Lessons in managing time from ACDC Express

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When you’re an owner-operator franchisee, taking time off can seem like a pipe-dream. We asked ACDC Express franchisees Claude and Sharon van Rhyn how they manage their time.

Claude van Rhyn has been an ACDC Express franchisee for five years, with his wife Sharon working alongside him since 2011. They’ve just enjoyed a holiday to Thailand without needing to look at cellphones, emails, or worry that the business is running ok. How did they get to this point as owner operators? Here’s how.

What was it like when you first opened?

“I come from the corporate IT industry, specialising in business consulting, marketing and sales for 16 years. When I opened up the business there was so much to learn I was spending all my time and energy learning how to run the business. Head office provided a lot of training and initial support, but with a product range of 60 000 items, when someone came in asking for a specialist piece of equipment it was a challenge helping them and I had to learn very quickly,” says Claude.

“The first year was quite tough on us as Claude spent seven days a week at the business and worked very long hours. We didn’t go away at all that year while things were settling down. As the business started to grow, Claude also needed help with the HR side of the business so he could focus on growing business, which is when I joined the business full time to assist in that capacity,” says Sharon.

“Our second year was better, Claude would take a weekend here and there, and the third year we went on short trips, but this is our first year that we’ve been able to do something like go to Thailand,” says Sharon.

What was the turning point that allowed you to take more time off?

“I have a business and life coach who pointed out to me that I had a major problem in my business. I was running so much of it myself, that if I was ever not able to run it, the business would be in serious trouble. This prompted me to make big changes in the business and how I was running it,” says Claude.

“I’d hired someone early on to help me on the floor and deal with customers, and he was so proactive and would help with sales when he wasn’t busy that he ended up learning every aspect of the business. I decided to promote him to floor manager and I encourage him to make decisions, speak directly to the franchisor when need be, and consult with me when he’s not sure on something. Similarly, I’ve empowered key staff with the right training and the ability to make decisions that it frees up a lot of my time to focus on growing the business, to be away from the shop visiting customers, and to even take time off.”

How do you incentivise staff to perform?

“Staff turnover can be a problem, especially in retail – you only just get them trained up and then they leave for somewhere else. Our franchisor does an excellent job of providing incentives if sales staff meet their targets, which means we can focus on ensuring they’re properly trained in product knowledge and customer service, and that they’re being empowered to do their jobs well.”

Top advice for running your business, not being stuck in it

  • Communicate with your franchisor and let them know your work routine, they could offer training.
  • Employ the right staff: Rather than try be Jack-of-all-trades, put in place an accounts department, HR department, a secretary, floor manager, sales manager and so on. The more you’re able to delegate, the less risk you run if something were to happen to you.
  • Empower your staff to make decisions. Have your managers develop relationships with head office so they can communicate with each other directly if you’re not available.
  • Reward good behaviour. Look to promote from within, offer incentives, and make working for you worth your employees while. That means a great culture, understanding managers, incentives, good pay, and opportunities to grow.

Reference: Standard Bank BizConnect – www.bizconnect.standardbank.co.za

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