Since taking the reins as in-house legal counsel for Australia's waterless carwash success story ecowash mobile, Katie Richards has developed an unusual and welcome affliction - like most associated with the now global franchise, which has operations in 10 countries and the world's biggest destinations including Paris, Dubai and Las Vegas.
"Here people bleed orange," said the 28 year old, in reference to the company's distinctive vehicle and apparel colours which unify the unique culture of the company.
"It is more of a lifestyle, our franchisees and anyone involved live the job 24/7. This is a good thing because if another franchisee needs assistance or any issue arises, it is dealt with swiftly, and the right people know about it. The communication channels are excellent, and it is certainly a team environment."
Katie runs all of the legal matters for ecowash mobile, from commercial contracts to leasing, policy compliance, OH&S requirements, and all franchising-related areas of law, plus all international legal work including preparation of the relevant franchising documentation for newer markets like the USA and Greece, registration of disclosure documents in each of the applicable States in the USA, and some research into other market issues as they arise.
"One of the bigger challenges involves educating franchisees and prospective franchisees on the requirements of the relevant franchise legislation" she explained.
"Since the legislative changes to the Franchising Code of Conduct which came into force on 31 March 2008, many hours of time have gone into updating the current Disclosure Document to ensure compliance with the legislation. It is not enough to just understand the requirements of franchising law myself - I find that by educating our franchisees on this also, we are all on the same page and they feel more confident in making their business decisions.
It is normal that some franchisees don't give much consideration to the legal side of things, and the implications they have in terms of business operation - they are focused on growing their business and providing a high level of customer service. I try and make it straight forward for them, and make sure they are completely covered - I review any commercial contracts before franchisees enter into them, not only to highlight any issues to them, but I find that being a part of the franchisor team, we often have more bargaining power to assist the franchisee in contract negotiations."
After completing her bachelor of law and bachelor of business at Queensland University of Technology and a post graduate diploma at Griffith University, Katie joined ecowash mobile in October last year after a career that included legal counsel for Dominos Pizza Enterprises Ltd controlling commercial franchising work predominantly for Australia and NZ.
"This is an incredible company because of the people driving it. I have worked in corporate cultures before where people do their work and go home - that is how they view their career. At head office, we are a close knit team and the franchisees are like extended family - it really is a happy team.
"Much of the work that Jim Cornish, Stewart Nicholls (founding directors) and the head office team, including myself, do has been hands on as we build the company. It requires many hours and can be taxing at times. As we get bigger there will be more people equipped to take on key roles in the organisation here and overseas."
Over the next 5 years Katie expects "ridiculous growth" in the operation.
"The US is set to explode - we are finalising registrations in many new territories as we speak and expect to at least have master franchises all over the US in that time. Our team in the US are as passionate about ecowash as we are and bleed orange too."
"Everything is moving ahead very quickly and going the way of 'Green Business.' The environment and lifestyle are big business trends at the moment and we fall into both categories. But we market more on the quality of the job and convenience. If water suddenly came in large supply and wasn't an issue, it won't impact on our business because our clients love the results and quality of the work. It is an added bonus that they are doing their bit for environment at the same time."