For three weeks, I worked with 15 to 20 other franchise hopefuls in a classroom and in the mock store environment. We were taught theory in the classroom sessions and then headed to the mock store to put our training to use.
Training was very good and stressful at the same time. One of the first things we were told was there would be a test every week and to continue in the program, it was mandatory to pass each one with a minimum score of 80 per cent. Anything below that grade would be a fail and if you failed once, you would be sent home.
Going into the first test, I was slightly nervous, as there was a lot at stake; however, I had done the work and was confident in how I’d prepared. If you take the training seriously, read the materials they provide and understand them, you will be fine.
Their instructors focused on teaching us proper food handling standards and making sure everyone knew what they were supposed to know and understood why it was important. Baskin-Robbins makes sure food safety remains a priority for franchisees. We need to be confident in the products we serve, as our customers’ health and experience are of the utmost importance.
When I returned to Toronto as a franchisee, I was more confident I could run my business even better.
I would say the entire process, from first signing up to training, took eight months. I opened my doors on April 13, 2017.
Open for business
Now that I’ve been open for a few months, I’ve gotten a taste of what owning my own business is like. With any new endeavour, there is a learning curve with a couple of challenges along the way. For me, right now, maintaining my finances, keeping on top of my accounting and making sure my inventory is complete and correct are my main areas of focus. I want to make sure everything is as it’s supposed to be. I’ve also had to learn how to be realistic about my goals and rethink where my business fits in my personal life. It is a big time commitment, but
I wouldn’t have it any other way. I understand the early stages of developing a business are important because they set the standard for how the business will run in the future. First impressions are lasting impressions, too. Consistency with customers and quality is an on-going priority.
I am focusing on how to run a proper store instead of finding tricks or shortcuts. Coming into a franchise location that was struggling, it’s important for me to re-establish its place in the community, make it the go-to ice cream destination and run it properly. There are many other ice cream vendors and franchise systems in my neighbourhood, so it’s important to keep Baskin-Robbins a community favourite and represent the brand well.
One of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make was with employees. It’s important to have a staff I can trust to work hard and well when I’m not there. Knowing how the previous franchisee was running the location and what problems existed, I wanted to make sure my takeover went smoothly. When I first bought the franchise, I was given the opportunity to keep the current staff, but instead I chose to let them go and start with a clean slate. By hiring new employees on my own, I was able to make sure they’d be trained to the franchisor’s standards and they’d know what was expected of them.
I am sure the previous employees would be good workers, but they might also bring along bad habits. It was a risk I couldn’t afford to take. Right now, I have two full-time and two part-time employees.
Even though I’m still learning how the franchise system works and finding my groove as a franchisee, I have a lot of comfort knowing there is a team of people behind me, ready and willing to help. The franchisor has been supportive from the moment I started the process and onward. I couldn’t be doing this without them.
Each morning before 11 a.m., I come in to open the shop and make sure everything is ready to go. Once inventory is accounted for, I wait for one of my team members to arrive for when the store opens at 11 a.m. and start on my administrative tasks. When it gets busy, I’m never afraid to lend a helping hand. It’s important for me to be hands-on and know every aspect of my business.
It was intimidating at first to do inventory by myself and to manage delivery cycles. There are a lot of toppings, ice cream flavours and sauces to learn about! Product knowledge is so important when it comes to providing quality food. Now, however, everything is routine. I am able to use my training and put it to use every day. If I run into any questions I don’t know the answer to, I am able to call on my operational manager Ray Ramos for advice or help.