(Ambrosio’s note: When I watched the YouTube video of MyDestination’s Franchisee Conference in Dubai, I was so impressed by this dynamic, energetic, and diverse group of franchisees. I knew that their individual stories would be great for the blog. With the kind help of James Street, co-founder of MyDestination, I’m very happy to share with you a series of 3 exclusive interviews with some remarkable franchisees of the company. First on the list is Mike Watt, owner of MyDestination New Zealand, who joined the franchise this year. Mike shares his unique perspective on being a new owner in the early stages of his franchise journey. Thank you, Mike, for sharing your story with us!)
1. Can you tell us about your work background prior to becoming a franchisee of MyDestination?
I spent 17 years working for both small companies and global corporations in marketing and communications in the UK. My final role involved working with senior executives to communicate important company-wide issues to 10,000 employees.
2. What other franchise concepts did you consider and what made you choose MyDestination?
I wanted to find a franchise that addressed three key elements: it was Internet-based (no fixed assets like premises); it was in a sector that I was passionate about; and it had great franchisee support with a vision that I agreed with.
I looked at several Internet franchises, but often they were little more than a poorly designed website with little support. I would not commit to a franchise until I saw a website that impressed me and I was confident would continue to develop. Buying a website that looked the same in 12 months was not an option — a website needs to evolve with its audience, to retain and build.
When I came across the MyDestination website, I took notice. The clean, simple design looked great and I could immediately see the competitive advantages of the core business concept — “local insight on a global scale.” When I met Neil and James, I could tell these guys had a passion for the development of the business and were buzzing with ideas to fully develop the vision they had.
For me, our business is a collection of business owners all working together with one common goal — the development of the MyDestination brand. That’s the strength of the brand — a pooled resource of global knowledge and skills.
3. What is a typical day like in your life as a franchisee?
Working in the corporate world, you hear the cliché “no day is the same” all the time. For the first time in my career, that cliché is a reality.
My day involves meeting with local business owners to sign them up to the website, writing useful travel insight, and taking photos and videos to build multimedia profiles to showcase businesses on the site. I’ll soon be taking photos and jumping off New Zealand’s tallest building, having signed them up to the site — all in a day’s work! The day also includes communicating local travel insight on social marketing channels and of course, admin work.
4. Can you name 3 specific things that you’ve done for your business that have produced the greatest results?
Market Research – I did a lot of research into New Zealand, looking at visitor demographics, analyzing the New Zealand tourism sector, understanding the travel patterns of visitors to New Zealand, and looking into Google keyword search terms for New Zealand. This all helped me build a website that meets the needs of both local and international travelers — a “give them what they want” approach.
Use My Business Plan – Most people will have a business plan before they start, but how many actually use it and adapt it? I like the phrase “work smart, not hard.” It’s very easy to run around trying to generate sales but before long you can end up being too tactical and not strategic. By having an up-to-date plan and continually reviewing it, I can step back and assess if our effort is being put into the right areas to achieve the best results.
Put Myself in the Customer’s Shoes – I always put myself in the role of the customer before I have a business meeting. Why should they care about my website? What am I offering that is of value to them? I make sure I ask myself all those tricky questions that I think they would ask and prepare accordingly. And I never approach a customer in the same way — I always tailor my approach to reflect their business needs.
5. Can you share the highest point and lowest point of your franchise journey so far, and what lessons have you learned from them?
The highest point is signing my first customer to the MyDestination New Zealand website — the best confirmation that the site is a great product. Lowest point? Luckily, we’ve not really had any. However, the days before I met with my very first customer, self-doubt did creep in. Will I be able to sell? Will customers like the website? Have I got the price right? The answers turned out to be yes, yes, and yes.If you’ve got a product you believe in, you’ve got the right foundation to build a business. I would not have liked to have gone to that first customer meeting with a product I was not confident in.
6. What mistakes have you made as franchise owner that have taught you the biggest lessons?
Make sure you meet the right person — the decision maker. I’d previously wasted time hoping to close a deal with a general manager of a restaurant, only to realize I’m not talking to the person who controls the budget and makes the purchasing decisions. You’re left with a potential situation where someone else will try to sell your business to their boss. You need to be doing that.
7. If you were to speak with a prospective franchisee about the profit potential of a MyDestination franchise, what would you say?
I’d say you have a great product, and you’ve got fantastic support to help build, run, and sell your product. The profit potential is down to your local market and your skills.
8. Can you describe your working relationship with the home office of MyDestination?
Long distance — I’m in New Zealand! No, it’s great. The team is very accessible, open, and friendly. They are very responsive to your specific requests. We have regular updates from the co-founders on strategic issues, and updates from the product development team on latest features to be implemented into the site. With the franchisee newsletter, we have regular hints and tips to help improve our sites and fine tune our selling skills. The franchisee forum is another useful platform where fellow franchise owners share knowledge and tips based on real experiences.
9. What do you like most about being a franchisee of MyDestination?
I have the freedom that comes with being my own boss, but the benefits of being part of a community of like-minded individuals.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about MyDestination New Zealand?
Incredibly informative, always updated, beautifully designed, MyDestination New Zealand (www.mydestination.com/newzealand) is the only website you will ever need when researching and booking your trip to New Zealand.