Franchise chain first to achieve gender diversity
With 50% of the senior management tea made up of women, the current line-up at Supa Quick can be described as young, dynamic and ambitious in its aims to change the face of retail as we know it We caught up with Adeshni Sewbaran Business Development Manager for the franchise chain, who let us in on some of the secrets behind the Group’s success and offered a sneak preview of what’s to come.
Tell us a little about yourself Adeshni, where you come from and your current role within Supa Quick.
Now two years with Bridgestone, my previous experience lies in equally male-dominated industries, among them Distribution, Retail, Manufacture, Mining, Automotive (where I spent 14 years), Gas and Oil. Of course, the principles of Retail remain the same, irrespective of the industry you find yourself in. One of my current portfolios is to source new business opportunities
and possible partnerships within a highly competitive retail sector, but also to grow brand awareness so that Supa Quick becomes the first choice to come to the mind of a prospective entrepreneur looking to buy a franchise. Identifying and securing business partnerships is vital in a world that is ever changing, if we are to differentiate ourselves from our competitors in the market. This is another one of my current roles within Supa Quick, to find those differentiators that create brand relevance in the consumer’s mind.
Not an easy feat in this market. How do you go about convincing the consumer to spend his money at one of your stores, when there are so many opposition stores? The market is saturated.
As a team, initially put together by our Franchise Director, Morne Dreyer, we are continuously exploring possible new value offerings for our customers so that they not only receive a reputable product and quality service, but a number of value-added services as well, that will entice the to support our stores. That four out of the eight members of our senior team are female, has created a diversity pool within the company bringing with it a different perspective of thinking which is useful in our quest to remain relevant in a market that is constantly evolving. Our new Slogan, ‘More than a Tyre Expert’, sums up the direction that Supa Quick is headed in.
Each of our 196 stores across the country conduct minor services, and we are in the throes of building a dedicated academy that will also enable them to branch out into major vehicle services. This, in addition to providing a complete underbody service offering that includes tyres, brakes, shocks, batteries and so on. Our franchisees are dedicated to working towards this common objective, to provide a full-fledged solution to our customer base alongside superior service across the entire chain of stores.
Tell us about some of the value-adds you are currently offering.
One example is our ‘Free Tyre Damage Guarantee’ on the Firestone product, which is exclusive to Supa Quick. This is a powerful marketing tool for us. The Firestone brand is well known and highly respected in South Africa. Now backed by a tyre damage guarantee which the consumer will not have to fork out for during these difficult economic times, it is an important value add, and one that is paying off. In a bid to go further and beyond what our competitors are offering, we recently also partnered with a licence renewal partner, which offers our customers the opportunity to apply and renew their vehicle licences at our stores, while their vehicle is in the fitment bay.
Via a unique QR code, which is given out at the entrance to the store, the consumer can now complete the entire renewal process online, at a fraction of the cost of what similar service providers in the market are charging.
This is an exciting development, Adeshni. Will this service be available throughout your stores?
We are beginning the roll-out in Gauteng first, in April. This will be followed by Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Kwazulu-Natal and the Cape. We have 11 Area Managers established around South Africa who are providing the right support structure from a Franchisor perspective, physically helping and supporting our franchisees at grass roots level, to alleviate the frustration of dealing with the Franchisor, a strategy that is working well.
So, what sort of feedback are you receiving from your franchisees on the current service levels they are receiving from Head Office?
Realistically, it is impossible to please everyone, but given the disconnect of the recent past, where the franchisee did not feel ‘heard’, Morne Dreyer and the team have put a strong structural support in place, in order to rebuild trust with the network. This is making a big difference and I am starting to see a major shift, with franchisees more willing to share data and information. More important, we are getting lots of referrals by way of store conversions, which demonstrates that trust barriers are being mended.
How do you feel about some of your store owners flaunting multiple brand alliances?
