When it comes to picking up the pieces from the devastation that has been 2020 and the coronavirus, the franchise sector is leading the way in its recovery. Globally, we are seeing the determination of both franchisors and franchisees to overcome the challenges and forge ahead with revival plans.
Mark Siebert, author of The Franchisee Handbook, predicts that a franchise resurgence is on its way. Paul Stevens, CEO of Just Property, agrees. These are his thoughts on why franchise sales are likely to surge in the years to come and how to prepare.
The lockdown caused many people to rethink their business models and to look for efficiencies that can help buffer the negative impact of an extended downturn or another one in the future. Not everyone has the support of a network, or the depth of experience, or the cash flow needed and that is where franchising comes in. In a franchise network, one has access to resources that might otherwise be impossible to tap into – the systems, people, expertise and exposure.
“The property industry has felt the effects of the recession, certainly, and we’re receiving interest from operators who are struggling without that support. There is also the appeal of the resilience that our franchise model offers”, says Stevens.
What is drawing people to our franchise model?
The answer is best captured in the words of Gerard Smith, who joined as the Just Property King Williams Town franchisee just as the country went into lockdown:
“For a new franchise, it’s almost a plug and play with every resource thinkable at your disposal.”
Just Property is a proudly SA brand with a strong emphasis on technological advancement. The brand possesses cutting edge systems and is at the forefront when it comes to systems development. We have a leader [who] is available 24/7 to all stakeholders. My advice to prospective owners is to jump on this amazing opportunity! Join the brand that lets you open doors and genuinely partners with you to create wealth through property.”
We see our key differentiators, as being:
- Property management and administration is the backbone of our franchise model. It provides a sustainable revenue stream that is more resilient in tough market conditions than property sales alone.
- Many of our franchisees are shareholders in the franchising business, so the interests of franchisees are always protected.
- Our investment in an in-house technology team places us at a strategic advantage. We are able to develop new systems quickly and efficiently, in close consultation with our agents and franchisees.
- We have a key focus on learning and development, from new agent on-boarding to franchisee mentorship and coaching. Lifelong learning is built into Just Property’s DNA so we stay relevant in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.
In May, Siebert concluded an article he wrote for Entreprenuer.com with the following words: “Businesses looking to launch or continue their franchise programs would be well-advised to use this time wisely and prepare expansion strategies, make operational adjustments, and shore up marketing tools and messages in anticipation of the resurgence.” Interestingly, this almost resembles a playbook for the steps that Just Property is taking.
Far from merely shoring up our business against the recession, we are actively using this period to expand. With more than 20 years of experience in property management and rentals, buying existing rental books is central to this strategy. We have been at this longer than other real estate brands and are firmly established as the market leader in SA.
We are facilitating the expansion of our strongest franchisees into new territories, which allows us to grow our footprint with individuals who have proven themselves to be excellent business partners. At the same time, we are joining forces with smaller, independent operators – this provides for a win-win situation where we grow our footprint, and independents benefit from the franchise infrastructure.
Mentorship and our focus on giving exceptionally strong Head Office support to our new franchisees help them get operational quickly and, from there, financially successful.
In preparation for our future expansion, we are investing heavily in technology development that allows our agents to work more efficiently from anywhere. We cannot scale and survive in the new world if we are not harnessing the power of technology.
In future, data insights will drive our business more than ever before. We are centralizing our data warehousing and strengthening our analytics, which will allow us to put powerful numbers and insights into the hands of our agents and franchisees. We are also centralizing functions like property management, finance and marketing so that our franchisees can leverage economies of scale; it simply does not make sense for our 90+ franchisees to appoint 90+ accountants or 90+ marketing teams.
Marketing tools and messages
Our #StrongerTogether marketing campaign has a two-fold focus. The first is to assure our franchisees during this difficult time that we are available to help them and that our support will never waiver. The second is to alert other agents that we are the “home” they’ve been looking for.
Messages include reminders of our combined strength (“Magic happens when the right people come together”, “In tough times, it helps to have a strong network” and “Together we’re stronger”), as well as clear invitations to agencies not yet part of our network, such as “Growing our rental footprint. Join us” and “We’re looking for rental books”.
“The bad times are a good time to go for it”, they are the perfect time to annex market share. said Cecil Golding, talking to the writer of the chapter on his wife, Pam, in a book entitled “South Africa’s Greatest Entrepreneurs”.
We agree. And we believe, as Siebert writes “that the vital role that franchising plays in the economy will become more evident than ever before”.
But we should not wait for times to improve: the time to act is now. Opportunities await for dynamic business partners who choose to join Just Property, a franchise group that is heavily invested in service to its franchisees.
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