BRUCE BILLSON: Today we’re talking with Janine Allis, one of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs. Not only a great story about her own businesses, but the way digital technology has been deployed to support business success right across the Retail Zoo group. Let’s see what we can learn from Janine. Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice, director of Retail Zoo, involved in many fantastic enterprises– you use technology in a very interesting way, not just to do the things that people expect– prominent social media presence, really useful transaction platforms– but also to gain an insight and understanding of the way that businesses within Retail Zoo are operating. Can you share a little bit of insight about that.
JANINE ALLIS: Absolutely. Look, I was born in the era that mobile phones didn’t exist and technology was just something you saw on the Jetsons. So for me, when I actually started the business, I actually was always an embracer of it, despite the fact my background was very analogue. And the reason I did was because I was always looking for ways of making my life easier. I had three kids at home, I had a busy life, and I knew that I needed technology to actually succeed. The issue was back then– this is in 2000– was all the IT people that I actually came across, they over-promised and under-delivered. So they never delivered on anything. It never worked.
And so, it was this constant battle. However, I still had the faith in technology.
BRUCE BILLSON: You persevered.
JANINE ALLIS: Persevered. So we use technology in every facet of our business, from communicating to the customer, which people see– social media and all the things that we send out, whether it’s email or bots or whatever millions of things that we do. But we also use the back of house. And very much back of house to help give the tools to run the business effectively. For example, about six years ago we instilled a program that actually enabled people to get more of a transparency on their costs of goods– the cost of the products.
That, by changing nothing else in their business, by giving them power and knowledge, actually delivered them 2% more to the bottom line, which was extraordinary– because that wasn’t negotiating prices, it wasn’t any else, other than giving him more knowledge to be able to work better in their business.
BRUCE BILLSON: So you using that technology to communicate vital signs–
BRUCE BILLSON: –back to the business owners and operators about what was happening in the business.
JANINE ALLIS: Yeah, correct. Absolutely. The other thing we do is communication is a really big thing. And in actual fact, the biggest thing that actually collapses big franchises, because you need– if I’m wanting promotion here, I need the franchisees to know about it, and to actually effectively do it, and to be trained to effectively to execute it. So for me, communication was really vital. So we instilled a program which enabled us to first and foremost find out if whatever we were delivering, whether it was a program, or a new product, or a new marketing initiative, that they had trained their staff effectively. Because without their training, then the promotion fails.
Also that they communicated– so we could do a report to say what stores have their staff trained, what stores that haven’t had their staff trained, and we can actually, before the promotion even starts, narrow in on those franchisees who are obviously having trouble communicating to their stores, or not doing the right thing. So it was a great tool to be able to communicate effectively.
BRUCE BILLSON: And to see where some intervention or some help and support would make sure that once that initiative was launched it had every prospect of success, because the things you could manage you’d tracked, you’d measured, and you knew where extra effort was required.
JANINE ALLIS: Yeah, correct. And look let’s not kid ourselves, everyone sort of goes around and they try and actually be nice to everyone. But the reality is, in franchising, like in the world, there are some people who go, they buy a franchise, and then they go onto the beach and wonder why the business is struggling. So it’s those people– because we actually owe it to the rest of the people in the brand to actually work with those people out of the business or work them into the business, to ensure that the business brand is strong. So we use tools to find out who is not being engaged in the business.
Because the only reason Boost Juice bars is what it is, is because we love our customers. And we don’t always get it right, because we’ve got people involved. But we need to find out. So technology is a great tool to enable us to find that out.
BRUCE BILLSON: So for you, digital engagement is all an enablement tool. to help these enterprises be their best, to understand more about how they are going within their business, and be inspired by what others are doing as well.
JANINE ALLIS: Correct. And you have to embrace it. Look, the reality is, if you’re not embracing technology, then you won’t have a business in the future. If you do want to go into business, know that the journey is like a roller coaster ride. It has great ups, it has equally scary downs. It’s not a merry-go-round.
BRUCE BILLSON: Janine Allis, thank you for your time today and your insights.
JANINE ALLIS: My pleasure.