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Back from the brink: From administration to million-dollar profits

When Rob Dallimore returned to Worldwide Printing Solutions as CEO in 2010, the business was in bad shape.

Having previously been at the business for almost a decade from 1996 till it was sold to a private equity firm in 2005, this was a business Dallimore knew and loved.

As a franchisor which specialises in graphic design, printing and marketing solutions, under different management, the business seemingly departed from its roots of putting its franchisees in the number one priority spot.

Dynamic Business sat down with the CEO to find out how the business was turned around from administration following the buy back three years ago.

How does one go about literally turning around a company, and bringing it back from the brink?

Going back to the basics of it all, what we made sure we did was identify the right people who were going to be able to service our franchisees in the manner that they should be serviced. And basically when you’re in a franchise network, you need to be invested in communicating to your franchisees regularly, and working in their best interests. From day one, when we took the company out of administration, we wanted to ensure that the satisfaction levels of our franchisees are increased, and most importantly, that they were profitable.

In order to do that the whole emphasis needed to be focusing on what the franchisees needs were, and assisting them in any way possible to help them grow their business. In order to that you need to make sure you’ve got the right team on board, and a team that’s committed to franchisees’ wellbeing, and as a group, not in isolation.

That’s the basic fundamentals of getting a company turned around. And that’s what we’re trying to do today – we’re always trying to improve the service that we provide franchisees, and the support that we provide to them, because without the franchisees, we don’t have anything. And unless you recognise that, you may as well not be in franchising.

What state of affairs was the business in when you came back on board?

I originally joined Worldwide in Perth way back at the end of 1996. We were a Perth based business and I then brought the business over to the eastern states and opened up a manufacturing side, and got franchisees on the eastern seaboard.

In 2005 a private equity firm acquired the business, and then from 2005 until the demise in February 2010, they tried to grow the business rapidly. They put more focus on the production side of the business, rather than the franchising side of the business, and with the GFC, and the general decline in print – it was not sustainable. Hence, that’s when it went into administration.

I got appointed CEO of Worldwide just prior to administration, knowing the state of the company. When it got put into voluntary administration, I had to make a decision on whether to stay, or leave, and that decision took all of a microsecond.

I wanted to stay on through the administration process to make sure that the company survived, and that we came out bigger and better from the point of view of a tighter franchise group.

Leading up to the demise of worldwide, credibility and confidence was lacking in the franchisor for various reasons, so the first thing that we needed to do when we bought the business on 1 July 2010, was to ensure that the credibility was restored.

After you decided to stay on board as CEO, where did you go from there?

When you’re in administration you need to clear out the cupboard so to speak, and be able to do it quickly without having an adverse impact on the company. So we terminated a number of centres, we then identified the right people we needed on board at the franchisor. In a nutshell there isn’t a single person that is on board in the company today that was there 3 years ago.

We’ve replaced the whole management team, and got people who are likeminded with the franchisees. Basically what we needed to do was focus on making sure the management side was right and making sure we had the right people on the ground assisting the franchisees. And then obviously it’s a long process restoring franchisee’s faith and confidence.

What is your approach to managing the company?

I’m not interested in having a hundred, two hundred franchises – I’m interested in having the centres that we have today making good money and that’s what makes a successful company.

So we’re about a $47-48 million dollar a year company, with 47 or 48 franchises, my goal would be to double the turnover, but not double the number of centres that we have. And the only way we can do that is to provide additional products and services to the group, work with them on sales and how they can grow their businesses.

Has there been a shift in values?

Yes definitely I’d agree there has been a change in values, and I’ve been at Worldwide a very long time, and I’ve made some close friendships and we have a terrific bunch of franchise owners. It’s a close-knit family, and we all work very well together.

Having said that, we definitely have our disagreements, but that’s all part of trying to continually improve and build a good company.

It’s impossible to please everyone 100% of the time, that’s not possible, but we work very closely and we agree to disagree. Sometimes we might change the way we do things. But the culture is definitely a lot better, and the emphasis and focus in definitely now on the franchisees.

What advice can give around warning signs that a company is going in the wrong direction?

Where do I start! Look I’d been in the company a long time, so I could see the tension brewing. I could see that as you start to have that disconnect between the franchisee and the franchisor, it’s not going to end prettily.

The GFC hit, there had been a massive investment in the equipment, yet cash flow was getting tighter, business was on the decline, our industry was in the decline, franchisees started to struggle, debts were increasing – which if you step out of that, you can tell that it’s only going to end one way. So all the signs were there in my opinion.

How is the future tracking?

I think that if you look at what we’re doing now, we put ourselves financially in a good position that allows us to look at new opportunities and invest in those opportunities like software or whatever it may be, while our competitors and other businesses sort of shut the closet door and say we better hang on this, and hold onto as much cash as we can.

We are fortunate enough to be in the position we’re in, where we run the franchisor extremely lean and profitable, so it gives us the capital to be able to invest in the business and make the most of the opportunities that come along.

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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