We speak with Natasha Morgan, the founder and CEO of My Home Watch, about how her Australian property franchise is adapting to unprecedented change.
Interview by Kieran McLoone, deputy editor for Global Franchise.
My Home Watch is the innovative property management franchise founded by Natasha Morgan, following her search for a viable solution to vacation troubles. Clients who previously worried about who might be able to water their plants or check-in on vacant homes are now able to enlist the help of Morgan’s team to make sure their chores are completed, even if they’re halfway around the world on a business trip or sun-drenched getaway.
With the many international roadblocks brought about by COVID-19, however, we wanted to hear what this unique franchise concept was doing to overcome challenges and provide assurance to its franchisee and client networks.
KM: How has My Home Watch been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and in what ways have you adapted the franchise model?
NM: The first few weeks have been like a rollercoaster; it was uncharted waters for all franchise leaders and for our network of franchisees. I was quick to reach out to other franchisors to see how they were navigating through this time of crisis. Our franchise has seen a decline in service inquiries, which was to be expected given the conditions of the crisis and everyone being asked to stay home here in Australia.
Our network adapted quickly. We have put new health and safety procedures in place, specifically designed for COVID-19. Our franchisees’ health is our first priority and we knew these new measures needed to be actioned immediately if our team was going to continue operations.
“Our franchisees’ health is our first priority”
Our marketing strategies had to change overnight, as we needed to be relevant and supportive to our market. Whilst we have seen a decline in our travel services, inquiries for our vacant property checks have risen and the way in which we are conducting rental opens are now on a ‘by appointment only’ as per our government’s new guidelines and restrictions.
As a company, we were fast in our approach to offer franchisee support financially, by reducing our monthly franchise fees which we are assessing on a month by month basis.
KM: Do you believe that franchises in Australia are being provided with adequate governmental support, or are there further actions you feel could be taken to ensure the security of both franchisors and their franchisees?
NM: I feel the first few weeks were really difficult to navigate through. Information was changing every day and there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding essential services here in Australia and what our government was going to do to provide assistance for businesses.
I am happy to say that I feel we are being supported: our government has taken a fast approach to offering financial assistance to businesses for a significant amount of time. I believe that this has helped ease the burden and some of the stress at this time while we adjust to this new way of living.
KM: Once the dust settles and the health crisis is largely under control, what changes do you imagine will occur within the franchise industry, both with regard to My Home Watch, but also the ways in which businesses operate as a whole?
NM: For franchise operations, I see the new health, hygiene, and safety regulations remaining extremely high. This is the new normal way of operating, and we all have a duty of care.
Exploration seems like the direction top franchise leaders are taking at the moment.
“Exploration seems like the direction top franchise leaders are taking at the moment”
Our company is currently working on new brand strategies to diversify and introduce new services into the market, services that we know will be essential to homeowners and that offer our franchisees more opportunity and value within their franchise.
I’m really excited about these new developments and look forward to sharing them with you in the weeks to come. This crisis has allowed us time to dive deep into analyzing our current model and where we can improve and gain strength in our daily operations and across the brand as a whole.
Moving into the future, I see the franchise industry becoming more united and stronger together, and for the senior franchise leaders to be using their voices and years of wisdom to help guide the younger brands.
The franchisor leadership groups I’m involved in at this time are offering so much support that’s really helped to navigate through this time and this will no doubt continue into 2021.