Leap of Faith | ABC Business

Leap of Faith

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Hell Pizza is one of New Zealand’s most loved brands, synonymous for its innovation in taste and clever marketing behind campaigns such as the rabbit pizza timed to coincide with Easter, and Australasia’s hottest pizza the ‘Flaming Dragon’. For Marty Richards, the philosophy behind the brand was an appeal he could relate to; it was also a case of history repeating.

Life Before Hell

20 years ago Marty worked as a delivery driver for a Mount Albert pizza company while studying for a business degree. “I actually really enjoyed that job. I particularly liked the interaction with customers.”

This job was just the first of a number of hospitality positions Marty enjoyed while studying and traveling. “I learnt a lot about customer service from working in hotels and restaurants. I found it both challenging and rewarding.”

After completing his studies, Marty worked for an advertising agency for a couple of years. “While I enjoyed the work, I realised quite early that working in an office was not my cup of tea.”

So he took a break for a few months to help a friend build a house and 13 years later he was still building.

Throughout these years Marty always had a strong desire to be self-employed. “Building allowed me to get a taste of this. I was able to contract to companies for regular work but often spent time building houses for myself.”

Eventually the time came to give his body a rest and explore new opportunities. “I had to ask myself what I wanted to be doing for the next 10 years and where I wanted to end up. I had often considered the idea of going out on my own but was also quite interested in buying a franchise. I liked the fact that I would not be completely on my own. I’d have the support of a team behind me.”

A Slice of Hell

It took many years of consideration for Marty to finally take his leap of faith. “I spent years thinking about it. I often read the Franchise NZ Magazine and visited the ABC website to check what businesses were available. I wanted to be confident that I was making the right decision.”

It finally took a call to ABC’s franchise specialist James to get things moving. “It seemed right to talk with a broker who specialised in franchises. My first question to James was - what business would you buy?” This conversation led to Marty and his wife Kim purchasing one of Hell’s top Auckland stores in Grey Lynn. “The interesting thing about this store is that it wasn’t publicly listed. I would never have known about it if I hadn’t spoken with James.”

At first Marty was a bit unsure and actually passed on the opportunity. “I told James to offer it to someone else. He accepted this decision but asked what would I do instead?” “I didn’t know, but it made me realise that if I wanted a change in lifestyle, I would have to take a chance eventually. So after a couple of days of deliberation with my wife, we decided that this type of opportunity may not come up again for years and we had to go for it.” Marty then proceeded to do more research on the brand and also contacted the Hell Head Office and spoke with Ben Cumming, the General Manager. “Ben was really helpful and provided me with lots of information to back up the business. He didn’t try to sell it to me, he just gave me the facts. But these facts combined with my own research helped me realise that the business was sound and there was no other brand for me. I called James and said let’s do this.”

“This started the due diligence and negotiation stages. They were testing times for us but James was great to deal with and worked hard to get the deal across the line. I put a lot of trust in him and I’m happy to say it paid off.”

James was also able to provide Marty with the right banking contacts. “I had initially approached the bank myself but found it difficult. So it was a bit of a relief when I met with a banker who really wanted to help. After that first meeting, I was confident we could make it happen.”

Happy in Hell

It’s been almost a year now since Marty took the keys to the shop and he has had time to reflect on his decision to take the leap. “It’s been a big challenge but I’m really enjoying it all. I enjoy being able to control my own hours and am able to spend time working both in and on the business.”

“I was quick to realise that staff were my biggest asset. They are amazing and really passionate about the brand and the store. I try to keep them happy as much as possible. A positive work place can only translate to happy customers and this makes for good results in the long run.”

The support from Hell Head Office and the area managers have also made Marty’s first year a positive one. “They have been really helpful and it is thanks to them I am 100% sure I chose the right brand.”

“I’m also still in regular contact with James who has continued his support well after the sale date. I think this shows that it’s not just about the transaction, he is genuinely interested in helping people get results.”

So looking back, would Marty do it all again? “Oh for sure, I only wish I had done it sooner!”



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