A ground-floor opportunity
TaxAssist differs from other financial-services franchise concepts with its storefront model. Its franchises are set up in highly visible, convenient and accessible retail premises, not office buildings or industrial condos, and specialize in services for the small business market. This struck Mancini as a unique opportunity.
“There’s no similar model in Canada,” she says. “There are seasonal tax-preparation companies that look after personal returns, but none of them specializes solely in the small-business market and provides year-round accounting, tax preparation and advisory services through professionally appointed storefront locations.”
This ground-floor opportunity also meant Mancini had to ‘Canadianize’ the franchise system before actively recruiting franchisees.
“I spent the first six months adapting everything from the operations manual to the marketing materials, so they would be relevant to Canada,” she says. “The U.K. team has been quite flexible and open to adjusting the language and processes as they expand into this market.”
Once the franchisor created and launched a localized recruitment website for Mancini, she began to schedule discovery days for people who wanted to find out more about becoming franchisees.
“I could then make a more detailed presentation,” she says. “I’ve had a great reaction, both from would-be franchisees looking to invest in this business model and from the Canadian small business community, which sees us as filling a huge gap in tax and accounting services for small and medium-size enterprise (SME) owners.”
Indeed, Mancini’s research has led her not only to potential franchisees, but also to many potential customers.
“Canada has a burgeoning entrepreneurial community,” she says, “from traditional tradespeople, subcontractors and consultants to independent retailers, manufacturers and suppliers, along with a host of self-employed individuals who want to leave this kind of work to someone else. TaxAssist’s concept is proving extremely popular, as we can specialize in meeting their particular needs. In this context, our marketing will help distinguish us from the competition.”
The drive to recruit
At press time, Mancini hoped to sign her first franchisee by January 2015, but then allow several months for finding the right location, training the franchisee and opening the store.
“We’re speaking to people who want to run their own business within the supportive environment of a tried and tested network model,” she says. “It may be their next step in a career in financial services or business management.”
She explains ideal candidates might come from a senior leadership role in the corporate world or have an accounting designation and are now looking to build a business for themselves. While they should be entrepreneurial and comfortable with numbers, however, they need not have a background in tax preparation or accounting.
“Not all TaxAssist franchisees are accountants, but they all have certified professional accountants on staff,” Mancini says. “I’d like to recruit a mix, as business professionals, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and accountants can learn a lot from each other.”
The first recruits will get their first pick of locations within a region defined by Burlington in the west, Stouffville in the north, Oshawa in the east and Toronto in the south. The key for success, as in the U.K., is to be based near other small businesses and home offices that can provide a client base.
“We will allow our franchisees to start out working from home or in a commercial office at first, for up to two years, but then they will have to be in a more visible retail location,” Mancini explains. “We’re looking people who will want to grow their franchise, hire additional staff and increase capacity.”