“I’m a business coach,” says Brad Sugars. “I started in business in my teenage years. By my early twenties, it had got much more sophisticated. I’ve been teaching business every since, mostly from a stage but I have also written 15 books on the subject. I teach on business, sales, marketing, management, leadership, systemization, all the different areas of business which help someone become a great entrepreneur.”
So how would he describe the venture now headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada? “ActionCOACH is the original business coaching company,” Sugars says. “We started business coaching in 1993, spread across the world and are now in 73 countries helping owners grow their businesses. We work with C-level executives and we coach them on how to grow their business by growing themselves and their team. We do group programs and one-on-one programs; we operate at all sorts of different levels.”
It’s a recipe which has fostered considerable growth for the concept, as Sugars outlines. “We now have offices in 73 countries and we will do hundreds of millions in revenue this year. But it’s not really about our size, it’s about the size of our clients, who keep growing and adding new jobs. Each year we add tens of thousands of jobs around the world and that’s what excites us.”
It’s all a long way from the company’s humble beginnings: “We started in August 1993, so we are coming up to our 24th birthday,” Sugars says. “The company was launched from a spare bedroom; like most people starting out, I couldn’t afford an office. At the time I was doing seminars for people and they were asking me how could I help them? I couldn’t really consult with them all, so I started this thing called coaching where I talked to them once a week and helped them out.” Sugars decided to take the franchising path because “I didn’t have the time to help people. We began to franchise when we spread into Asia. It was hard to manage the business there with employees, so we turned to a franchising operation and have never looked back.”
Franchising, he explains, became an important option for three reasons. Number one was the need for local ownership. “Like an accounting firm or a legal firm wants partners at a local level, that’s what we really needed. The second reason was because we were expanding internationally and it made sense to have local ownership but most importantly, to have the right people on the ground. We weren’t getting the caliber of people we needed as employees, because the industry was so young. The third reason is that franchising brings capital and skills to the table as you grow the business”
Brad attributes the success of ActionCOACH to “hard work, a lot of travel, meeting a lot of people in a lot of countries and giving a lot of seminars. I think an important factor is that we give people a business opportunity where they get to help others and get very well rewarded in the process. Another reason it that we get results. If you go to a burger restaurant and the burger is awful, you don’t go back. It’s the same with business coaching. If people get results for you then you go back and you stay with them.”
And what advice would he have for a brand considering franchising overseas? “The first piece of advice is ‘Yes! Go do it!’ Too many people get a little scared of franchising overseas and it’s not really scary. Yes, it is going to be different, yes it is going to be hard work and yes, you are going to have to travel. But it’s not as bad or ugly as people seem to think. Secondly, make sure you have capital; you are going to need it. You are going to have to invest money, time, energy and effort to make it work.”
A crucial consideration for anyone thinking of expanding overseas, he says, is “choosing the first partners who you work with, whether that is a master franchisee, joint venture or the first franchisees you put on in that market. Who you put on first is a really important aspect of proving out the model so be really careful who you start with.”
Obviously, he says, being a self-starter is the first quality he looks for in a prospective partner. “One of the benefits of franchising is that people are “in business for themselves but not by themselves”, and sometimes that means that they lean a little too much on the franchisors. We very much look for self-starters who would be able to go and do this without us if they wanted – but with us they will do it much faster, much better and get a much higher level of results.”
And what’s next for Action Coach? “We will be going out there and helping a lot more people,” Sugars says, “ We are doing more joint ventures with large corporates like banks and even with governments around the world. We are doing a lot with franchisors who have a bunch of franchisees that need help: it can be good to bring in outsiders to help with that. We will be doing more strategic partnerships with great partners around the world, more growth and more recruiting of wonderful franchisees.”
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