From Closed Doors To ‘The Sky’s The Limit’!
In 2013, Stuart Gowans and his wife Paula won Totalspan’s Franchise Of The Year award, an amazing achievement, made that much more special by the fact they had only taken the business over 3 years earlier. When the previous owner of Totalspan Warragul closed their doors, entrepreneurial Stuart, who had been building Totalspan sheds as a subcontractor for more than 10 years, jumped on what he recognised as a golden opportunity.
“Because I was erecting the sheds previously and was known in the area, I was still getting people calling me up after Totalspan Warragul had closed, asking, ‘Can you get access to sheds? I still want to build a shed - are you interested?’” Stuart explains. “Totalspan wanted to continue in the area and they knew I knew the product. As for me, I was looking for someone with engineering that could supply a kit,” he says.
Turning around a troubled territory
But it wasn’t all roses for Stuart initially, “The first 6 months or so were tough because I was taking a business that had closed and was building it back up,” he recounts. However Stuart turned it around in short order and has continued to go from strength to strength.
“There’s strong growth - we’ve been growing at roughly 20% every year, for the last few years.”
For Stuart, one of the key benefits of Totalspan is the network of support he receives. “There’s a lot of support from head office. The management really listens to us and what our needs are.”
A Supportive Network Of Like-Minds
Stuart also enjoys collaborative relationships with his fellow franchisees and occasionally acts as a group representative, “I’m actually on what they call the FLT team, which has two franchisees from the north and two from the south. Other franchisees can deal with us, then we directly deal with head office on various matters, so there’s good, open communication.”
Annual conferences are another opportunity to network and gauge how business is travelling, “Most of the franchisees go every year and at the end of each day there’s plenty of relax time and you talk about how everyone’s going.”
Stuart says this open sharing of ideas and knowledge works because each franchisee pursues their own path to success, without egos getting in the way, “Yes, we’ve all got targets, we’ve all got our own goals of making money and building a business that we could resell, but people are open and say how it is. Basically anyone that’s open and friendly will fit in at Totalspan.”
Despite inevitable market fluctuations, Stuart says there’s nowhere else he’d rather be right now, “There’s no question – I’d say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he says.
“I’ve got no regrets whatsoever.”
“A couple of years ago, there were some tough times,” Stuart remembers, “But I look at things differently. I’m not worried about what the rest of the world is doing – I’m just ‘head down, bum up’ and lets go!”
Stuarts’s driven attitude is undeniably connected to his success in turning Warragul around and while no one can predict the future, he remains confidently optimistic, “I just put on another staff member to grow the business, so I think at this point, we’re going to grow another 10-15% this financial year. Give it another 4-5 years and I can’t see why I can’t double what I’m doing. I certainly think the opportunity’s there,” he enthuses.
“It’s a bright future. I really do look at the future and think the sky’s the limit.”
Stuart’s advice for new franchisees:
“Learn your product as much as you can. I think that’s been invaluable for me, being a builder and then going in to sell the product. Customers will say, ‘I want to do this’ and I can advise them and say ‘no you can’t do that, but you can do this and this’.
Know the opposition’s product as well. If you have a broad knowledge of the industry and know what you’re talking about when you speak with customers, you should have no worries.”
Favourite part of being a franchisee:
“When the business is selling sheds and making money, it’s obviously rewarding financially.”