Company Profiles November/December 2021

Here to Help

How The UPS Store found franchise success through a commitment to service and relationships

By Jessica Burgess

The UPS Store brand is instantly recognizable, with franchise locations in communities throughout the country and beyond. Back in the 1980s when the company was originally established, it was called Mail Boxes Etc., a nod to the founding concept of providing folks with a convenient alternative to the traditional post office. “Both the U.S. and Canadian networks were rebranded to become The UPS Store in the early 2000s,” explains David Druker, president of The UPS Store in Canada, adding that there are currently more than 350 franchise locations across the country.

“Part of what sets us apart from our competitors is that The UPS Store offers full-service solutions in a self-serve world,” says Druker, noting that the company’s business solutions evolve with customers’ needs. “Most people, especially those involved in small businesses, are looking for a spare set of hands, a way to increase their team or access to resources in a way that’s cost-effective and efficient,” Druker notes. This is perhaps more important today than ever, in the constantly changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. “At no other time,” adds Druker, “has it been so clear how well-positioned The UPS Store is to be that office-away-from-the-office for our customers.”

Signed, sealed, and delivered

“The UPS Store entered into my life much like it does for other people with small businesses; I had an urgent need, and The UPS Store was there to help,” Druker shares. “I was in Florida in 2004 and needed a legal document printed and sent back to Montreal as soon as possible. I used a store in Hallandale, Florida, and was immediately impressed by the engagement and service level.” He adds, “Now, I’ve been involved in franchising since 1993, and I know from experience that often the difference between one business and another is relationships, not price.”

Indeed, Druker was so impressed that he decided he wanted to get involved with the company. He acquired the rights for a store in Quebec, moving quickly to gain the rights to the Quebec region. He then acquired the Master Licence for the brand in Canada. From his beginning with The UPS Store as a customer to his place now as president, Druker has continued to believe in the same core business ideal: “Our people and the relationships they build with their customers are the ‘secret sauce’ for The UPS Store in Canada. There’s nothing that we do that people can’t source elsewhere, albeit with less convenience. But it’s the relationships our franchisees have with their customers that keeps them coming back.”

Community connections

One such franchisee is Adam Rabinowitz, who operates a location in downtown Toronto. Rabinowitz began his relationship with The UPS Store by helping a family friend with their business in the fall of 1998. He’s worked with the company ever since, with his first experience in franchising leading him to his current position as a franchise owner. “After many years of working behind the counter, I grew to love the customer interactions and the relationships we built over many years,” shares Rabinowitz. “In 2011, I had the opportunity to take the leap from employee to owner and have never looked back.” He credits the franchising system for providing him with the framework for success while also allowing him to find his own identity as a business owner. While each and every location will offer the same core services and products, “stores will find their niche in the marketplace to build upon the success of the core offerings.”

Across the country, that personalized service is something that the brand is proud of, and during the pandemic, the company has been able to adapt to customers’ and franchisees’ personal needs in unprecedented ways. “Rather than any one individual small business owner having to interpret and adapt to protocols, our franchise business consultants were able to provide early and specific direction, so our retail owners knew how to provide their essential services in a manner that was safe for staff and clients,” explains Druker.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened our position as industry leaders, as our network was deemed an essential service and we were able to stay open for business during lockdowns,” adds Rabinowitz. These safe customer connections have been vital during such uncertain, and often stressful, times.

Strong support systems

Just as franchisees support their clients, the franchise’s corporate offices in Canada support its franchisees. “In our industry, our customers have lots of choice, especially in the larger city markets,” shares Rabinowitz. “But at the end of the day, when you see a repeat customer—learning their name, learning about their business and family, and creating a personal relationship with them—you can provide them with a service they need or a solution to a problem they have, which is very rewarding.” Well-supported franchisees are able to support their customers, and so it’s not surprising when Rabinowitz speaks about his experiences of camaraderie with other franchisees and with head office. “Whether it’s approving or helping with creative material for in-store marketing, or answering operations-related questions, head office is always an email away and are quick to respond. This is a fantastic asset to have when operating the business.”

“We like to say that when it comes to The UPS Store, customers come for the recognizable brand but return for the people,” Druker adds, noting how important it is to head office that franchisees feel supported so that they can best serve their clients. This kind of personal, reliable support has never been more important. “To our network of locations, the designation of being an essential business ensured that our retail owners and their families were still able to open and operate their businesses. For our customers, though, whose workforces were now working remotely, our services ensured that their businesses were able to adapt and continue operating,” explains Druker.

Looking forward

The UPS Store is the largest retail copy, print, and shipping outlet in Canada, Rabinowitz says, and because it follows the franchise model and is owned and operated by private individuals who have vested interest in the business, there is “a strong network of stores, which has only strengthened our reputation as leaders in the industry.”

For those interested in becoming a part of this network, Druker advises that, “An ideal candidate is someone who loves working with people and who’s willing to be active in their local community, someone who can follow a system but has an entrepreneurial spirit.”

“There’s enough structure to provide you the right framework for success,” says Rabinowitz, who notes that such guidance has provided stability when it matters most. “My experience as a franchisee has been nothing short of great,” he adds.

Druker’s description of an ideal franchisee speaks to the company’s core mission, and the reason he became a part of The UPS Store himself: “Someone who wants to work within the business model that we’ve developed over the years, and someone who knows what it feels like to be in need of support and is willing to deliver on that need.”