Pink Spaghetti PA Services has come a long way since the first franchise launched at the end of 2012. One of the central tenets of the franchise business was a commitment to providing unlimited support to franchisees. Franchise experts told them this was not possible from the start. Not only have they proved them wrong, but they have found a way to continue to maintain that level of support as they have grown.
Their efforts to address the issue have won them this year’s Workingmums.co.uk’s Top Franchise Award for Innovation.
The judges said: “We feel Pink Spaghetti has carefully identified future challenges to their model of unlimited support and adapted their business model to ensure that this remains a core commitment to franchisees. They cater to a wide and comprehensive range of learning styles and have created an engaging business model and structures to ensure they keep ahead of emerging trends.”
So how did they do it? “We put everything in place last year to prepare for a growth in franchisee numbers this year. We were also aware that it is not just the new franchisees who need support,” says co-founder Vicky Matthews.
“Every time someone comes in they need training. Every time they reach a first they need support,” says her partner Caroline Gowing.
They decided to work smarter and brought in video training. “We were finding there were new things people were being asked to do that they didn’t know how to do or couldn’t remember, for instance, creating a Facebook page. Things they had been trained on, but had never or rarely used. Twenty per cent of tasks were causing 80% of calls for support. So we did videos on those things and it reduced our workload overnight. People loved them,” says Caroline.
They can not only watch the video, but pause the bits they don’t understand. Pink Spaghetti now do videos of anything they get queries about and put them on Zoom so they can screen share with franchisees. “It’s like we are looking over their shoulder,” says Caroline. The videos are all curated in Pink Spaghetti’s learning hub which is on their new intranet along with the manual, templates and other documents people need. It also has a ‘newbies’ section as well as a pre-franchise section which introduces the franchise and has information about the training process. “Some people learn through video and some through text so we have both,” says Caroline. The intranet launched in the Spring and is already proving a big boon and has much more potential to explore, say the two co-founders. It runs alongside a closed Facebook group where franchisees can exchange tips, support and ideas.
Mentoring and training have also been adapted so that Caroline and Vicky are freed up to focus on looking at the year ahead, anticipating any issues that might arise so they can invest early in getting franchisees ready.
They have brought in a team member to deliver weekly mentoring sessions which continue for around six weeks after training has finished and then become less frequent. These allow the franchise to review how the franchisees are feeling at any given stage in their franchise journey. “We can identify if they are where they want to be,” says Caroline. “It helps us to keep in touch without them having to ask for help.”
She adds that there are certain times outside the initial training period where franchisees might need additional support, for instance, if they are looking to scale up. One area many business people struggle with is employing staff – 12 out of Pink Spaghetti’s 37 franchises are employers. “We are seeing more of the business life cycle and are becoming more knowledgeable about what franchises need at different stages,” says Vicky.
There are also different personal issues that come up, such as pregnancy. Caroline says head office offers support, putting women in touch with others who have been in similar positions so they can consider their options, for instance, delegating to an employee or outsourcing to another franchisee while they are on maternity leave. There is a lower cross franchise rate for outsourcing to another franchisee. Franchisees also help each other out if there are other workload problems.
Another area they have tweaked is training. Pink Spaghetti’s training manager’s hours and remit were increased to look at pinch points where franchisees might be struggling to keep up, for instance, with different Facebook changes. Initial training is followed by practical ‘homework’ where franchisees have to carry out certain tasks for a fake customer, the Pink Spaghetti Florist. This checks they have taken the initial training on board and is followed up by a second round of training. “It means they can practise in a safe environment and then hit the ground running with more confidence,” says Caroline. “It also reduces the number of queries we get.”
The franchise has also helped out with issues such as GDPR, providing legal training through daily videos, stored on the learning hub. Vicky said: “We are office experts and we need to help our franchisees help their customers. It’s really important from a support perspective that they can keep up to date.”
Vicky and Caroline have a strategic overview of the business and keep an eye on future developments, such as website development and training needs. One area they are looking at is providing more regional meetings to supplement their annual face to face networking conference. This will allow them to stay visible as Pink Spaghetti’s leaders, but to ensure face to face support mechanisms are in place as the franchise grows.
“We have done a lot in the first couple of years and now our franchises are in the mid-stages of development,” says Vicky. “We need to focus more on that area so we continue to be successful so that when they come to the end of their five-year franchise agreement they will re-sign. We would not want to lose all the fantastic people we have recruited.”