An inspirational talk with Carl Reader

Carl Reader is a self-made man who started from humble beginnings but has now transformed himself into a business expert, who connects over 2500 small businesses into a community filled with knowledge and support. His strength lies in taking complicated ideas and translating them into simple ideas that even an eight-year-old will understand. In an inspirational talk with Carl Reader, we try to understand what started his journey into business and how he leveraged on his skills to help and support so many lives around him.

1. Please tell us what is it that you do?

Captured at Kings Place on 20Jun, 2019 by Nisha Haq Photography

I wear a number of hats. I serve as Chairman of d&t – one of the UK’s leading franchise accountancy firms. I was formerly a member in the Board of Directors of the British Franchise Association, and I also serve as Chair of the Practitioners Panel of the ACCA.

Alongside that I have written some books as well: The Startup Coach, The Franchising Handbook, and my latest book is called Boss It.

In addition, I also speak globally to audiences of all sizes. I often provide commentary to international press – on radio, TV, and international newspapers.

2. Who is your clientele?

Within d&t we have worked with about 150 Franchisors and about 3,000 Franchisees in total.

3. What are the services that you provide to your clients?

d&t helps franchisors and franchisees go through the process of finding the funding for either setting up their brand or in buying a franchise. We help them with asset finance, as well as their accountancy and tax. We also help them with strategic advice: whether in selling their units, or management of their franchisees, or operational advice. We employ a range of ex-franchisors, who know how franchising works so they can understand the concerns of those businesses.

4. What is #bossit community and where did the idea come from?

The idea of #bossit community came from one of my friends, who used to be a franchisor. What we have realized – very early in the COVID situation – was that there was no platform for small businesses that are open and honest to share peer-to-peer advice with each other. So we set-up a Facebook group and it grew very quickly.

5. How will #bossit help the business community in the current scenario?

The whole idea of #bossit goes around peer-to-peer support rather than trying to sell the group with anything. It did really well and has evolved over time, it has become like a TV channel for business owners. They can log on and see marketing, or PR, or finance experts. They can choose what channels they want to watch and learn from the best in the trade.

5.1. How long did it take for you to set-up this community?

Setting up the community itself was really quick. I had a dormant Facebook group that had not been used, we rebranded and revitalized it. I guess the challenging part is maintaining the engagement – keeping people coming back the channel. We also have to make sure that we’re on top of the latest technology. For example, we have invested in software called StreamYard, which allows viewers to ask questions live on air, and for the experts to see them rather than just appearing on the Facebook feed. The key to be on top of all the technology that is available and making sure that the viewer experience is where it should be – that has been the toughest bit. I can fairly say that the community is easy to set up but quite difficult to maintain

6. What do you advise for starting franchise owners to ensure business continuity after the pandemic?

One of the challenges for business continuity pre-COVID is that nobody could have imagined that the pandemic would affect the world in a way it has done.
The general public is now more cautious and aware of the Black Swan event that you cannot just predict.

Business continuity is automatically something franchise owners have been thinking about. It is not only linked to the pandemic, it can also be the loss of key personnel or legislation changes, and so on. Now we are all mindful, a lot of things are outside of our control, but we just need work within the premises of them.

My advice to ensure business continuity for business owners:

  1. Focus on the things that they can control and not be consumed by the things they cannot control.
    • Be aware
    • Assess the risks
    • Make changes when you need to
  2. Business owners have to make sure that they have robust financial plans in place for “business as usual” but then with adjustments for worst-case scenarios and anything in between.
  3. Business owners really need to make the most opportunity that this situation has given us. It may be a small opportunity but we really need to look at what have we learned and what can we benefit from. I think there are a couple of areas to look at:
    • There will be societal shifts. As a society, we are going to change what we want out of life, what we want out of businesses, and what is it that drives us.
    • Businesses will find that there is going to be a change in the mix of consumption. For instance, online businesses are doing really well, while the high street struggled. There will be similar changes across all different industries, and we need to be aware of these changes.
    • Reflect and understand how businesses were running before COVID. Most businesses had massive digital transformation overnight. We have to embrace technology and perhaps adjust to losing staff members.

As business owners, we have to ask ourselves:

  • “What could be a lasting change?”
  • “What could we have to do to take our business to a true digital transformation?”
  • “What do we want to revert back to business as normal?

7. What was the major challenge you faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

There have been quite a few challenges. The problem in business is when you develop a friendship with a person you work with. When a conflict arises, it is difficult to reconcile personal feelings and business direction.

If you ever have a personal friend as a customer or a supplier, it is the tension between personal and business that could be difficult.

It was a learning experience and I have learned a lot about other people.

8. What is your best achievement?

Building d&t to the point that I’m not involved with it day-to-day. When I joined the business, there were only 8 of us, and we scaled it up to a multimillion firm.

The fact that I am able to appoint an executive board to rub the business for me has been my greatest achievement. It allowed me to write my book, to speak on stage, and to do the things I enjoyed doing.

On the other hand, it also allowed the board to reach their own potential.

I’ve been able to get involved with charities, such as Enterprise for Kids to help alleviate poverty. To be able to devote my time to activities like that and be able to educate the next generation has been wonderful.

9. How does your business day start?

Because of the situation with d&t, every day I can choose the level of effort I do.

Normally, I get woken up by my youngest child, and I would tend to check my messages. I work from home primarily now. And I tend to be more of an evening person than a morning person.

My business day is often dictated by media requests that are time-sensitive such as Breakfast Radio Show.

10. What was your best moment throughout your franchise career?

Opportunity to work with Trussell Trust, a chain of foodbanks. It is a social franchise. It is a charity that uses franchise to expand. I was fortunate to be asked to help them shape and improve their franchise model. They are a chain of 1,400 foodbank that uses franchising as their mode of expansion to alleviate property.

Another moment that was really humbling when I was invited to speak to a delegation of Tunisian visitors in Paris. These visitors were looking at how they could implement franchising in the region following the Arab spring. I helped them to understand the business for franchising, taught them how it works, the market, the funding, and so on. That group ended up being the Tunisian Franchise Association.
That was really rewarding, helping the promotion of franchising to a country developing this industry.

11. Where do you see #bossit in the next 5 years?

I actually hope that in 5 years, there is no need for #bossit. I hope that business ownership is seen as an acceptable way of life. That you don’t start a business just because you cannot be employed by someone, you start a business because you want to. I hope that the language in our schools is about entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship thinking.
I hope that the likes of Netflix and other content providers will include a range of business-focus lifestyle programming. If that happens, then there will be no need for a #bossit community, because it won’t be needed.

12. Any tip for the reader who wants to be in the franchise business?

  • Do your diligence. Make sure that the brand you’re investing in is reputable, and its system is reputable. Speak with other franchise owners.
  • Make effort to make it successful.
  • Make sure that there is a fit between you and the franchisor. Make sure that you can work together to make it successful.
  • Make sure that there is a fit between the franchise and the market that you will serve.
  • A franchisee should have a combination of an entrepreneurial mindset and a compliant employee mindset.

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