ON THE FRONT LINE

Inside Franchise Business - - Contents -

For­mer army cap­tain puts his fu­ture in a Quest fran­chise.

Whether as foot sol­dier or fran­chisee, for­mer army cap­tain By­ron McDon­ald has seen plenty of ac­tion, but it’s the hospi­tal­ity world that has given him the great­est

chal­lenge. And he’s lov­ing it, as he writes here...

No-one in my fam­ily be­fore had been in the ser­vices, but I saw join­ing the army as a good ex­pe­ri­ence, and an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop man­age­ment and lead­er­ship skills. It was my best de­ci­sion to join the army when I did, and my sec­ond-best de­ci­sion to leave when I did.

In the army, the most im­por­tant thing I learned that is of value to me to­day is the im­por­tance of build­ing re­la­tion­ships. It is the key to suc­cess in busi­ness, and very, very im­por­tant when you are work­ing with a chain of com­mand and also with sol­diers and other stake­hold­ers (other armies, the me­dia, com­mu­nity el­ders). It is im­por­tant on sev­eral dif­fer­ent lev­els.

I left the army nearly five years ago af­ter re­turn­ing from ser­vice in Afghanistan. I had orig­i­nally in­tended to pur­sue a spe­cial-forces ca­reer, but the tour was very ac­tive and I felt I had achieved ev­ery­thing I wanted to do. It was time to move on while I was still at a good age.

Dicky David, a friend of my fa­ther and the founder of Aus­fuel, en­cour­aged me to take on a ser­vice-sta­tion busi­ness, and af­ter check­ing it out I de­cided to give it a go. So I quit the army and drove across the Nullar­bor Plain in my Mazda with ev­ery­thing I owned, leav­ing be­hind the shel­tered work­shop of the army and tak­ing on three ser­vos.

NOT ENOUGH CON­TROL

I built up the busi­ness to seven ser­vice sta­tions and two car washes, and was do­ing re­ally well. The good thing about work­ing un­der a fran­chise model is that you’re buy­ing sys­tems and pro­cesses.

Work­ing with oil companies was tough, though, and there was no ex­tended ten­ure, no long-term se­cu­rity. I started to look at

op­tions. I wanted more con­trol over my busi­ness.

Then I found Quest Apart­ment Ho­tels, which of­fered ev­ery­thing I want out of a busi­ness. Fran­chisees con­trol their own room rates, and there is long-term ten­ure (the lease is 30 years). As I went through the se­lec­tion process I came to know the peo­ple at head of­fice, and all spoke highly of the busi­ness and rep­re­sented the brand well.

The fran­chisees I met were im­pres­sive in­di­vid­u­als and happy with the per­for­mance of their busi­nesses. Ev­ery­thing stacked up.

For me, the big­gest chal­lenge was the tran­si­tion from ser­vice sta­tions to ho­tels and hospi­tal­ity. The day-to-day run­ning of the busi­ness was easy, but learn­ing the ba­sics and how to make it prof­itable and how to man­age sales, that was chal­leng­ing.

The key to the busi­ness is sales ac­tiv­ity, and how to get the most out of your sales team, as well as how to yield off your room rate, learn­ing about the com­pe­ti­tion and how it all fits to­gether.

SET UP FOR SUC­CESS

Quest set me up for suc­cess. I have a fran­chise re­la­tion­ship man­ager look­ing at how things are run­ning and whether over­heads are ef­fi­cient, plus an area sales man­ager who helps me with sales strat­egy.

There is also sup­port from the fran­chisor, which feeds busi­ness from its na­tional ac­counts. A lot of the base busi­ness comes from big companies which use our na­tional pres­ence re­ally well.

I’m in busi­ness by my­self in East Perth, and with a busi­ness part­ner in Fre­man­tle. I opened up both prop­er­ties when the econ­omy was soft­en­ing. Many ho­tels are com­ing into the mar­ket, so it’s my goal to con­tinue to grow the busi­ness in a tough and de­mand­ing mar­ket over the next five years.

Over­all, I want to grow my busi­ness and en­sure its prof­itabil­ity. I’m in for the long haul and have long-term plans for both venues. I un­der­stand the chal­lenges of the next three to five years, and I’m pre­pared.

When you buy into a fran­chise you buy into a lifestyle – it’s all en­com­pass­ing. Hospi­tal­ity is all about gen­er­at­ing sales and cross-check­ing op­er­a­tions. At night I might have din­ner with a po­ten­tial client or stake­holder, then I’m up in the morn­ing and off again.

It’s very busy, and very, very en­joy­able. My ad­vice to any­one con­sid­er­ing buy­ing a fran­chise is to en­sure you get a re­turn on your roy­alty. You pay to buy sys­tems and pro­cesses, but if you get value for money, that’s good value.

When you buy into a fran­chise you buy into a lifestyle – it’s all

en­com­pass­ing.

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