Green Acres home cleaning and lawnmowing franchisees weren’t allowed to work during Level 4 lockdown, but a number of them kept busy and earning thanks to an innovative partnership with courier franchise Aramex. The arrangement saw the familiar Green Acres-branded vehicles delivering parcels around the country – a clever solution to the problem of one franchise having too little work while the other was run off its feet. The programme was introduced during the Auckland lockdowns last year, and brought back when the whole country returned to Level 4 in August 2021.
But how did this unusual partnership come about? Scott Jenyns, CEO of Aramex, explains. ‘In May last year, I was sitting in on one of the Franchise Association’s weekly Zoom calls, where franchisors got together to discuss issues around the lockdowns, and heard Jason Hill talking about what they were doing to support their franchisees. Something clicked – here we were, with our business going great guns as people bought online at previously unheard of levels, while their franchisees were forced to sit at home. After the Zoom session I called the Association and asked them to put me in touch with Jason.’
Jason is General Manager of Franchise Brands, which owns both Green Acres and Hire A Hubby. ‘I got this call from Scott saying, “We’ve got unprecedented demand, you’ve got a team of people with suitable vehicles, how about it?” It seemed like an interesting idea which would give franchisees the chance to keep busy, and keep earning.’
The proposal was made easier by the fact that Aramex had already developed a system called Blu Couriers, a delivery service dubbed the ‘Uber of parcels’, which allows people working flexible hours to carry out residential deliveries while courier franchisees focus on their business customers.
‘It made it really easy for our franchisees – and was really flexible, too,’ says Jason. ‘Aramex provided us with a special code so our franchisees could go to the Blu Couriers website and get priority access. If they wanted to take up the opportunity, they could select an area convenient for them and go through an online induction session which taught them all they needed to know and how to use the special app. And, like Uber, they didn’t have to commit to a time – they could just switch their availability on and off as they pleased.
‘We had about a dozen franchisees in Auckland take it up, and some in Wellington too, and they loved it – it was so much better for them to be working and getting out and about as they are used to, rather than sitting around. They found they could make good money at it if they put in the hours, too. Home cleaning and lawnmowing keeps you pretty fit, so they could be delivering 200-250 parcels a day at $2 a time.
‘A few had initial concerns about being in contact with the public and going to the depot in Level 4, but Aramex had all the correct systems in place, so it really wasn’t a problem.’
Scott Jenyns says that he was delighted to work with the Green Acres franchisees. ‘For a start, they understand franchising – they know about the value of training, and are used to applying systems. As business owners themselves, they know how businesses work and the importance of service. And they already have suitable, smart and well-maintained vehicles which could take large quantities of parcels. It proved to be a great match.’
Having one franchise delivering the service of another might seem weird from a branding point of view, but neither Jason nor Scott had any worries about it at all. ‘I think everyone knew these were unusual times,’ says Jason, ‘so we weren’t worried about the branding confusing anyone – we just checked with our insurance company that franchisees’ vehicles would be properly covered when used for work outside their normal business. They were, although there was an additional $600 excess – and the parcels themselves were covered under Aramex’s insurance so that wasn’t a problem.’
Scott wasn’t concerned about branding, either. ‘The Blu Couriers app that all the Green Acres franchisees used looks and feels like Aramex from a customer point of view, and people at home don’t care about a brand conflict, they just want their parcels!’ he says. ‘But actually, we’re quite proud to be associated with another long-standing award-winning franchise like ourselves, so it’s not a bad message to put out there – two great New Zealand brands working together to keep the country supplied in safety.
‘Let’s be honest, this was a pretty unique set of circumstances. I’m not aware of anyone else doing this around the world, but having the Blu Couriers technology in place made it possible to scale up fast while keeping the customer experience genuine. It’s been a good partnership for everyone.’
Having seen how effective the Aramex programme was for franchisees, Jason was also quick to respond when Green Acres’ marketing agency Dentsu suggested another opportunity – this time with Countdown. ‘Again, it was a situation where they were short of people, especially when they had entire teams or shifts self-isolating, so we talked to Andrew Baker, their Talent Acquisition Manager, and they moved really fast to come up with a package. Again, they were able to offer our franchisees a choice of hours and locations, and a short, sharp induction programme that would keep them safe, too.’
Another dozen franchisees took up the Countdown offer in August. ‘We have quite a few mum and dad franchisees who work together, especially on the cleaning side, and for them Green Acres is their only income,’ says Jason. ‘Yes, the Covid Wage Subsidy and the Resurgence Support Payment schemes are valuable, but for people facing the uncertainty of extended lockdown, giving them the ability to go out and earn while their own business was on hold was very reassuring.
‘During the first lockdown, back in March 2020, we did all sorts of things to try and help our franchisees through. Talking to them later, maybe some of those things didn’t deliver as much value as we thought, so we have all learned from that. But working with Aramex and Countdown has been a very practical way of reducing anxiety and putting money in franchisees’ pockets.
‘It’s another benefit of being part of a great franchise.’