The Canadian Franchise Association’s Awards of Excellence celebrate Grand Prize winners, Little Kickers and MaxWell Realty
By Kym Wolfe
Most franchise systems will tell you that the key to their success is their franchisees. Each year, a confidential survey of franchisees is used to measure their satisfaction with the supports and resources they’re receiving from their franchisor. The franchise systems that receive the highest ratings are recognized through the Canadian Franchise Association’s Awards of Excellence program.
This year, the Grand Prize winners are MaxWell Realty and Little Kickers. Franchise Canada spoke to both franchisors and their franchisees to discover what it is that makes these two companies stand out in their respective industries.
Little Kickers received the award in the non-traditional franchise category. The brand is an international franchise established in the UK in 2002. Since entering the Canadian market in 2009, it’s grown to 52 locations in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia, that are owned by 26 different franchisees.
The soccer program is designed to help 18-month to seven-year-old children develop high quality soccer skills, as well as important pre-school learning concepts such as colour and number recognition, sharing, following instructions, and using imagination—all delivered with a “fun first” approach.
“There has been very little turnover of franchisees, so we’re a pretty close group,” says Frank Stanschus, managing director, Canada. “The pandemic really cemented that and brought us even closer together.” As soon as lockdowns were put in place, the company transitioned its normal monthly meeting to a weekly occurrence. Everyone brought their ideas and experiences to the table as the group worked together to chart the best path forward.
“It would’ve been very difficult to operate at all during the pandemic without the support of our head office and franchisee network. We had to constantly pivot and abide by the ever-changing rules set out by the province and local health units,” says Clark Webster, who opened two Little Kickers territories, in London in 2016 and 2017, then Brantford/Woodstock/Stratford in February 2019. “I can’t emphasize enough how fortunate I am to work with so many supportive individuals who would do anything in their power to help me succeed as a business owner. I’m constantly in contact with other franchisees regarding marketing, product offerings, employee hiring, training, and more.”
Krystal Nichols has been operating Little Kickers in Guelph for nine years, and while she’s always appreciated the franchise team, this year that connection to a network of like-minded people was especially important. “We all worked together—the Canadian Director of Coaching, head office people like the Operations Manager, all of the franchisees—to help figure out how to modify programs, move classes online, and prepare for when restrictions lifted. When B.C. re-opened, there was so much interest, I sent uniforms from my stock out to B.C. franchisees so that they could meet demand.”
Stanschus notes, “Our franchise support covers all angles of the business—product, customer service, regulatory environment, business strategy and growth, HR training, and IT. But Little Kickers’ support is not one-directional. We all have a role to play in supporting each other. That involves franchisees helping and advising each other, as well as franchisees supporting the franchisor. It’s critical to listen to our franchisees, as they hear and see what happens in the real world, and that’s a key input to our strategic plans.”
To that end, the company chooses its franchisees very carefully, he adds. “They’re excited by the close-knit relationships in our network and understand that we rely on each other to be successful. They’re driven by long term success goals rather than short term profits. They have a passion for our brand, understand they have a role in the overall image and perception of our company, and are willing to share their previous experiences with our network to make our company better.”
Currently, Stanschus says Little Kickers’ priority is to help existing franchisees get fully re-established post-COVID-19. “We would love to expand into Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, and that will be a focus area for us going forward.”
MaxWell Realty received the award in the traditional franchise category. It has more than 900 agents in 40 different communities across Western Canada. While other real estate franchises offer similar marketing and business management tools to their brokers, it’s usually at an additional cost. MaxWell Realty includes all tools as a standard part of the franchise package.
“Our brokerage support and system includes unparalleled tools and services that are normally costly and difficult to obtain for agents and franchisees,” says Brad Agnew, director of franchise development. “Our franchise offices are able to offer agents advanced tools and systems, which help with agent recruitment and retention. We’ve developed a MaxWell app, which is really useful for homebuyers, and is just one example of how we’re continuously working to get more tools into agents’ hands, which ultimately helps our franchise owners to be successful.”
An ideal MaxWell Realty franchisee has experience in the real estate market, is networked and connected in the community, possesses leadership skills, and has a good understanding of processes and systems.
MaxWell Realty was established in Calgary in 1999 and moved to Edmonton after being purchased by president Bill Tarrabain and his partners in 2017. “Bill is well known and respected across the real estate industry,” says Canyon Creek franchise owner, Roger Arsenault. “His experience, along with the tools and overall support the franchise provides, ensures all new realtors and brokers have what’s needed to be successful in the real estate business.”
The brand’s MaxWell University offers training to all new agents to help them understand and implement the various tools, an enormous online library of training resources, and access to industry-specific courses taught by Richard Robbins and many other well-known trainers. The franchisor also conducts site visits and holds regularly scheduled meetings with its franchise owners.
Tarrabain says that new franchisees usually find they have access to a tight knit community of support, with other franchise partners offering advice and information to complement the formal training and resources that MaxWell Realty offers. He sets the tone with his willingness to share his knowledge, and that has led to a culture of mutual support. Franchisees respect each other’s skill sets and are openly helpful to fellow franchisees.
“If I run into an area where I need some guidance, I know who to call in the MaxWell network,” says Arsenault, who also gets calls from franchisees who want to tap into his expertise.
COVID-19 brought unique challenges to the real estate industry, where direct contact with clients was still required. “It was difficult for agents working out in the community, and ensuring they had the proper support to continue working in a safe and effective way was one of our biggest challenges,” says Agnew. Protocols were put in place to ensure that both agents and their clients were protected.
“MaxWell Realty kept forging ahead, by adding new technology for all realtors to use, and continued to provide support through virtual meetings,” says Arsenault. “They kept in touch and ensured that we were aware of any and all government [financial support] programs.”
While MaxWell Realty will continue to focus on growth in Alberta and eastern BC, there’s now a franchise location in Manitoba. “We’re in discussion with potential franchisees in Vancouver, Victoria, and Toronto,” says Agnew, who envisions cautious but steady growth in the coming decade. “We’re building visibility and brand awareness and want to ensure that we can provide full support to all new franchisees.”