Mr Carports - East Hills - SA
A bull-nose verandah with heritage balustrade, designed to match the original building design.


 By Wendy Laursen

Jock Dean has been involved with the Mr Carports franchise since its early days. Now as well as running his own franchise, he is very active in franchisee training and support and he has plenty of advice for those contemplating a move to franchising.

"You can't put a square peg in a round hole," says Jock. "My first bit of advice is that you have to enjoy what you are doing, then, with that positive outlook you will succeed because others will feed off your happiness."

Mr Carports was the right move for Jock because he knew the product and he had some engineering skills but it was the opportunity to run a business from home, in his local area that he knew would really make him happy.

Early in his career Jock worked as an engineering surveyor then he moved to IT where he worked as a programmer, network specialist and project manager. Prior to starting with Mr Carports he was a project and account manager working between Canberra and Darwin.

"Living in Canberra, renting, and spending two or three days per week in other cities was not good for my family," said Jock. "My work involved wearing a suit daily and talking to government corporate fools who insisted they knew more about the product than myself.

"Personally, I'm an outdoor person. The offer to take up the franchise, use my surveying skills and design aptitude, and run my own business as opposed to a six figure wage and living out of a suitcase won me over."

Still, with his wife, Fiona, and five kids to consider, Jock found the prospect of starting a new venture with no security daunting and successful. He need not have worried. Based in Mt Barker, South Australia, Jock's business grew rapidly and he was working 80 hours a week before taking on someone else in March 2007.

"I did it all: advertising, quoting, sales, council approvals, organising builders, ordering, site inspections. I'm lucky to have Fiona to handle the money side of the business."

Mr Carports builds all types of outdoor structures and they pride themselves on blending style, structure and building techniques into professional designs that complement the surrounding environment and existing buildings. They offer a choice of materials and styles engineered to meet Australian building standards and the customer's budget.

Now, with an employee, Jock has time to enjoy a Wednesday afternoon golf game. His workload is reduced to 40 hours and he concentrates on advertising, quotes, sales and council approvals while his employee manages the jobs after approval stage.

Since he started in 2000, Jock's sales have increased from $330,000 to $800,000 in 2006. He is confident his business will continue to grow as Mt Barker is the fastest growing inland area in Australia. He is also planning to expand into Darwin and is currently evaluating builders and locations.

The move to franchising has been worth it for Jock and Fiona. They have enjoyed running their own business and being very successful in a competitive market. Jock has enjoyed being close to his family, meeting new people close to home, and making new friends.

"Keeping my family close and providing them with a level of lifestyle that could not be achieved without this business has been a highlight."

Jock's contact with the family is far better than before but one occasion stands out from the day-to-day improvement in his lifestyle.

"In 2004, on December 23rd I picked up the cheque book and Fiona and I went and paid cash for the Kimberley Kamper trailer. This trailer has been a life long dream and to be able to decide and do it was the realisation of that dream."

It is a dream they have worked for. Sometimes managing builders has it's challenges, says Jock as does chairing meetings between franchisees and the franchisor but as Mr Carports continues to grow and attract new franchisees Jock hopes to be involved with their expansion into the US.

Mr Carports is are an Australian owned business, established in 1991, which has grown to the point where they are now one of Australia's leading suppliers of outdoor living designs for both the domestic and commercial markets. They build carports, decking, verandas, pergolas and pool enclosures to any size and can handle complex designs that are either freestanding or attached to a house. Flat roof, gable, Dutch gable, curved or heritage structures can all be catered for.

Part of the success of Mr Carports is their revolutionary computer technology that they believe sets a new standard of excellence in design, speed and customer service.

"Our systems have been developed to improve our communication with clients and builders," said Mr Carports director, Brian Rohan. "Our computer system incorporates detailed engineering specifications, take-off lists for the suppliers and builders, council applications and business reporting systems.

"Each franchisee is able to conduct business from home using a laptop computer. This reduces office expenses and provides a more relaxed lifestyle."

Jock's background meant that he was comfortable with engineering but this is not a requirement for new franchisees, says Brian. Mr Carports looks for franchisees, like Jock, who have good personal skills, enjoy working semi-independently, thrive on organisation and project management and are not scared to embrace technology.

Jock has worked closely and very successfully with Brian and within a few months of starting he had the biggest turnover in Mr Carports.

"From that time on, we have referred to each other for thought and ideas on such items as mentoring, expansion, franchisee selection, conference agendas etc."

Jock believes it is vital for people to find a franchise opening that they will be comfortable in and that they are well prepared for.

"Make sure you have a good financial backing because it may take months to get off the ground, and worrying about sales (or lack of) will be picked up by customers.

"Get a good lawyer to read the franchise contract to ensure you are well protected. The contract should be balanced, giving you room to scope out and expand your business, should the need arise, and not be constrained."

Jock and Brian plan to continue their close working relationship and when it comes time to retire, Jock hopes to continue his involvement with Mr Carports by consulting (when fishing and camping allows).