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The Real Franchise – Episode 1 – Introduction

Watch the full episode of The Real Franchise – here

Rhiannon
Hello and welcome to The Real Franchise, a video series designed to deliver real information, real answers, and real insights into franchising. This series is brought to you by James Home Services Australia. I’m the CEO and Justin is one of our owners and our director of new businesses. Together. We’re going to jump in and tackle all of the big topics unscripted, unplanned and unfiltered.

No sales, no fluff. We’re just going to give you information straight up. Today’s topic is all about an introduction to Justin and myself, and it sounds maybe like a little bit of an odd place to start. We just said we’re going to jump in and give you real answers and tackle the big topics, but we feel like maybe getting to know us just a little bit is actually the best place to start.

So I’m going to start by saying, Justin, when I first met you, it was it was just over four years ago now. We didn’t know each other from a bar of soap, and I just started working for your soon to be business partner and co-owner of James Home Services Australia and one of the first encounters that we had was that, your business partner, Darren, had said to me, I was on the due diligence team we were looking at.

We were looking at the time at purchasing James. And so my role was to investigate the business basically, and come back to you and Darren with, is this worth that? Is this not other obstacles? Other challenges? And one of the first things that I had to do was call you and just get a little bit of a debrief, and I remember it was it was light.

It was a Friday night. It was definitely outside of work hours. And Darren said, just ring him and just get talking to him and just, you know, just start to learn the ropes. I was totally new to the business, had no idea what we were about to step into. And I called you and the first thing he said to me was, yeah, I’m just sitting on my back porch having a can of coke, fire away, ask me anything, and I did.

I dived straight, we didn’t have time to waste and I had done due diligence processes before. And. And you don’t hold back, you dive in. Your job is to get to understand forensically the business. And so I asked you some pretty, pretty direct questions. Straight up about the business and the model and its flaws and how it was tracking.

And you just answered every single question and had for you honestly. And I, I won’t forget that conversation because it set the tone for how you work. And it set the tone for how we lead James. And I think it’s a really lovely place to start this chat. Is that the first thing I remember about you was just the total frankness and honesty and upfront ness that you had when this complete stranger was asking you questions about James.

But at that point, you had already been involved in James Homes Services for a very long time. How how long? This was four years ago. But how long have you actually been involved in James?

Justin
Yeah, well, we, my wife and I, we had a farm, well, prior to that going back, I work for a company called Wesfarmers. I was the regional manager, the same company that owned Bunnings and Coles and things like that. I was a regional manager for North Queensland. Just got sick of the the corporate. I was, you know, leaving home at dawn, getting home in the dark, three young girls and all that sort of thing.

And so I took some time out. I resigned and worked on a farm. And, I worked as a business consultant, just with a bit of experience that I’d had in managing and helping bigger businesses worked up here on the Atherton Tablelands in the North Queensland, working with small business and, and really got to see people and small business just no way practical for them to turn for help.

They were on their own right. And so they had that in the back of my mind. And one of my key clients was a charity. that we used to organize cattle drives out west for kids in the bush. And, you know, people, kids struggling with drug alcohol abuse or that sort of thing. And people like Troy Cassar-Daley used to come along and do concerts for us, and it was awesome. And one of the companies that sponsored, the cattle drive was named James Home Services. So that’s where I first got to hear about it. And, long story short, thought this business could have a really good fit in North Queensland. because it’s all about helping people learn how to run a business and run a good business, particularly, also what families really do well in this business.

And so that was sort of the drive. And so, end of to that, to answer your question, getting to answering the question there, in the 2009, my wife and I sat down and went through what we call my own information session. Just found out a bit about James. we then went down and met, part of the team.

You know, we didn’t have zoom back then, so we had to fly to South East Queensland go round, meet a few franchisees, and I thought, well, this really does work. And, so we bought and started our first franchise with James. February 2010. so, you know, we’re now in June 24th. So yeah. What’s that 14.5 years.

So been in the business of all it, you know, as franchisees right through now to being one of the owners then. Yeah obviously pretty passionate about the business and what it can do for, you know, everyday Aussies.

Rhiannon
What was the impetus when, when it became available for sale four years ago? What made you think, actually, I want, I want to be part of the national business because you already regional franchisor over and in as part of that role, you had started and sold successfully franchises as well. What made you want to take on the national business?

What was it that you saw that you wanted to pursue?

Justin
I guess fundamentally what James had been through, some challenges. I think, through this period, particularly from probably 2013 on, it’s been challenging for the entire franchising industry. So many franchises in this country have really struggled for a whole range of reasons. maybe the topic for another one of these sessions, but, not for today, but and, but fundamentally at the grassroots, you know, the actual franchises themselves, they’re a great business model and a great way to help people, who probably wouldn’t be able to make it on their own to build a great business, you know, having the benefit of a support and, and so on.

You know, we built a great team up here in North Queensland, still have a great team, of franchisees and people, in North Queensland with James and just thought, you know what, this business. Yes, it might have had its struggles at the top, but fundamentally at the grassroots, it’s a sound business and was passionate about that.

