Four franchisors are putting their families first as they grow their franchise brands
By Gina Makkar
Working with family might come with challenges, but it also offers amazing rewards. Not only can you spend the day with your favourite people, you’ll develop a bond that only comes from building a business together. Learn how four franchisors foster a family-first mindset for unparalleled success at work and at home.
After becoming pregnant, Jennifer Desloges developed a condition that caused her to produce excess body hair. In searching for a solution, she discovered electrolysis and saw results within three months. “After seeing how electrolysis helped me, I decided to train as an electrologist so that I could help others. I didn’t want anyone to feel like I did because of a hair problem. What started as my curse became my blessing because it led me to my destiny of helping people.”
Jennifer’s journey led her to create what is now Jade Clinics. She opened her first clinic as a home-based business in Chilliwack, British Columbia in 1989. Jennifer credits her husband Marcel for playing a major role in the business. “He introduced me to electrolysis, retired to raise our children, and has worked with me from the beginning.”
Jennifer’s sister, Christine Brayshaw, was the first to come on board in 1990 and has worked for the company on and off over the years. In 1996, the family moved to Edmonton, Alberta and Jennifer started an accredited vocational school for electrolysis. Jennifer’s daughter, Janine Jost, joined the business in 1998 as a receptionist, and quickly saw the impact the clinics had on clients. Janine began training as an electrologist with Jennifer’s brother, Tony Thurston, making it a full family affair.
In 2006, the family moved backed to British Columbia and the business followed. Jennifer’s son, Marc Desloges, came on board after graduating from the University of British Columbia. “Marc has a strong business acumen which has helped to propel the business forward since he joined. Janine has many years of experience and a solid technical background as an electrologist. Together, they form a dynamic team that will eventually lead the business when I hand over the reins.”
Over the years, Jennifer has revamped the training program to develop a solid foundation, “We put a camera into our microscopes for more visibility when training. We can now correct even the slightest imperfections. We are 100 per cent confident in the quality of the training program we have created for our franchisees.”
Today, the company has 11 clinics, with big targets for the future. Jade Clinics has a goal to expand to 100 clinics across Canada in 10 years. Jennifer is determined to make that happen. “It’s a really big goal, but my wish is that every person who is frustrated with their hair situation will have a clinic nearby where they can fix their hair issue permanently.”
“The key to working with family is prioritizing each other,” says Jennifer. The family maintains a positive work environment by visiting a family psychologist to help with disagreements and decisions. “You are going to have problems, but you have to put family as the priority regardless of the obstacle. Our business is important, but if there is a disagreement, we’re going to figure it out. If you don’t have that type of family, a family business might not be a good option.”
Scholars Education Centre
Matt Baxter saw potential in Scholars Education and purchased the franchise system in 2018. The concept quickly grew to 48 locations.
Scholars’ tutoring and enrichment programs foster learning across the core subjects and offer additional resources in resiliency and mindfulness. An initial assessment provides a clear snapshot of how each child performs and customizes a plan to each child’s needs. From there, teachers support children as they complete material independently. “The teacher is an arm’s length away to help and review, so confidence and self-esteem is built by the fact that they can progress through material on their own. The magic is really in the proprietary curriculum,” says Matt.
Matt comes from an education-centric family. His mother Mary is a retired teacher who taught for 40 years. His wife, Dr. Danielle Glista, a professor at Western University, uses her audiology background to assist children with hearing loss. Matt’s brother Dan is the Chief of Radiology in Ottawa at the Montfort Hospital and Dan’s wife Melissa is a physician who holds a Masters of Medical Education. The idea is that Scholars guarantees results backed by science. “When I bought the company, the focus was to have the highest quality curriculum in the industry.” Matt’s two daughters are students at Scholars of London and he even has his godchildren involved: Chloe Wheeler’s mother is Dr. Christen Harris, who holds a PhD in Linguistics, while overseeing the French Department, and is a member of the Curriculum Advisory Board.
Centres are strategically located in plazas where caregivers can shop while their child is learning. In terms of growth, the franchise aspires to be Canada’s true education company. “It’s not about just slapping a maple leaf on the logo. There’s lots of smaller communities that need this. We’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we just wanted to go to all the top metropolitan areas and not help out the students in need that don’t have what major cities have in terms of educational resources.” They’ve recently managed to reach students in all parts of the country by moving all courses online in light of the global heath situation.
