Company Profiles May/June 2021 Previous Issues

Business-to-Business Support

Explore five franchises that provide essential B2B services across Canada

By Kym Wolfe

The pandemic has not been kind to many businesses, and more than a year after COVID-19 forced many into lockdown, the economy is still feeling waves of impact with small businesses being particularly hard hit. What about the companies that provide goods and services to those businesses?  

Some customers were lost as businesses were forced to shut their doors, some customers were gained as businesses scrambled to acquire the tools they needed to operate during the pandemic, from signage, plexiglass, and work wear, to flex space and remote financial services. Here, Franchise Canada examines five B2B franchises that provide essential services to their fellow business owners, and that have continued to operate through each wave of the pandemic.

Fully Promoted

As a company that provides branded products and promotional marketing solutions, Fully Promoted acted quickly when the pandemic hit, both on the supply side to source the products that customers would need, and on the sales side by launching an e-commerce platform to ensure orders would be processed quickly and efficiently. Fully Promoted franchise owners have strong community relationships and an understanding of local small business needs, says Yousuf Sandeela, CEO of Fully Promoted Canada. As this past year has shown, they greatly benefit from the franchise’s capabilities and buying power.

“We focused on the things that were in greatest demand like printed masks, hand sanitizers and antimicrobial pens, uniforms, and branded T-shirts that identified door-to-door delivery drivers,” says Sandeela. “Our stores were able to fill the gap and our franchisees were able to make an impact in the communities they live and work in.”

Most Fully Promoted franchises are owner operated. An ideal franchisee has management experience, marketing capabilities, and a customer service orientation. New franchisees receive intensive training and ongoing support, including one-on-one coaching geared to their individual needs. Because the parent company has a global presence with expertise in different time zones, franchisees can access live support around the clock, says Sandeela. “We have an ongoing dialogue with every franchise owner, and do a deep dive at least once a month, so we can focus on specific areas that they are struggling with.”

International Workplace Group

International Workplace Group (IWG) is a global leader in the flexible workspace industry, with 3,500 locations worldwide. The company operates 19 different serviced office and coworking concepts, allowing each customer to choose the solution that works best for their business.

“Over the past decade, the demand for flexible workspace has grown at an exponential rate,” says Wayne Berger, CEO of the Americas region for IWG. Experts predict that growth to continue. “COVID-19 has challenged companies to rethink their entire workplace portfolio and adapt to a mobile workforce. We are seeing more firms moving to a decentralized structure. Our aim is to give clients a tailored workspace with ultimate flexibility – convenient locations equipped with industry-leading technology that can be scaled up and down as circumstances change.”

IWG launched its franchise program in 2019, offering building owners and investor partners a business model with a strong return on investment. “We are looking for entrepreneurial partners who want to diversify their portfolio and are interested in taking advantage of the growth of the flex industry,” says Berger. “Franchise partners should have a minimum net worth of $3M and a minimum $1M in liquid assets per location, with organizational and financial capabilities to open a minimum of five locations over a two-to-three-year period. Our team works closely with franchisees to ensure they have a framework to find the right location and design and are able to grow their market footprint, backed by world-class operational and marketing support and equipped to deliver the quality customer service that IWG is known for.”

Ledgers Canada

Ledgers Canada provides a one-stop location for all small business accounting and financial services, from payroll and bookkeeping to business planning, incorporation, and corporate taxes. “Our systems have been based upon cloud technology for many years, and as a result, we were not really affected by the lockdowns and related limitations. We do not have to meet with our clients to gather documents and receipts; our automated systems do this for us daily,” says Gordon Haslam, president and CEO of Ledgers Canada.

From the beginning of the pandemic, Ledgers helped clients with grant and subsidy applications, and provided general advice and guidance that enabled clients to keep their doors open for business, he adds. “The most challenging aspect is keeping up with tax changes that could affect our clients, and maintaining our leading-edge technology to best maximize our efficiencies and profitability.”

Franchisees are kept up to date about changes through regular communication via intranet/private bulletin board postings and regular calls and conversation with the corporate management team.

While Ledgers franchisees need to have a business background with a basic knowledge of accounting and tax principles, they do not have to be accountants or bookkeepers. The franchise offers the option to outsource bookkeeping functions to staff at Ledgers head office. That allows franchisees to focus on client relations and business advisory services, and to further develop their client base. “The franchise owner needs to be present and visible in the local business community and put forth a consistent effort to develop their contacts, prospects, and clients,” says Haslam.

Print Three Franchising Corporation

During its 50 years in business, Print Three Franchising Corporation has continuously embraced technological advancements in the print industry. It was one of the first print franchises to adopt and develop web-to-print solutions for online printing, add web development and marketing tools, and partner with industry leaders to provide additional options like direct mail services, digital print embellishment, and large format signage. 

“Last year, the franchise pivoted quickly to produce COVID-19 related materials for its customers,” says Print Three’s president, Andrew Hrywnak. “Whether it was posters and floor graphics advertising social distancing and safety protocols, or partnering with companies producing essential medical equipment by printing the manuals, we were supporting businesses and providing essential products.”

“For the franchise owners themselves,” says Hrywnak, “Our first level of support revolved around helping them access government programs. We also worked with suppliers to offer deferrals on equipment leases in order to increase cash flow for our centres.”

“The pandemic also prompted us to initiate a complete redesign of Print Three’s website to provide easier online purchasing. With no face-to-face interaction, ecommerce became our number one way of dealing with customers,” he says.

Print Three had been fielding a lot of franchise inquiries that had to put on hold when the pandemic hit, but Hrywnak says it plans to restart the process in mid-2021.The brand’s growth is mainly through the rebranding of independent print shops that see the business benefits of joining the Print Three network and being able to offer a complete range of print, web, and marketing services to its customers.

SpeedPro Canada

SpeedPro Canada provides signs and graphics to businesses, from custom banners and vehicle wraps to window film printing and wall decals. “We are the only Canadian network specializing in large-format print solutions,” says president Stuart Burns. “We are not an expense for our clients; we offer an accountable investment with proven value in reaching sales goals and objectives.”

The company had a record year in 2019, but with COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, immediate adjustments were required. “We upgraded our connection with the network. We arranged for a resiliency coach to assist with stress and mental health. We developed a ‘COVID response’ signage package for our clients and were active in ‘shop local’ campaigns,” says Burns. “We developed new products such as no-touch smartphone chips and custom-cut plexiglass. We have long-term relationships with our suppliers, and one of our support teams focused on getting our vendors’ attention, so when it was hard to find plexiglass, our vendors were taking care of us.”

Burns is proud to note that SpeedPro Canada has won Canadian Franchise Association Awards of Excellence for eight consecutive years. “Our start-up training, support, and coaching is focused on developing franchise success,” says Burns. SpeedPro has a conversion program for existing small print companies, along with opportunities for new-to-the-industry candidates. The ideal franchise owner has high energy, is a great team leader, and while business development experience is beneficial, it’s more important that core values align with SpeedPro’s and that everyone in the family/household understands and supports the franchise commitment.

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