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Fresh Start When you lose your job, is buying a business a good option? Simon Lord talks to four people who decided to invest in themselves

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ix weeks ago, John Eban left the Christchurch company he has worked with for 42 years. At the age of 61, he hadn’t planned for this to happen, but Covid-19 hit many companies hard – and none more so than the travel and tourism sector. ‘There had been several rounds of voluntary and forced redundancies, and it had become a pretty unpleasant environment,’ John says. ‘I was an engineer and I’d always been passionate about what I did, but now I was pretty disillusioned, to be honest. Then I saw an advert for a franchise called Pukeko Rental Management and thought, “I like the look of that!” I have no experience in rental management whatsoever, but I’d always thought if I won Lotto I would buy a few properties and run them myself, so this appealed.’ John talked to the franchisor, agreed an exit plan with his employer, took a deep breath and walked out of the door for the last time. John reckons that buying a franchise was the perfect option for someone in his position. ‘Because this is a new business with no established clients, it offered a relatively cheap buy-in. It won’t make money straight away, I realise that, but the redundancy will see me through the set-up period. There will be a fair bit of work required to build it up, but I’ll get a lot of training and support to help me do that. A franchise allows you to work for yourself in your own business with the added security of a safety net. There are people to talk to and help guide you in the right direction.’ John Eban

Transferable skills That guidance matters to people in John’s position. ‘On the face of it, what I was doing in engineering was so specialised that you don’t think of being able to do anything else, which makes it very daunting to start again. But what I’ve realised is that, actually, I’ve had a lot of training and got a lot of skills that are transferable into other areas: project management, leadership, time and resource management … 10 or 15 years ago, I might not have had all those skills, but now I’ve realised they are perfect for running my own business.’

The one area that John realises is a big gap for him is sales – something of a vital area when it comes to building a business. ‘If you’d told me a few months ago that I would need to do sales, I’d have gone screaming out of the room,’ he says, frankly. ‘But Pukeko has an online training course which is absolutely fantastic – it’s very, very helpful and I’m learning so much from that and from David Pearse (Pukeko’s founder) and the other franchisees that it’s been nowhere near as daunting as I thought. Everyone is so willing to share. ‘I did my first interview with a prospective client last week and rather than being a bag of nerves I went in full of confidence because I knew what I was talking about. They obviously thought so, too, because they signed up!’ So John has a 100 percent conversion record? He laughs. ‘I hadn’t thought of that – yes I do! What a great start.’

You’re not starting from zero Peter Mahon understands exactly where John is coming from. He was an engineer in the same industry, but six years ago he was recovering from minor surgery when he received a call from his boss summoning him to

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a meeting. Surprised, he rang a colleague who told him, ‘I’ve just been made redundant!’ so Peter wasn’t too shocked when he received the same news. ‘At first, it really affected my self-esteem,’ says Peter. ‘Not only did my employer not want me any more but, at the age of 57, it’s not easy to find another job. My wife and I had financial commitments so we started trimming costs, cancelling our Sky TV subscription, that sort of thing. In my younger years I could get a job doing pretty much anything I wanted, but now I found myself having to take on a pretty mundane role just to pay the bills.’ Like many other people, Peter considered the option of self-employment. ‘I had been self-employed in the past, but not very successfully,’ he admits. ‘I was good at what I did, but I didn’t have the systems and processes that you need to run a business properly so I got into a bit of a mess. I didn’t fancy trying to do it all again and starting from zero. But with a franchise, you’re not starting from zero – that’s the whole point.’ Peter had a friend who was a Jim’s Mowing franchisee. ‘I’d seen him doing well over the years and that had given me some insights into the value and discipline a good franchise could provide. Jim’s also has a division that provides testing and tagging services for electrical equipment in workplaces, and I thought that sounded like me.’ Peter Mahon

Too stubborn to give up There was no redundancy package to finance Peter’s business, ‘So we took a big gamble. My wife was still working for a bank, but had the option to cash out her retirement package early, so that was what we did. We bought a Jim’s Test & Tag territory close to home, and I promised my wife that I would work 8 hours every day : if I only had 6 hours work, I would spend the other two hours marketing for new clients, even if that meant walking the streets. And that was what I did.’

Peter says the other message that kept him going in the early days was from their accountant. ‘He said at our first meeting, “Peter, if you’re not going to work at it and give it 100 percent, don’t waste my time.” It was the best advice I ever got. ‘Some of my initial customers weren’t exactly A-class clients, but I was too stubborn to give up, and I soon forged ahead. 18 months after I started as a franchisee, we bought the Jim’s Test & Tag franchisor business for the Waikato. By then we had a history of success so were able to borrow the necessary funding from the bank, and we never looked back. These days, I help others make the transition just like I did.’ Peter understands only too well the fear and uncertainty that comes with redundancy – but, he says, it can also be a great opportunity. ‘It’s easy to get into a rut in a job, to stay just so that you will get paid, or work until it’s time to retire. Well, redundancy shakes you out of that and makes it easier to step out and take on a new challenge because you’re not risking your salary any more – there’s going to be no more money coming into your account next month, so what are you going to do instead? It forces you to step back and re-assess things.’

Franchise New Zealand

Spring 2020

Year 29 Issue 03

Profile for Franchise New Zealand

Franchise New Zealand - Year 29 Issue 03 – Spring 2020