ERA Netherlands Country Manager - Theo Bouwmans - speaks with FranchisePlus Magazine

The franchisees of Expense Reduction meet every six weeks. What do they do? For a significant part - network. At ERA it is crucial that everyone knows each other and knows what the other person is good at. The core business of ERA is finding opportunities for cost savings for companies and organizations.

The experts mainly look at indirect, or overhead costs, such as energy, fleet and building management. "Our customers themselves do not have the expertise to get these savings opportunities up and running," says Theo Bouwmans, who has been ERA Netherlands Country Manager since August. "Our 21 franchisees know the tricks to free up money and work together. We all work according to the same method, but everyone has their own specialism. If a franchisee goes to work for one of his clients, he then makes a joint venture with another franchisee for each cost category that will be investigated - which in turn is a specialist in that part. In this way you help each other to work and you can work with three or four different ERA consultants per project. It is therefore crucial that everyone knows each other and knows what the other person is good at.“

WORLDWIDE

"The joint venture projects are not limited to the Netherlands. Through the worldwide network of ERA we have access to a huge amount of expertise", explains Theo. "Recently someone had a sausage producer in Slovakia as a customer. He was so pleased with the savings on his overhead costs that he wanted us to take a look at the costs of his core business and in particular the sausage casings."

"The ERA consultant who was the client acquirer did not know anything about it and went to the ERA network to ask who could help him. 750 Consultants worldwide received his e-mail. Eventually, someone from Australia got in touch as he had the expertise and the contacts. Together they have achieved huge savings!"

COFFEE

"The ERA network is therefore the strength of the formula," says Theo. To promote mutual cooperation, he organizes a meeting every six weeks. "Our consultants work from home, so you have to offer them the opportunity to meet each other. During the meetings we review the agendas, we discuss current events and sometimes training is given. We also have an external speaker. But we always start with coffee and I make sure that the breaks are long so that people can catch up with each other. It is a design that is vital for the success of the formula."

NO SAVINGS, NO FEE

In addition to his role as Country Manager, Theo himself also has an ERA license. "I already knew ERA because of my previous work as a recruiter for franchise formulas; they were a customer of mine. Immediately I was already enthusiastic about the concept and the approach 'no savings, no pay'. As ERA consultants, we are paid from the savings we realize for our customers. And if we cannot discover any savings opportunities? Then the customer pays nothing. In any case, the customer only pays us through the savings which we find for them.“

REGION: THE WHOLE OF NETHERLANDS

Where many franchise formulas work with regions, ERA franchisees are allowed to recruit their customers throughout the Netherlands. "The ERA CRM system is also designed for this," says Theo. "Our database is linked to the Chamber of Commerce and serves as a source of information. We have the agreement that if a franchisee in the CRM system has claimed a prospect, nobody else can approach that company or organization until the franchisee releases this prospect again."

For acquiring customers, franchisees are offered tools and marketing concepts from the English head office. "Like the Moneybox, a patented marketing tool that I often use at the first meeting with a company. The Moneybox is an aluminium cube with money in it. During the conversation I challenge my interlocutor to open the cube. He does not succeed, of course, because there is a special trick that only ERA consultants know. It is a fun way to show what ERA can mean for his company. “

Furthermore, the marketing department of ERA ensures that all expressions have the same appearance. "It starts with the signature in the e-mail structure.  Everyone has the same business cards, the same stationery and the same brochures. The reports are also all uniform; we are provided with formats for this."

DOUBLING

ERA has its roots in England, where the formula will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Eleven years ago, the franchise organization crossed the North Sea to the Netherlands. In order to enable candidate franchisees to buy into the formula, Theo supports them in raising the required financing. "I have good contacts with banks and crowd funders. I know what franchisees have to deliver when they come to these agencies, so that the financing goes well and quickly." Theo wants to double the number of franchisees to around 40 people in the coming years. "According to the figures, there is space in the market for some 60 to 65 franchisees. But I do not want it that big. The franchisees must have a bit of room to keep fishing in the pond."

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