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.
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.
Within d&t we have worked with about 150 Franchisors and about 3,000 Franchisees in total.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
As business owners, we have to ask ourselves:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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