How resilient franchises are keeping business going during lockdown

FRANCHISE Business team hands at work with financial reports and a laptop

These resilient franchises have shown throughout the pandemic just how sturdy their business models are as they continue to engage with customers, despite lockdowns.

With New South Wales and Victoria in current lockdown, takeaway food services, pharmacies, post offices, newsagents and of course supermarkets remain open.

If you’re working in the services sector though, how do businesses keep trading? Inside Franchise Business – sister publication of Inside Small Business – spoke to a few franchisors to find out how they can adapt to lockdown restrictions.

Home maintenance adapts to rules

Brendan Green heads up Hire A Hubby. He says, “Most of our franchisees are a man in a van. They drive around, pick up items through click and collect, they can be working outside quite comfortably and safely. All our work orders go electronically through our app, you read it, you do the job, you move on to the next job. It’s all cloud-based.”

So far through the pandemic Hire A Hubby franchisees have continued trading, except in Victoria’s toughest lockdown. Right now in New South Wales there is an unprecedented halt on handyman work, except emergency repairs.

While not everyone can keep trading through this, some franchisees can pick up work, Brendan says.

“Some franchisees have built up their business around real estate property management, and tenants have the right to have things be made safe,” he says.

What’s crucial in such times is the help of the franchisor in navigating the rules, and sourcing any financial support available.

Hire A Hubby is using lessons learned from the previous Victorian lockdown, and taking a sure and steady approach to finding and sharing the government’s guidelines on restrictions and on financial support.

“We collect the information that’s gazetted on the government site, we check it before we share it, We make sure the franchisees understand we will support them,” Brendan says.

“First and foremost we want to protect our guys and protect our customers, and find the way to do that safely, to take away any anxiety for our franchisees.”

Children’s tutoring goes online

James Wells, spokesperson for Kumon Australia and New Zealand, told Inside Franchise Business, “While Kumon franchises have undergone many changes to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing lockdowns, our core product and service, the Kumon worksheets and instruction of students, remains unchanged. What has changed is how franchises deliver Kumon’s product and service.

“During lockdowns, franchises provide worksheets via contactless pickup and delivery and provide Kumon instruction virtually, through Zoom and other digital technologies. We are incredibly proud of Kumon franchisees’ ability to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic. They have continued to provide excellent customer service to Kumon students and families.”

Indoor fitness heads outdoors

When you run an indoor cycling business, lockdown can be particularly tough as Matt Gordin, CEO of CycleBar, explains.

“Restrictions and lockdowns are a challenge for every business but the fitness industry really takes a hit. The uncertainty can be daunting for franchisees so ensuring open and honest communication is vital.

 “It was important our head office studio set the precedent. We moved our bikes into the carpark, continued classes in masks and gave members the space to reach out with concerns of financial hardship and did what we could to assist.

“By staying on the front-foot with communication to ensure transparency with our members and doing everything we could within the restrictions to allow classes to continue we were able to dodge the COVID-shaped bullet.”

Mobile retail is supporting essential workers

Ajit Ponnambalam, managing director at mobile tool retailer Snap-on Tools, says, “Snap-on franchisees are in a somewhat fortunate position. They are a service provider to the essential work of repairing and maintaining vehicles including trucks, ambulances, fire engines, cars, courier vans and motorcycles.

“This means that outside of three Local Government Areas in Sydney, our franchisees are able to visit and support their customers personally in their critical work. Of course the rules are changing almost on a daily basis and we have shared the guidance from the FCA and various State Governments with franchisees to ensure regulatory compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the law.

“During the extended Victorian lockdown last year, Snap-on worked with our franchisees to call upon those customers who requested us to visit but also engaged in contactless delivery where needed. Snap-on also supplemented that by absorbing the freight cost for deliveries direct to customers during the lockdown period. These and other initiatives were well regarded and we are repeating those initiatives now.

“Our overriding goal at the present time is to protect the network by ensuring our franchisees’ safety and emotional well-being. So, just as importantly, we are once again working to ensure that we remove unnecessary stress from our franchisees’ lives. We are able to support our franchisees, on a case by case basis, with financial assistance such as longer payment terms, delaying the despatch of stock and also taking back stock that would ordinarily be non-returnable.

“One of the lessons from previous lockdowns is that when restrictions end, there usually is a sharp rebound in business. During the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021, our franchisees have benefited from that. When restrictions ease, we expect to see a similar rebound this time, too.”

This story first appeared in our sister publication Inside Franchise Business