lot of those kinks would already be worked out. The idea of doing home checks and pet sitting appealed to us – the cleaning not as much.”

But the Browns have since learned that cleaning is the busier and more profitable side of the business. With eight cleaners on staff and a roster of regular clients, most scheduled for bi-weekly cleaning services, the business has continually grown since opening in the Ottawa, Ontario region in July 2016. “Head Office maintains the website and marketing, which can be a huge amount of work, and sends inquiries to us. There is no shortage of clients – the limiting factor is staffing,” says Kathy.

From the outset, each family member had specific areas of focus. Scott handles home check-ins and does the accounting; Kathy handles pet-sitting and looks after office administration and receivables; and Carolyn hires, trains, and supervises the cleaners. All three cover cleaners’ sick days and holiday time.

Following the initial two weeks of training (policies and procedures, operational and accounting software, and more) the franchise provides ongoing support as needed, from training to improve cleaning efficiency to technology updates. “There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes with this business,” says Kathy.

Working with family has been overwhelmingly positive, she says. “We do work long hours, but really enjoy each other’s company and have the same sense of humour. If there are problems, we hash them out quickly, and for the most part we try to help each other and make things easier for each other.”

 

Little Caesars

Running several Little Caesars locations in the Hamilton, Ontario area is a family affair for Steve and Kim McGregor. Steve decided it was time to work for himself after working for Little Caesars’ distribution company and corporate head offices for 15 years. The couple purchased their first location in 2004, their second in partnership with Steve’s sister Michelle in 2006, a third in partnership with their son Dan in 2012, and a fourth with their son Lee in 2013.

The McGregors run all the stores collectively as a family, which Steve says gives all of them peace of mind. “If you can’t trust family to always have our businesses’ best interests, who can you trust?” On the downside, though, “Our life is Little Caesars all day, every day – it’s hard to not talk about business. And if anything ever happens to the franchise, all of our eggs are in that basket.”

“It’s a great franchise if you are going to work in the business, not for a hands-off investor. Expect to work 40 to 60 hours a week,” he adds. Aside from the operations, the family members are actively involved in the community and support a variety of charities and fundraising events. One of Steve’s longest-running recipients is City Kidz, a non-profit organization that runs programs for children and teens in low income communities.

The biggest challenges in running a QSR? “We work on controlling our food and labour costs every day, to make sure our businesses are profitable,” says Steve. “The QSR market is not growing, but the number of options are. Little Caesars stays competitive with new technology – we just brought in pizza portals. People use an app to order and get a code to unlock the portal ­– the order will be hot and ready and they can run in and pick it up without having to stand in line.”

Steve appreciates that and other innovations, and feels the franchise is well-run and offers excellent training, but adds, “Even with experience, it’s scary every time you open a new store.”

Wendy’s

When Tim and Sherry MacLeod lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario the closest Wendy’s location was three hours away in Duluth, Minnesota. When people visited south of the border, they inevitably came back with the same question, “Why don’t we have one here?” So the MacLeods decided to apply, and opened the city’s first Wendy’s in 1996.

They were so successful that two years later, they moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba to purchase the eight existing corporate stores in that city. This year, members of the MacLeod family will collectively own 10 locations in Winnipeg and the surrounding area, including daughter Cassy Kolmatiski who is currently operating her first store. Tim and Sherry’s sister-in-law, Nancy Martin, is the office manager and handles payroll and payables for all of the family’s locations. The other MacLeod children are not part of the business.

“We all enjoy the business and much of our conversations are related to it, but we do try to keep family and business separate, especially at family gatherings. But even those who do not work in the business like to contribute their thoughts and suggestions to help out,” says Tim. “Some days are more difficult to turn work off as the success of the business does affect the family in so many ways. We are currently finishing a $1.7M renovation at the Wendy’s on St. James Street in Winnipeg and we are slated to build two new restaurants around the Winnipeg area in the spring.”

One conversation that Tim feels every family should have before starting into business together is being clear about how it will end. “You must have a partnership agreement – if for any reason one partner wants to leave, there should be a tool in place to dissolve or buy out the other partner.”

Another tough conversation will be about succession planning. “We hear about this from older franchisees who no longer want to be active but want to distribute ownership fairly among their children. Every family is unique. Cassy would gladly take over – maybe she can buy us out in stages over a number of years. It’s definitely something we have to discuss.”

Tan on the Run

Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time … and make the right life-changing decision. That’s what happened to Ashley Savelli Dell. With a young child and another on the way, she had just decided that it was time to move to part-time work. She was watching TV with her husband when Tan on the Run (TOTR) made its pitch on Dragons’ Den. By coincidence, soon after, the TOTR franchise in Grimsby/St. Catharines was available for sale. “Within three to four months of seeing the show, my mom (Carol) and I bought the franchise,” she recalls. Four years later, the mother-daughter team has grown the business significantly.

Tan on the Run is a mobile sunless tanning franchise that provides tanning services in the client’s home, office, hotel, or other venue. The family-friendly franchise gives Ashley flexibility to work around her children’s schedules, and by partnering with her mom, she says, “I never feel like I’m on my own. We make a really good team. She’s more comfortable promoting our business in large groups, I’m more comfortable working one on one with clients.”

Initially the two women tried to split the TOTR work 50-50, but that presented challenges. “We had to be honest with each other, and have a frank discussion about defining our roles,” says Ashley. Carol has always worked full-time elsewhere, and she has continued doing a lot of the promotion at tradeshows and networking events, while Ashley looks after the administrative and social media work and handles most of the client visits.

“I do mobile visits during the week. Wednesday to Friday are our busiest days, daytime and evenings. We don’t get a lot of weekend requests, but when we do, mom will cover those. Niagara-on-the-Lake is such a huge wedding place, we are busy all summer, and then again just before Christmas, slow in January and February, then busy leading up to March break (when people are preparing to head south on vacation) and right through until Halloween,” she says.

Most business now comes through word-of-mouth referrals, says Ashley. “You have to be a good people person – some clients are nervous about being naked, so you have to be able to put them at ease, and we get great reviews about that.”

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