We don’t have a problem with it. Putting unnecessary restrictions in place is not helpful, as we understand that they need to make things work in their businesses, in a highly competitive environment. Our network is made up of intelligent, entrepreneurial men and women and we respect that. Obviously, in return, we expect a certain level of confidentiality. Trust is a two-way thing. That being said, bear in mind that Supa Quick now also has a multi-brand, open channel strategy in place, with only 50% of their sales geared towards the Bridgestone/Firestone brands. For the remaining 50%, they are welcome to market and sell competitor brands. One of my duties is negotiating national deals on competitor brands. We will also be introducing a ‘fighting brand’ very soon, which will enable them to provide the hard-pressed motorist with a less expensive, but credible Chinese brand, that is exclusive to Supa Quick.
So, does this mean this brand will no longer be available through any competitor stores?
Correct. This particular partnership – now almost eight months in the making – is a significant game changer for us, and we are very excited to announce it and roll it out in the next few weeks. What is more, we are also looking at tying up with a 4×4 partner in the near future, while also growing our mobile fitment van contingent which piloted in Mpumalanga last year.
As you stated earlier, the South African retail market is largely saturated, and this has led us to doing a lot of research in cross-border markets, with us currently exploring possible business opportunities in a few SADAC areas. We have stores in Swaziland and Namibia but we have engaged in the above region and investigating sites in Mozambique and Botswana
So, are you actively looking to grow your current footprint of stores?
Nine new stores are in the pipeline for this year, and this is only the beginning. For the
past two years, we focused primarily on building internal relationships, but our focus is now shifting. Bear in mind that Supa Quick pioneered franchising in the tyre retail sector. We have come to realise that we need to become a disruptor in the market, once again, via strategic positioning, if we are to regain our former position as market leaders.
I am personally working very closely with property developers who are becoming aware of Supa Quick’s growth path and objectives to be represented in strategic key areas, and this too, is having results. We were once close on 300 stores. While we are not actively striving towards that number, perhaps 250 stores, that are strategically placed to bring value to the market, would be a good number to strive for.
More important, we want Supa Quick to regain its former position in the market, to be viewed as the number one choice in retail fitment, for both the consumer and the entrepreneur.
What are you doing to attract prospective entrepreneurs to your Franchise?
Internal investment is one way we ar approaching this. The Graduate Programme led by Bridgestone, has benefited us greatly. Four suitable candidates have already come from this, with two being offered permanent positions. Externally, we are focusing heavily on digital transformation via the use of socia media in order to attract the 18-35 age group. Thanks to our team of young dynamic managers and the help of our agencies, wh keep bringing new ideas to the table, we are creating and increasing brand awareness.
This is evident from the growing number of enquiries we are getting from various social media channels. I would add, the new look and feel of Supa Quick has attracted a growing number of young professionals, particularly females. The tyre trade is no longer seen as a dirty backyard operation, but rather, an exciting and dynamic work space that offers a myriad of career opportunities.
How are individuals in this age group able to raise the necessary finance t buy into the Supa Quick franchise?
As we are not looking to set up our businesse for failure, we ask for 60% un-incumbent, together with some exposure in franchising Many of these prospective new partners have ha previous experience with franchising via family connections, and this is vital in the selection process. We recently partnered with Nedbank to negotiate a discounted structure, in order to make it easier for young entrepreneurs looking to acquire a franchise to access funds.
What are some of the personal an professional challenges you are facing in this position?
The multi-brand aspect of the business coupled with ongoing efforts to obtain competitive pricing on a national level, is very challenging. Secondly, the digital transformation that is needed on e-commerce platform, is proving challenging with the network, which tends to cling on to more traditional methods to conduct business. The world is moving in this direction, however, so we will continue to highlight the need to meet growing e-commerce demand from customers.
Thirdly, and as previously mentioned, differentiating ourselves from our competitors takes a deal of planning strategy and patience. Thankfully, we have an amazing team. It’s been a long road but we are beginning to see the rewards. On a personal front, juggling the demands of my working career with motherhood and the needs of extended family, remain a challenge, but one that I’m willing to face head-on. The Supa Quick family has rewarded me where I feel empowered everyday to do better and be greater.