The family finds balance by working in different regions, each with their independent roles to fulfill. They come together during meetings of the advisory board. In fostering the family feel, Matt partners with franchisees who have demonstrated success and are leaders in their community. “I see each individual franchise owner as a business partner. With all the growth, we can afford to be very selective and want to ensure they are driven for the right reasons.”
Two of 12 children, Brian Bazely and his brother Luke wanted to start a business. They spent a year researching ideas and uncovered a niche in providing specialty transportation services. “It fit all the checkpoints, so we developed the business model and brand of Driverseat,” says Brian.
They launched in 2012 and Luke opened the first location in Barrie, Ontario. From there, they began franchising and now operate 70 locations across Canada and the Unite States. “We are on target to be double in size this year.”
The concept uses mid-size commercial vans to provide shuttle service and chauffeur service using a customer’s vehicle. Rides cover the gamut, from weddings and wine tours to transporting ambassadors. They also offer micro transit solutions, shuttling students from dorms to universities. A specialized level of service, drivers (referred to as chauffeurs) will even walk a patient to their hospital appointment to ensure they reach their destination. It’s the ultimate in peace of mind for families.
When it comes to working with family, Brian says the most important thing in any business partnership is trust. “We always fall back on the fact that we are lucky to be working with family because we already have inherent trust, and that’s a lifelong bond. When you start with that as a foundation, everything else becomes easy.”
In fact, Brian says it often takes people time to realize they are family. “If you came into the setting, you would more see a group of people working together to accomplish common goals.” As they expand, the company looks for partners who want to grow a large, sustainable business. The model allows franchisees to grow organically and start slowly, building a fleet and setting up an office as they become larger.
Brian’s daughter Dani recently came on board as the director of marketing, helping script the company’s new core values and elevate the diversity platform. She was recently named the Young Professional of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce. “She contributes far more than she extracts out,” says Brian.
On working with family, Brian suggests handpicking the people you will work with, and start by developing your governance model. “It controls how you conduct yourself every day and will reflect on every aspect of everything you do.”
Sam Osmow took a chance when he rebranded his little sandwich shop in Streetsville Mississauga and switched to Middle Eastern cuisine in 2001. The gamble worked, and Osmow’s quickly became a local favourite. Today, Sam, the owner and founder, works alongside son Ben, CEO, and daughter Bernadette, chief marketing officer.
They began to expand in 2015 by franchising to family and friends. Today, they operate 90 stores, with expansion plans for Calgary, British Columbia, and Manitoba. “Right now, our focus is on ensuring a strong start to Calgary markets, and we’ll expand from there,” says Ben. “We are very proud of our heritage and our Canadian heritage and appreciative of smaller communities that have welcomed us with open arms.”
To build a strong, sustainable brand, they’ve bolstered marketing efforts. Last year’s Toronto Raptors campaign prompted a large increase in sales and elevated brand awareness. “Once there was brand recognition, people were more inclined to get out and get into the stores,” says Ben.
As a family, they try to ensure clearly defined roles, and come together to discuss and rectify issues. “The most challenging thing is being biased toward one another. To avoid this, we’ve always made sure to have an open forum at Osmow’s.” Weekly head office meetings incorporate the voices of everyone on staff. “We talk about problems, ideas, and innovations, and allow anyone to voice their opinion, which takes the bias out of it.”
As with any company, they address new obstacles as they come along. “None of us has ever worked for a company that owns over 100 franchisees. It’s about figuring out how to go about things in the best possible way.” Systems have evolved from the early days, with fresh training programs and QA systems to ensure consistency.
As a family business, Sam says they look for partners who want to work with them as if they are family. For prospective franchisees, he says one of the benefits is their openness. “They are not waiting for orders from head office. They are part of the decision-making process, which I think franchisees love. It’s all about implementing strategies to ensure an open network.”
When it comes to family, The Osmow family says pre-set goals are key. “If it’s not clear, it’s going to be confusing, and you will have two people responding to scenarios in very different ways. Sit down and write everything out.”