And I thought naively, with my decade in the business, to me, there were three key areas that we needed to fix, and everything would be rosy and we’d ride off into the sunset and this would be this huge mega business. We fixed those three things, you know, and myself worked on. We’re still working on some of those things, but, you know, we’ve learned that this a lot of challenges, you know, and I think for us as an organization, the big tipping point for us has been that idea that you came up with, which will often be a topic of another discussion, the subscription model, you know, and then fleshing that out over a period of about 18 months that has really made it possible for people to get a start in their own business, because sadly, most of us don’t have a lump sum of money setting aside that we can throw into buying a business. And so we don’t do it. We stay in our jobs, stay in the rut, you know, working 9 to 5 or well, most of us wish it was only 9 to 5.

You know, we just work these jobs for a boss and never have the ability to be in control of our own lifestyles, which is what I think one of the great things that you can get in your own business with James.

Rhiannon
Yeah. So at its core, it was a passion for small business and helping people really, that have led to.

Justin
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Rhiannon
It’s the same for me. It, yeah. You may, one of the first full time jobs that I worked was, in the summer between my first and my second year of university, and I was studying business. And as a, as a 19 year old, you think you know it? All right. You’re 19, you’ve done one year of studies at university and you think you’ve got it nailed.

You think you’ve got everything sorted and you know everything there is to know about business. And an opportunity came up in my local, general store, post office, café. I live in a small town. So, you know, that little hub of a business that acts as, a hub for your small community? I was working in that business previously, and the previous manager walked out, not under not great circumstances, and the owners were scratching for someone to manage it. And so this naïve little 19 year old stuck my hand in the air and said, yeah, I’ll do it.
Having no idea what I was about to walk into. And a little bit like you when you’ve got James thinking, yeah, I just got to fix a few things up, tidy a few things up, you know, take care of my staff and we’ll all be good. Happy days. And, that job was the first time in life, and I think probably I was really fortunate. I was only 19 at the time, but this insanely bright light bulb switched on inside of me, and I was like, this is this is incredible. I was doing a turnaround management. I was managing a business, doing one and a half mil turnover.

I had about 15 staff, a lot of young people who would work after school shifts. So this was their first job giving them opportunity at learning skills. And I just found a passion for the work that I was doing that I hadn’t experienced in anything else before. And, you know, in years after that, I went on and I worked in the legal industry thinking that I wanted to be a commercial litigator. Three years in law was enough for me to know that my strengths weren’t suited to that kind of a position. And then I landed in Cairns and I started working as a business consultant, and I worked a lot with small businesses, but also with larger businesses and doing regional economic development work and doing business sales.

I did a whole host of different jobs, but time and time again in my career, it was the memories of how happy and fulfilled I had felt in that little community based small business. Turning it around, taking care of those staff, making a profit for the owners because profit isn’t a dirty word. We’re all in business to make money.

And so, you know, when I when I was doing the end of months and so that we had produced a profit, I was really proud of myself. And it, it is a theme throughout my career, the thing that gets me out of bed and that makes me feel most fulfilled when I’m working, is helping people navigate the complexity of small business.

Because it’s not easy. It’s so hard. So we have that. We have that very much in common. And I, I get out of bed now, still pinching myself. Four years. I’ve been working for James now for four years, and I still get out of bed every single morning and think how on earth am I in my early 30s and I have somehow landed my dream job?

I always had aspirations of of being in leadership. And I always had aspirations of doing something that helped others. And somehow I’ve landed here. So early in my career, and I just feel incredibly fortunate that I have.

Justin
Yeah, well, that was going to be something I want to know. So for you. Yeah, you came from the due diligence team that went through all that process with us and then myself. We ended up buying the national business, and then you stuck your hand up for CEO to actually run it. What what drove that?

Rhiannon
a lot of things. A lot of things. if I’m totally honest, part of what drove it was that I’m a really big believer of making sure that when you’re working alongside people, those people are put in positions where they’re working to their strengths. And something that I think I’ve always been quite good at is identifying what strengths individuals have.

And then and then being able to say, well, how can we best leverage that strength? Because if you work someone to their strengths, you’re going to get better outcomes and they’re going to be happier because we’re going to be doing something that they actually love and feel passionate about. And you were our managing director for that first 18 months or so.

And, you know, you mentioned before there was three things you thought we needed to tackle and fix and overcome, and then happy Days. And, you know, it’s no secret that we did tackle those three things. And there was still lots of challenges that we were facing. And I could also say that the more your time was being spent on those sorts of things, the less you were able to focus on actually where your passion and your your real skill set lies which is in working with new business owners, potentially bringing them into the team.

And so part of it was that I could see that you weren’t being given the opportunity to work to your strengths. And I could say that, you were becoming, you know, frustrated that you were doing all the things you thought we needed to do, and it just wasn’t having the outcome that you thought it was going to have, or at least maybe not as quickly as you thought it might have had.

