Quest franchise boss: 3 tips for small business success

Quest 3 tips success (1)
David Ridgeway heads up franchising at the accommodation chain. (Source: Supplied)

Quest’s head of franchising, David Ridgeway, shares the top tips fellow franchise leaders can learn from the accommodation chain’s strong track record of delivering small business success.

Enshrine and embrace your brand purpose, vision and values

Our benchmark for how we do business has never changed, but how we articulate who we are, has.

Coming together as a network to enshrine our key values, which drive the delivery of our purpose, marked a turning point in our ongoing evolution as a franchise and is essential for developing your model. It provides clarity to guide the decision-making process for your brand and franchisees.

When Quest business owners provide feedback on brand decisions based on how they relate to our values, we understand we’re approaching topics from the same place – which leads to better outcomes.

In terms of prospective franchisees this starts from our first phone call; we make it abundantly clear who we are as a brand, and we put our values into practice in every interaction.

A strong financial position doesn’t guarantee you a Quest franchise – alignment with our values is the most important consideration.

When you understand who you are as a brand, you will attract and be able to select the right people which is critical for your longevity as a network. At Quest we continue to choose people who are hands-on operators, open to collaborating and passionate about delivering an effortless guest experience.

A key part of the success of any franchise is the longevity and sustainability of the franchisee businesses, and the key to that is the lasting relationships that come from trust and transparency.

Joining a franchise network shouldn’t be a fait accompli, ask candidates to tell you why you should accept them. Lay the groundwork to build a relationship early, learn about their personality and identify areas for improvement.

In the last 10 years one way we’ve been setting our franchisees up for success is by having candidates present their business plan and budget to a panel here at Quest corporate office in Melbourne before granting any franchise business.

We engage in an open and robust discussion between the candidate, leaders across different Quest business units and our managing director to make a collective decision.

Identify the opportunity in every challenge

When the pandemic hit it reminded me of the time I joined Quest as a franchise relationship manager back in 2009 during a difficult economic period. Rather than cost cutting, Quest increased investments in our workforce capability to support the franchise network as we recognised the opportunity to grow our brand in a challenging market.

Covid was the most difficult challenge the accommodation industry has ever faced, in addition to being the toughest for franchise networks. Rather than shut our doors we kept our properties open and operational, and the bulk of our teams employed, providing crucial accommodation for essential workers and travellers who needed a home away from home during the pandemic.

Every franchise that survived the pandemic has emerged a better franchise system and brand. Your business model and franchisees have passed the ultimate stress test, and you have proof that opportunity is available when you are willing to put in the hard work.

It’s no secret that the digital transformation impacting every industry is also reshaping how we do business – so as franchise networks we need to move early to capitalise on the opportunities, while our challenge is to maintain who we are as individual brands.

To make guest stays effortless we’ve invested significantly in updating our website to highlight local experiences near our properties, and our website continues to evolve this year in terms of making it even more accessible. We also use post stay emails to collect feedback and build guest profiles.

Data collection is another opportunity for franchise networks. We watch how our guests spend their time on our website – how long they take, what they do or do not click on. This information is then used to guide us to build better booking journeys and enhance the digital experience for our guests.

With the rising cost of living there also exists a real opportunity for franchises to capitalise on consumer appetite for value. But first, understand what that word means. Many mistake it for simply cutting costs, but it’s actually a combination of price, reliability and trust in brands – consumers value brands that can deliver what they say they will do, every time.

Ensuring your franchisees are walking the talk when it comes to your brand purpose and brand belief ensures they will succeed in this inflationary environment by building brand equity, for their business and the network.

This means repeat business and referral business which equates to happier staff and teams, and ultimately, stronger financial performance.

Avoid complacency as a franchise network

When you’ve been in business for many years, complacency is your biggest challenge. You need to continue changing and adapt to consumers or you risk being left behind. This applies at the franchisor and the franchisee level.

Being a market leader can be fleeting if you take your foot off the accelerator while your competitors get faster and sharper. You need to remember your brand purpose and brand belief to ensure you are delivering what customers expect from you, in all of the new ways they expect it.

This is one of the greatest opportunities any franchise brand can offer.

At Quest we’re improving the ways we make guest stays effortless at every step of the customer journey, from incorporating accessibility even further into our hotel builds and reflecting changing community values and voices across our communications channels. Even our hotel builds are moving towards a boutique design that incorporates local architectural elements into our serviced apartments and common areas.

It’s also important to recognise that no franchise operates in a vacuum. Balanced stakeholder approaches are more important than ever in the current economic environment.

At Quest we are working in transparent, tripartite agreements with our franchise business owners, banks and landlords to ensure any problems are identified sooner rather than later to ensure better outcomes for all parties, which is another way our values inform our actions in everything we do as a franchise business.