(Ambrosio’s note: This is the second interview in my 3-part series of interviews with some outstanding franchisees of MyDestination. Gerard Lynch of MyDestination Ireland has been involved with franchising for most of his career — first, as the Financial Controller for a franchise company, and then as a multiple unit franchisee of the same company. He became a franchisee of MyDestination in 2010 and brings with him a wealth of knowledge, experience, and insights from his previous franchise venture. Thank you, Gerard, for sharing your unique perspective with all of us!)
1. Can you tell us about your work background prior to becoming a franchisee of MyDestination?
I studied as an accountant before immigrating to the UK. Shortly after arriving in London, I became the Financial Controller for a franchise company called Snappy Snaps, a one hour photo processing high street business. At the time, Snappy Snaps had about 14 franchisees, mostly in London. They now have over 100. I worked with them from 1989 until 1994, during which time I purchased two franchises in London’s West End. I operated these franchises for a number of years and both stores were award winning stores. I sold both of them before returning to Ireland in 2001.
2. What other franchise concepts did you consider and what made you choose MyDestination?
Because I have been involved with franchising for most of my working life, I have constantly kept myself up to date with what new concepts are available in the franchise world. I look at many different concepts and became aware of MyDestination around 2007. At that time, they had around 20 franchises. I thought the concept was good but as I was involved with another business, I decided to pass on the opportunity at that time.
Around 2009, I was looking for a new business and went back through my old e-mails to refresh my memory on what I had been interested in and came across MyDestination again. I noticed that in a short period, they had grown from 20 or so franchisees to 65. I thought this was impressive growth. Also, I liked the concept of an online business that did not involve rent, insurance, stock, repairs and renewals, etc., etc.
I contacted James (co-founder of MyDestination) again and we took it from there.
3. What is a typical day like in your life as a franchisee?
Always something new! The pace of growth in both the customer base and the sites themselves is phenomenal. We are constantly growing the functionality and product side of the site. This means that most days require me to get up to speed with the latest developments.
I find it best to divide my week between days I work with clients and days I work on the site. Content is king but a business needs sales, so I try to split my time between both. I work on one aspect at a time, as otherwise I don’t feel I would get the best results from each.
On a site day, I would spend my time checking that the content is accurate and that new information I have come across or new articles that have been written are posted to the site. I would also spend some time on the Facebook and Twitter pages of the site, making sure that our visitors are getting updated all the time about what is happening in Ireland.
On a sales day, I am mostly out building relationships with new and existing clients — showing them how the site would best work with their business and the excellent multimedia that we can offer them. Meeting new people, taking great photos, and virtual tours. Of course, this can also mean dining out, going to banquets, and staying overnight in 5 star hotels!
4. Can you name 3 specific things that you’ve done for your business that have produced the greatest results?
I employed someone to help me with the content to keep the site always up-to-date, fresh, and accurate. You could spend all your day at your desk. You could write articles, Facebook posts, and Tweets and by the time you look up, the day has passed. In order to get away from the desk, I have employed someone that works as the Administrator for the site. This enables me to take more of an overview of “the business” rather than the site.
I’ve decided that the site needs to offer multimedia to each client. Now when I meet a client, I can show them how fantastic a listing can really look if the time is taken to do images, virtual tours, and videos. This does take more time but when you show the results, the client is always pleased. And when you show the possibilities to potential clients, you have an improved chance of getting the business.
I also attended the Annual Conference in Dubai. In a business like ours, you can very easily feel isolated. Your connection with your colleagues is only online and it is possible to feel that you are working alone. Attending the conference enables you to feed into the energy and confidence that everyone brings to the company. Great ideas flow from the conference room to the bar (especially the bar). The whole global idea really came across and you could clearly see how so many people working together would create an unstoppable force.
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 for me is probably the first sale! I enjoy sales and no matter what your business is or how brilliant the concept, without sales it’s dead. So to take on board a new business, go out there and sell, and see it work is great.
I haven’t met the lowest point yet and really don’t expect to. I’m probably protected from it because I have been in franchising so long. I’m not surprised when things don’t go my way and I’m not too amazed when they do. If I mange my own expectations, I think I have a good chance of avoiding lows.
6. What mistakes have you made as franchise owner that have taught you the biggest lessons?
Not thinking enough about the content and not putting a proper plan in place to manage and administer the site. Populating the site took much more time than I had anticipated and still does. This ties you to your desk so I need to manage this better to be able to get out there.
7. If you were to speak with a prospective franchisee about the profit potential of a MyDestination franchise, what would you say?
The model is easy to follow so most people coming in don’t ask how much can I make. They can see clearly that X number of clients means Y amount of revenue — and the costs are really quite low.
As I said earlier, compare this business to any retail business. If you don’t open the shop on a Sunday, you pay rent, water rates, security, and you generate no revenue. You have cash tied up in stock and because of the initial set up costs, you probably have a working capital overdraft, a term loan, and possibly an equipment lease. With MyDestination, if I stay in bed on Sunday, someone somewhere will switch on their laptop and visit my site!
8. Can you describe your working relationship with the home office of MyDestination?
So far, excellent. I can honestly say there are no outstanding issues and anything I have raised has been dealt with fairly. Because of my past experience, I have high expectations of how a franchisor should interact with the franchisees and what his responsibilities are and so far I have no complaints. In addition, the team at head office are serious about what they do. Their work load must be massive given that so many of us are depending on them for different things. No mail goes unanswered — even the stupid ones when you realize you know the answer just after you press send.
9. What do you like most about being a franchisee of MyDestination and what do you like least?
What do I like most? Mostly the fact that it’s constantly improving. I’ve only been with them a few months and in that time, the company is unrecognizable from when I joined. New brand, new expertise in head office, new multimedia options, and new revenue streams.
I was never into social media before I joined, so now I have a steep learning curve on how all these different tools can help grow my business. I prefer my social activity to be in a pub with some music, a pint, and good company!
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your franchise?
Yes, the people involved are what really drive any business and the people involved here are fantastic people. From Tanzania to Prague, from Ireland to Brazil, right across the world, you have people of different colors, creeds, sex, size, and shape all having great fun building brilliant businesses that are part of one whole — that can’t be bad.