So part of it was that that I genuinely thought, and I mean, this sounds really kind of it sounds kind of young, know it all, but I genuinely thought that I had something more I could be bringing to the table. I felt that I had different strengths and different ideas and a different perspective, and because I hadn’t come from a background in franchising, I was totally naïve to franchising and I think in a way that’s a good thing.

And it’s been a bad thing. It’s been a bad thing because I’ve learned a lot along the way that I wish I knew before I started, but it’s been a good thing because I can look at the model and I can say, well, why don’t we do it this way? And maybe we need to hybrid between franchising and and a totally private kind of a model like it’s, it’s so I genuinely thought that I could bring a little bit more to the table.

You know, there was also just a tiny little bit of, well, actually, there was a lot of I want to challenge myself. And, you know, you and Darren got to a point where you said, we’re really we’re really impressed with the work that you’re doing. And we’d like to stick. We’d like you to stick around. You know, we’d like you to make a commitment to us.

And I went away and had a thought about that and I thought, yeah, I really do want to. I want to stick this out. I want to commit to this. I’ve really started to genuinely see in James, what you saw all along and what your business partner Darren saw when he came into the fold as well. And I thought, I really do want to stick this out.

I want to see where we can take this. I believe in the people that we have working on the team and our business owners, and I think we’ve got something incredible to offer. but I thought, you know what? I think I also have something more to add to the table. And so if I’m going to stick around, I don’t want to be 2IC forever.

So yeah, that’s kind of what led me to sticking my hand in the air. And then I’m also a firm believer in if you don’t ask for what you want, you’re not going to get it. You know that role of manager at my local general store? I put my hand in the air. I asked for it.

I said, hey, they were considering another woman who, you know, was in her 40s at the time, looks like a more stable, mature kind of a choice as opposed to this 19 year old. Right. And, they were considering her. And I actually got in the ear of one of the owners and I said, I want this, give me a shot.

And I said, what if you do it together? Said, no, I want to do this. I want to see if I can do this. I want to prove to you I can do this. And I was a little bit the same with James. I wanted I wanted the opportunity to show you that I had more and that I had ideas and that.

And that I could work even harder. Yeah, yeah.

Justin
Yeah. Awesome.

Rhiannon
Yeah, it was a lot of things. And I think, you know, I’ve, we’ve mentioned a couple of times your business partner Darren, who’s also an owner, and he, you know, when he first got involved in the network and it got introduced to him as a, as an idea to be a purchaser, it was the same things that he saw, you know, that you and I both say it’s the same across the three of us.

He, he’s an accountant in, in far north Queensland and.

Justin
and that’s a really interesting, interesting story in itself is yeah, I didn’t I’d never met Darren. And, but I was passionate about this business and it was up for sale, in a sense. And the previous owner approached me and I was like, I, I got no idea. There’s no way I can do this. And so I went and met Darren, got recommended to me, went and met my appointment, met him in his office for the first time, and the first appointment was just sharing, sharing about the business, sharing where it was that, where to come from, where it was going, all that sort of stuff.

We had just a general overview of the company and he said, look, I’ll go away, give it some thought, and how about we make another appointment, come back together and we’ll have a look. I’ll give you some more days on possibly how it could be structured, how you might be able to do an acquisition. And so that was our first meeting and literally came back for the second meeting.

And he sat down and he said, look, no pressure, but I just love this. I’d love to be a part of it. You know, just being able to help, families across Australia and, and to see, he said, I see the potential in this business. And that really is what literally how it all started. and, and then I think within a week or so you were brought into those discussions and.

Yeah. So it’s not like we’ve grown up. I often have people ask me, oh, you’ve known Darren for years. And I was like, well, no, we met because of this. and he has been just such a I’m sure you’d agree, having his wisdom and and business experience. And James wouldn’t be where it is today without his input and sort of the strength behind the scenes.

Rhiannon
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, it’s, I think one of our absolute strengths as a leadership team is that absolute collegiality in believing in the system and in the business and in its potential. And the same passion in all of us is what brought us all to James in the first place, and that is that we really just want to be able to help people navigate this complex world of business ownership.

So, you know, we’ve all got very different backgrounds. You know, you’ve come from management and sales and having a farm and and your own businesses and business consulting. I’ve come from law and marketing and business consulting and regional economic development and business sales. And he’s come from accounting and investment and property development and all sorts of things. And yet the underlying theme in all of it is that the three of us just want to be able, through James Home Services, to help everyday people start their own businesses.

And I think that makes us a pretty formidable leadership team. We’re always on the same page. You know, we have we have very healthy discussions about what the challenges are and where to go and what to do and how to get there. And but but at the end of the day, we are all aligned completely on that. You know, we want to do this because we’re helping people.

Yeah. That’s right. Well, I think maybe that’s a great place to end our first little episode in this series. That was just a little bit of an insight. Anything else to add, or shall we wrap up there.

Justin
I think, yeah. Good place to wrap up.

Rhiannon
Perfect. All right. Great. Thanks for joining us. And hopefully we’ll see you in the next one.

 

 

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