When Colin de Vries took over as dealer principal of Nashua’s West Rand franchise in 1997, the outlet – established almost ten years previously – was in trouble. Management structures were almost non-existent, systems were all but absent, and staff turnover was high. His first step was to bring in the right staff at management level, a move that has paid off. The office automation and technology company distributes its products through a network of exclusive franchises in South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Nashua West Rand took top honours at the company’s Southern African annual franchise conference when it was voted best overall franchise for 2005 and 2006.
What does it take to be a winning franchise? Nashua West Rand won the awards primarily on the basis of sales and customer service. In addition to all-important sales figures, Nashua SA also takes into account factors such as technical expertise, response times and staff training. De Vries attributes the franchise’s success to his employees. “We have a very stable and established group of people, particularly in the sales division. That’s important because they have experience in selling, in dealing with the product itself and in providing clients with top-level customer service.” He is confident about the commitment of his more than 90 employees. “Turnover is low and people are eager to work here.” Incentives are important for sales staff, he says, so the franchise provides cash and travel bonuses for people who exceed their monthly and annual targets. De Vries inherited an outlet that was without systems and processes. He is a great believer in both and spent time putting these in place. “Systems must be logical, coherent and user-friendly and they must enable your business to flow effortlessly and profitably,” he notes. Where employees sometimes succeed despite the systems they work within, De Vries stresses that his team is thriving because everyone is able to work according to clearly defined and documented processes.
Each Nashua franchise is a separate and autonomous business, owned by the management team that runs it, but Nashua SA plays a major supporting role. The financial stability of each franchise operation is assured through the company’s direct involvement and assistance, where necessary. Each franchisee adheres to the Nashua corporate identity and markets only Nashua-branded products. Standards of customer service are established and monitored by the company in accordance with the SABS internationally approved ISO 9000 quality service rating. Nashua provides sales and technical training locally and overseas. “Support is a key factor for anyone looking into a franchise,” says De Vries. “Nashua franchisees get first-rate support and backup from the company. We are all linked through one big mainframe, which means that servicing clients to the standards set by Nashua is so much easier. Some companies leave their franchises to do their own thing and operate their own systems, whereas we are part of a big group and the way we operate is constantly being enhanced.” Having a good product is key. “We have 38% market share on the West Rand,” De Vries says. “It’s easy to sell Nashua because the brand is well-known and respected. But we also know that the only way to stay ahead is to provide the service to match.”