BEATING THE BURNOUT
Hire A Hubby has found a way to help franchisees manage their success.
Too many clients and too many jobs might sound like a good problem to have, but for franchisees who want a work/life balance, long hours can lead to mistakes, which can lead to eventual burnout. Such can be the price of success. What can be done? Brendan Green, CEO of handyman franchise Hire A Hubby, decided the issue had to be tackled. “Franchisees have become victims of their own success,” he explains.
With that in mind, he began the task of recreating the business to provide a support structure with systems easy enough for hard-working franchisees to adopt. “It starts with a mindset, coming up with some simple terms that resonate with the guys.”
He told franchisees, “You haven’t looked at your business plan since you started because you’re too busy, so you’re working without clear goals and there are no rewards.”
His suggestion is that franchisees start by asking themselves some simple questions: How many days do you want to work? Where do you want to go on holiday? What will it cost, and who will run your business while you are away?
He provides a break-even document to which franchisees can add their expenses and work out how much they need to make each day, each hour.
Hire A Hubby boss Brendan Green has found a way to save his
franchisees from becoming victims of their own success.
Will the business be run by the franchisee? The “slow or grow” choice is in the hands of the franchisee. One answer Green has introduced is the “you and two” option – a franchisee can run the business and have two staff members do the grunt work.
Developing the business with extra staff
entails a mind flip as well, as franchisees need to recognise they are no longer the central point or crucial factor in the business. This change needs to be conveyed to customers, says Green, so they understand what will happen and why a new face turns up to do the job for which the franchisee has quoted. “It’s about explaining to the customer that you will be sending them your best painter or best carpenter to do the job.”
Franchisees are not pushed into being more ambitious, he says, but those who do not choose to expand need to be realistic. “If a franchisee doesn’t want to change, there’s no need. They should just stay robust in their decisions about how much work to take on.
“Our goal is to help our franchisees maintain a work/life balance, and to this end we have them identify a financial target measured in gross-profit terms. To help them maintain the work/life balance, we help them understand their two most important operational KPIs, which are their ‘lead to quote’ conversion rate and their ‘quote to invoice’ conversion rate.”
This has been affected by one of the major changes in the 20 years in which Green has headed up Hire A Hubby – the cultural shift to instant gratification.
“There was a time when you could call back a client the next day, but since the advent of the smartphone people want immediate feedback, and there’s a willingness to shop around. We’ve had potential clients call at 9am, then at 9.15 ring back to ask why they haven’t heard from anyone.
“We were always able to manage the leads to quotes and quote to invoices, we’ve just had to improve the customer experience.”
Green has implemented minor changes to the job allocation process, resulting in a 90 per cent drop in customer follow-up calls. A message system provides reassurance to the time-conscious customer that they are in good hands.
“This simple process of adding a message to our customer advising the name and number of our franchisee that has accepted their job gives the customer peace of mind that their request had been acknowledged,” he says.
There have been other adjustments. Tackling challenges that affect a quarter of the market was the focus of franchisor/ franchisee meetings attended by the company’s 15 best franchisees (five in each state) to improve the performance of franchisees earning $400,000 to $500,000.
“If business isn’t improving and franchisees ask for advice, it will always be the same. It’s tough love,” says Green. “Follow best practice – there’s only one way, not 14 versions. We want to influence them by evidence of success.”
Franchisees now have a choice of outsourcing their admin tasks. After visiting a customer and identifying the job requirements, the franchisee can voice record the details of the quote and send them to an administrator who can then do any or all of these tasks: work allocation, job confirmation, invoicing, scheduling and receiving.
Green says the improved process is seeing customer service “go through the roof”.
Another change is the removal of double data entry. With franchisees using the linked Salesforce and Xero programs, there is 93 per cent compliance and more efficiency.
Of course it is easier for incoming franchisees to be trained in the methodology, but longstanding franchisees have, over time, taken on the new systems.
TWO DECADES OF CHANGE
It is a long way from the days when Green started out in the business 20 years ago. “Hire A Hubby is a mobile service, but now franchisees have warehouses, offices with admin staff, workshops for painting off site or assembling furniture, and three or four guys and vehicles.”
Hire A Hubby now attracts people ranging from pastry chefs to police officers. One franchisee who spent 29 years working for Woolworths is now bringing in $1.1 million, says Green.
“We introduced an income guarantee in 2007, of $100,000 for the first year. This attracted guys in mid-management. It’s now changed to high-calibre professionals choosing the ‘you and two’ option; they can use their business skills and run it as a white-collar business.”
A new initiative is to link with manufacturers and install their products, such as garden sheds. The franchise has a strong relationship with Bunnings, and has just set up its UK head office in new premises in Milton Keynes, near London. “Bunnings has just established itself over there. From a cost perspective, it’s a good location,” says Green.
A decision to remove the former management team saw franchisees reduced from eight to six in the UK. Since then the business has been building up its franchise portfolio, and by the end of September had 17 franchisees.
But there is still plenty of growth to come in Australia, with capacity for another 40 or 50 franchises, says Green.
Follow best practice – there’s only one way,
not 14 versions.