Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Family Business or Family in Business

Have you heard the saying 'you should never go into business with your family?' I learned that it is true. And I learned it the hard way.

Getting into a business is one of the hardest and difficult things an individual can do. A lot of capital is used to ensure that the business is running smoothly. Sleep time is replaced by time thinking on how to develop systems and procedures. Leisure is spent on writing PR campaigns and partnership proposals. Quality time with people you car about is spent pitching your ideas.

Entrepreneurs are a different breed. It takes a lot of effort, courage, sacrifice and sometimes sanity - or the lack of it, to get a start-up business successful. A good support system and a healthy dose of craziness is a must.

The author with one of the franchisees of NoWet Australia.
When we started GreenRides, my family lent me their savings to be able to go to Australia to train and get the exclusive distributorship of the NoWet Waterless Car Clean products and system. I truly appreciate what they did.

Once I came back, I started working on the company. We developed systems, procedures and processes to ensure that GreenRides will be a big company. We wanted to expand to different areas in the Philippines and be a well-known national company in the next two years. We must make sure that every thing we did is properly documented and followed by us, by our car clean technicians and our future partners or franchisees.

The issue started when my dad wanted to give a branch to my sister. He wanted my sister to have her business, too. My dad wanted to help me expand my business by letting my sister have her own branch. It seemed a good idea at first, until they wanted to operate independently from the main company - which is headed by me.

These were some of the issues that came up:

1. Refusal to follow the pricing scheme we had implemented. They chose to have their own pricing system.
2. Lack of proper training in the car cleaning system and use of proper documents.
3. Created their own marketing materials without proper consultation from the head office.
4. Refusal to take charge of the branch. 

Things came to a head when my sister asked me to talk to the car clean technicians regarding the proper techniques on how to clean a car. I told her she must take charge and teach the people under her. That was when she cried and told me that she didn't want to do the business any more.

My dad confronted me on that day. And until now, he has refused to talk to me.

These are the hard lessons that I've learned:

1. Be clear on what you want your business to be. We wanted to grow and make GreenRides a national company. One must be develop systems, procedures and processes that will streamline operations and keep the level of customer service at a high quality if one wants to be a large company.

2. Be clear on what you want your family's involvement will be. When we agreed to let them have a branch, there was a clear discussion that the directives and systems of the head office must be followed. Local store marketing or LSM can be initiated by the branch or franchisees with the prior approval of the head office. Unfortunately, this was not followed.

3. Be open to constructive criticism. If there are ways to improve the delivery of the service, listen to them. Listen to customer feedback and listen to the franchisee. But if the franchisee or the branch owner becomes smarter and implements some things which are not approved by the head office, it is time to put your foot down.

A print screen from one of our promotions.
4. Lastly, let the franchisee manage and grow his store. The role of the head office is to make sure that there are customers going to the branches. This is done through different marketing efforts. The head office is also there to make sure that every one follows the protocols and systems set forth by the company; and also to grow the business by introducing new services or products.

A franchisees role is to make sure that 'his' business grows through his own marketing efforts and by constantly adhering to the standards and policies set-up by the company. It is not the franchisees' role to supersede the company.

Being in business with my family is a painful lesson for me. Yet, I appreciate all the things I've learned from this experience. GreenRides is still a growing company and I thank the people who continue to be our loyal customers and believe in our services.