Expert Interview with PostNet, on Getting Started as a Franchisee
When it comes to advice on choosing and running a franchise, it helps to chat with folks who have been in the business for awhile.
PostNet has been part of Entrepreneur's Franchise 500 list for 22 consecutive years, and also consistently wins awards for franchisee satisfaction from Franchise Business Review. The company offers plenty of tools to help their franchisees run a successful printing and shipping franchise; and those tools have been developed and refined for more than 30 years.
The company has used technology to empower its franchisees and help them get strong support from the headquarters team and from one another, develop new services that keep us ahead of competitors, and allow franchisees to embrace e-commerce, which lets customers place orders and complete sales even when brick-and-mortar locations are closed.
Tell us about PostNet. What services do you offer? Who should be using them?
Our Neighborhood Business Centers provide convenient printing, shipping, graphic design and marketing solutions for small businesses and for others in the community. We're a full-service printer; we handle everything from business cards and forms to large signs, posters, vehicle wraps and trade show displays. We're also a full-service shipper and work with UPS, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and DHL so customers can choose the carrier that works best for them.
PostNet centers are a huge asset for local businesses and organizations. We help business and community leaders develop marketing materials, and can help them put those materials in front of potential customers in a variety of ways, including direct mail and email marketing. These are tasks that can be a huge time-sink for people who aren't experts. Small business owners who have a lot of demands on their time love PostNet, because they know they can hand projects off to us and get excellent results. That frees our clients up to focus on their core strengths, and not get bogged down designing flyers or managing mail lists.
Why do small business owners like companies like PostNet? How do you make their lives easier?
Small business owners often have to split their attention among a lot of tasks and responsibilities. Marketing is a hugely important task for business owners, but many people struggle with it. We make life easier for them by providing a printing partner that can design and produce their marketing materials and business forms, and can even execute some of their marketing campaigns.
Our mailbox and shipping solutions are also invaluable. Our mailboxes allow home-based businesses to establish a professional street address and provide a secure place for them to receive deliveries. Our shipping services allow them to send items to their customers from one place, rather than driving all over town to access multiple carriers.
Ultimately, customers like PostNet because we offer personal service. Our centers are locally owned and operated, and PostNet owners form a tight bond with their clients. We like seeing clients succeed.
For people interested in launching a small business, what are the advantages of franchising?
All successful businesses rely on systems, and systems take time to develop. A lot of entrepreneurs who start independent businesses fumble through a painful, and sometimes fatal, learning curve. Franchises offer entrepreneurs a proven business model with established systems and manuals. If that was all, it would already be a big advantage; but franchises also offer training to new owners and ongoing support to existing owners. As a franchisee, you have someone to turn to when you have questions. You also have a corporate team that is studying the marketplace, refining the business model and working hard to negotiate with vendors on your behalf - all of which helps your business be more efficient and profitable and helps your brand stay strong. Additionally, with PostNet, our franchisees have access to a global network of franchisees to turn to for advice and support.
A strong brand is also a huge benefit for franchisees when they are eventually ready to sell the business. While it may be hard to find a buyer for "Al's Print Shop" or "Bob's A+ Shipping," people shopping for a business are likely to know the PostNet name; and they will appreciate knowing that they will have support to help them master and grow the business.
What considerations do you think prospective business owners should make when considering the type of franchise they should open?
Don't just think about dollar signs. Think about what life is going to be like within the business. Is this a business that is going to demand your attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year? If so, are you comfortable making that type of commitment for a decade or longer? One of the things PostNet owners love about their businesses is that we have pretty normal business hours, so owners get to enjoy evenings and weekends with their families. You absolutely need to consider the lifestyle implications of the businesses you are considering.
You should also ask what owners need to do to be successful in the business. For instance, a behind-the-scenes CPA might be great at running a handful of restaurants. They need to track a lot of details, but they don't need to be directly in front of the customer every day. On the other hand, as a PostNet owner it's important to be comfortable meeting with customers either in your Neighborhood Business Center or while networking with small business owners in your community.
Talk to existing franchisees to get their opinions not just about the business, but also about its impact on their lives. You can read some of what our franchisees have to say on our blog at postnetfranchise.com.
What do you think are the qualities every savvy small business owner should possess?
You need to be a self-starter who plows past obstacles on your way to accomplishing your goals. Building a business is not easy. There will be challenges. The strongest business owners have a mix of confidence, discipline and humility: confidence that if they work hard they will succeed, the discipline to do the hard work that is necessary, and the humility to ask for help and advice from peers so they don't have to overcome every obstacle alone.
When it comes to franchise options, are all franchises created equal?
No. Some franchises based their business model upon a passing fad. Some have a great business model, but poor systems that make it difficult for franchisees to succeed. Others have a good business model and good systems, but a leadership team that struggles to innovate or to lead. As you evaluate franchises, it is very important to consider the business model and the thoroughness of the systems; and it's just as important to gauge the quality of the people within the organization.
What should prospective franchise owners be wary of when looking into a business? What are red flags that a business might not be worth investing in?
If the business is based on a fad, flavor or trend, be wary. Fads can change very quickly; and for a brand that is narrowly defined and overly associated with a fad, revenues can dry up quickly when the "next new thing" comes along. You should also be wary of franchises in which the franchisees have little input in the direction of the company. Franchisors ultimately make most decisions about the direction of a brand, because it's important for a brand to offer a consistent customer experience. However, franchisors should continually seek out and embrace the input of franchisees, because franchisees are on the front lines working with customers every day. You hear what customers want, and you see how they use the brand; and if a franchisor is not listening to you, then they are not listening to the customer.
On the other hand, what are signs of a good franchise opportunity?
I think a good franchise opportunity targets a broad and sustainable market. PostNet provides solutions for printing, shipping and marketing. Those are three big marketplaces that are as old as the pyramids. The need isn't going anywhere. Similarly, a burger chain like McDonald's doesn't have to worry that Americans are going to stop liking hamburgers in five years. The market is stable, and if you have a strong business model and execute it well, you should succeed.
What are three things every franchise owner should do to ensure the success of their business?
Talk to top performers within your organization and learn what they are doing, then bring those lessons to your business. Get involved with a franchise advisory council to make sure your voice is heard, and stay plugged into the leadership team. You can help steer the future of the brand by sharing your ideas. Finally, take advantage of all the people and resources that are available to you. If you are having difficulty with an aspect of your business, don't feel like you have to deal with it on your own. Your franchisor has a dedicated team of people to help you, and your fellow franchisees are usually eager to help you, too. Ask for help when you need it, and offer help when you can. A lot of people have your back.
Get more information on business services franchises on FranchiseGator.com.