The key to franchising success

16th March, 2017

Sandie Menzies and Yvette Coad are celebrating the tenth anniversary of Shoebox Bookkeeping, which started small but has now grown to 29 franchises.

The core concept behind Shoebox Bookkeeping is charging a flat fee for bookkeeping services, something Sandie picked up on while working in a law firm 20 years ago.

“One of the law firms I worked at had the principal doing $100 initial consultations,” Menzies told The Pulse.

“Everybody loved the fact that they could come in and it was a flat fee.”

From there, Menzies convinced Coad that the model would be worth pursuing in the bookkeeping world.

While Coad had no formal bookkeeping experience at the time, she took on a sales and marketing role while Menzies worked behind the scenes on refining the model.

“We ended up complementing each other really well,” said Coad “and I don’t think we could have been prepared for a franchise if we were just one person.”

While Coad was happy simply growing the business, behind the scenes Menzies was working on a way to franchise the business – even if that wasn’t her aim at first.

Refining the model

Menzies said getting the business franchise-ready came about almost as a function of the existing model.

“By packaging the service what we had to do is develop systems to make sure we were making a good hourly rate,” she said.

“So we developed a system and checklists to make sure things weren’t missed and everything we produced was done in the same, consistent way.”

Menzies quickly recognised the idea of creating a franchise out of the business, as its systems were adaptable.

“If we were going to get into business…there was no point in doing it unless we were going towards an ultimate goal,” she said.

After some “gentle nagging” she brought Coad around to the idea of franchising the business.

18-hour days

“We had 145 clients and we were franchising at the same time,” Coad said.

“So we ended up doing the franchising work at night and, no joke, we were probably working about 18 hours per day.”

The pair said most of this time was spent creating systems and documentation that anybody could understand.

“It helps if you have bookkeeping experience, but some of our franchisees have a degree in marketing so they’re not ready to jump into bookkeeping, but they’re intelligent,” Coad said.

“The way Sandie developed the system, they can actually go through step by step and do bookkeeping. We still check everything of course.”

Now the pair had the model and the documentation down, how did they go about choosing the right people to become the face of their business?

When emails are a deal-breaker

Both Coad and Menzies say that getting the right people as franchisees was crucial to where they sit today – and for Coad that came down to one thing: communication.

“I pretty much just chat with them and find out about them,” Coad said.

“I find out about their family, how they write an email, how their grammar is, how their phone manner is – it’s a whole range of things I’m doing without them knowing.”

Every piece of communication a client has with the business helps inform their perception of the franchise – whether it’s via email, text message, or phone call.

“That’s honestly probably the biggest lesson we’ve learned: people are the most important part of the success of the franchise,” Menzies added.

The pair have learned invaluable business lessons through a decade of both running their own business and advising other people on their business – and now they’re able to give back.

The Shoebox Small Business Awards

The pair has come up with a competition to award worthy small businesses in Australia – partly out of frustration at other awards.

“We felt like there are a lot of awards out there that you get the award and then…that’s it,” Menzies said. “[There’s] nothing really after that.”

The grand prize winner will get 12 monthly business mentoring sessions with Coad and Menzies, along with business coach Tracey Leak.

“These awards will help people the whole year – it’s not just marketing. We’re going to be looking at their whole business model and seeing where they need help,” Menzies said.

The awards are open to any Australian business which has been operating for at least 12 months, has less than 20 staff and an annual turnover of less than $1 million.

Entrants will compete in three categories – Business of the Year, Emerging Business Awards, and Community Business of the Year.

“We see great businesses all the time, but they need a helping hand in one particular area,” Coad said.

“These awards are all about actually helping a business, not just a statue on a shelf.”

For more information on how your business can win between $2000 and $16,000, head here to check out the awards and eligibility criteria.