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Diary of a Sharemark float: The importance of “Process Engineering”

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As we prepare for our admission to Sharemark we are taking a close look at every aspect of our business. So as the key pillar of our growth strategy is franchising we recently arranged a meeting with Carl French of Replico, a leading franchise consultancy.

Our brand and marketing consultant had put us in touch because he thought we needed someone to help us write a Fanchise Manual. but I approached the meeting with some trepidation thinking that the topic would be incomparably dull.

How wrong this proved to be.

Carl French’s career began in computer science. He then moved from IT systems to process engineering, to advising franchisors on their all-important systems and processes.

At the end of a fascinating day it is clear that documenting every single one of our processes is crucial to our future success. Despite the fact that it will take three months hard work to reach first base, I can see how empowering this will be for the whole team. It will make us focus on improving our team efficiency in everything we do.

This dawns on me as Carl illustrates the importance of measuring every aspect of our key processes. As an example, we choose “taking on a new customer” as a key process that we need to systemise. I quickly see how writing down the process from the moment of the first meeting to the issue of our engagement letter will be the first step towards improving our conversion rates.

This is going to be fundamental to our future, irrespective of our plans to grow by franchising. Luckily for us my colleague, Ed Burrell, agrees to take responsibility for the three-month project. Ed has a passion for process efficiency and IT systems and is keen to get started and lead the process.

Carl’s key tips for us are these:

  • Think very carefully and deeply about the skill set, psychology and motivation of the franchisee. The systems need to be designed from that person backwards. In our case we conclude that our ideal prospective franchisee will be looking for a lifestyle business. By lifestyle we mean that the primary motivation is not a monetary one but rather the business owner will be driven as much by the position that the franchise gives him in his local community;
  • Systems that are apparently operating efficiently may in fact be fatally flawed. This can happen if particularly good people are making a weak system work. If they leave the company the process leaves with them: all important processes must therefore be documented;
  • Break down each process according to roles rather than people;
  • Ask each team member to be responsible for a role and to keep a notebook his or her weekly comments made on system issues;
  • Meet weekly as a team to review each process; and
  • Recognise that this needs to be an on-going process of continual improvement.

James Hunt is a solicitor, serial entrepreneur and founder of Everyman Legal.

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