Jack's Paint bucks the recessionary trend with new stores
By Greg Arde - Jun 28th, 11:01
Tough economic conditions are encouraging more independent retailers to seek the protection of a strong franchise. That’s the experience of paint and hardware company Jack’s Paint, which has opened two stores in the past six months, bringing the number of outlets to just under 100.
The company, which started in 1943 and began franchising 33 years ago, says a tight market means retailers have to up their customer service.
MD Gerhard Waldauer says he and Martin Cohen built the business on the back of being responsive. The company sells its own brand of paint alongside competitor brands to give customers a wide choice.
Jack’s Paint has a distribution centre in Johannesburg and just under 100 outlets across the country, including 61 franchised stores. The remaining outlets are part of an agricultural supply chain company. Collectively Jack’s Paint and its franchisees employ about 1,000 people.
Waldauer says a key ingredient to the company’s success is the availability of the franchisor. “Our franchisees have our cellphone numbers and can reach us 24/7.” Waldauer himself still takes orders for paint when he gets a call.
It’s part of his passion for the business and he picks franchisees with a strong work ethic and keen customer service.
“When a customer walks into a store, they are the guys who make them feel special. They carry paint to the customer’s car or go to their homes and give free consultations,” he says.
Waldauer says good franchising companies enable franchisees to succeed over independent retailers by offering them a robust, well-oiled system that also ensures customer service and product consistency and accountability.
But franchising, he warns, is more than creating a brand and a market presence.
“We’re like a big brother, to mentor and give practical support. We franchised because we are passionate about entrepreneurs and we wanted to reach more customers.”
The business surged in the recession that followed the market crash in 2008 when independent hardware stores looked for support to survive lean times. The current market is similar.
“SA has a huge opportunity to grow entrepreneurs through franchising. In an economic downturn, people crawl into their shells, but they should actually do the opposite.”
Waldauer says most of Jack's Paint’s business can be taught, but passion and a strong work ethic ultimately determine success. “We do extensive interviews, site inspections, and market analysis before we sell a franchise, but the most critical factor is the personality involved. We’d rather grow slowly than close stores. We have to protect our name."
“If the operator is prepared to work the business hard, mix the paint and put customers first, they can make good money. Some franchisees have been with us for 20 years, through thick and thin. They want more feet through the door and to make more money. We are mindful of that. Both parties must get value.”
When new franchisees are brought on board, Waldauer makes sure they are introduced to the best franchisees who willingly share best-practice secrets.
“They talk about promotions and social media and what works best. It might be something on Facebook or calling every contractor in the area for a meet and greet and a wors roll.”
A key enabler of Jack’s Paint is Nedbank’s relationship manager, whom Waldauer describes as a superstar. “All banks are much of a muchness, they all give similar products. But the service makes all the difference. We are blessed. Our service manager is like a bulldog. She knows what we need and then hounds her peers to make sure we get that.”
Waldauer says good entrepreneurs are passionate visionaries who love seeing people grow and have generally experienced some ups and downs but have stayed the course.
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