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 Franchise synergy forged in baptism of fire

 

 Like any human relationship, the one between franchisor and franchisee can be fraught with personality clashes and conflicts of interest, but when it works, it is capable of huge business boosting power.

Wian Smith started off his relationship with Boost Juice Bars like all franchisees – full of dreams that the shiny new outlet will exceed all the sales projections that both the franchisee and franchisor had so carefully and conservatively vetted. When none of the projections came true, he turned a potential disaster into an amazing partnership with his franchisor.

At 24, Smith was much younger than the average franchisee when he opened up his Boost Juice Bar outlet in the Wonderpark centre in Pretoria. Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), which financed the bulk of the start-up cost, required added surety from his parents because of his youth, but backed the BCom graduate because of his exceptional entrepreneurial track record.

By the time he had finished his commerce degree at the University of Johannesburg he had already started, managed and sold a hair salon with his sister, the proceeds of which he later used as own contribution in setting up his Boost Juice Bar. He completed his degree on borrowed class notes and self-study because he was already working full-time at a talent-management company, managing musicians and organising events.

Feeling that he was reaching a ceiling of professional growth at the talent-management agency, he identified Boost Juice Bars as a solid business opportunity that fit his healthy lifestyle and that could provide a steady income stream to smooth out the ups and downs of his own talent and events management company that he wanted to start.

The shop opened in 2014, but from the start none of his turnover targets were being met. Partly out of desperation and partly due to his natural sales talents, Smith tried out one marketing idea after another in order to increase sales.

The centre was busy, but it seemed that the demographic of the shopper was not the right fit for a health-food bar. Smith decided that if the right shopper was not coming to his shop, he would take his product to the shopper, and he put together a mobile counter so that he could serve Boost Juice products to customers at various events.

His experience as an events organiser throughout his student years and during his stint at the talent-management company helped, but it took a few attempts to persuade the franchisor of the merits of his ideas and his prowess as a marketer. At first he had to buy the equipment, including an ice-slush machine, out of his own pocket to show the franchisor that events-sales were lucrative.

But within six months, he was honoured as marketer of the year among all the franchisees in the group. His ideas spread through the group and soon many of his fellow franchisees were selling at events, this time with the full support of the franchisor.

Smith's relationship with his franchisor soared to a completely different level. Realising that he was no ordinary franchisee, the group hired Smith's marketing company, WS Marketing, which he had set up in the meantime, to work at a group level on Boost Juice Bars' marketing operations.

But first Smith had to salvage his shop. Almost two years into the business, despite his best and widely acknowledged marketing efforts, he realised that the location was simply wrong. Finally, the management of The Grove Mall in Pretoria, where he originally wanted to open up, gave him a chance, and he relocated the shop immediately.

The franchise group supported him all the way, he says, including by waiving some franchise fees until he found his feet. BUSINESS/PARTNERS also supported his move through a moratorium on his loan repayments.

“It wasn't fun and games,” says Smith of his nerve racking baptism into mall-based franchising, yet he points to major advantages of the experience. First, he was forced to think creatively about marketing his shop, and in the process landed his own franchisor as a major client for his marketing business.

Second, the school fees he paid at his struggling Wonderpark outlet, as expensive as they were, prepared him and his team for the much higher turnover and more intensive sales environment at his now thriving outlet at The Grove.

Today, Smith is able to stand back a bit from the daily operations of the Boost Juice outlet, knowing that he has a top-quality team in place which lives by the motto "Teamwork makes the dream work". Of his trusty manager, who had been at his side from the start and throughout the difficult first two years, Smith says: "He is virtually part of the family. I am so grateful to him." 

This year, his younger brother Pieter joined him as a partner in the business and is making a big difference, giving Smith more time to work on his marketing business, and strengthen the remarkable synergy between him and his franchisor even further.

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