How do I meet Anubis

Rockstars franchise: Roland Merker, ANUBIS animal burials

Hello and welcome to the “Franchise Rockstars” podcast. My name is Lars Bobach, I am the host and host of the show. After a somewhat longer summer break, we are finally back. It took a little longer than planned because I had to restructure a bit here in my agency. The Franchise Rockstars project fell a little behind.

But we are now in full swing and have now prepared a current and new show every 14 days. There are a lot of interesting people to talk to. Today we start directly with one, namely with Roland Merker. He has really built a real pearl among the franchise systems that may not be known to one or the other. It is ANUBIS, ANUBIS animal burials. So he takes care of the burial of animals. Why this is a success story, how he came up with the name ANUBIS and what his greatest challenge was, because he lost almost all of his franchise partners in one fell swoop and he learned a really great lesson from it, he explains quite openly and honest in this interview.

Left

Website:
ANUBIS animal burials

The interview for reading

LB = Lars Bobach
RM = Roland Merker

LB:
Mr. Merker!

RM:
Yes, hello.

LB:
Hello, let us briefly share the figures from ANUBIS. How many franchisees do you have, how much turnover do you make?

RM:
We currently have a total of 22 agencies in 2019. Of course, we also added five franchise partners and their additional businesses, then there are 17. Then we have our own branches and currently two animal crematoriums, but two animal crematoriums from the partner are added.

LB:
So there are also partners who do not have their own crematorium, but instead provide pure grief counseling and the funeral?

RM:
Yes, because in our system it is relatively free whether a partner sets up or builds his own crematorium or whether he goes to a partner crematorium. There is of course the situation that a partner who does not want or cannot build a regional crematorium now simply drives to a partner company or to another company that operates a crematorium and has their animals cremated there. He then only provides advice, care and support for the animal owner at the moment of mourning and at the moment of saying goodbye. And then the transfer to the crematorium and then finally the return of the ashes to the animal keeper. What then is his overall part.

LB:
I can now imagine, from a feeling, that animals take up an ever larger part in human life, they have a larger place. The animal is becoming more and more important. Do you notice this in your sales, in the inquiries, in the number of burials or cremations that you undertake?

RM:
Clearly, simply because of the social changes, too, since perhaps the turn of the millennium in total. Single households are of course becoming more and more common, because the older ones, from 50 and up, where the children are scattered in Germany, are then also at home alone. There is also a nice sentence: The last child is on four paws with fur. Where then something like that has a higher priority, where you get involved accordingly and buy an animal of any kind. That has simply gained and increased in importance.

This is also the factor that drives the animal owner throughout their life, that of course the medical care, the care or when a rehab is due or with the nutrition, he really gives his animal the best. Then maybe even save on yourself, but my animal is doing just fine. That is the premise and of course you will notice it at the moment when the animal gets older, when it gets sick, when everything is still being done for the animal, including in a medical way.

But when the decision is made, I have to euthanize my animal or it dies, which is less common, on its own. But if it is then euthanized, of course, then you don't want to ... what is the normal career path? That is the disposal of animal carcasses, where I would then pass my animal on to the vet, where it is then processed accordingly into animal meal or animal fat. What then logically is not the idea of ​​the pet owner, if he has been committed to his animal all his life, then he would also like a nice farewell.

And that's where our offers, our services, come into play, where we try to support the pet owner as best we can. We help when friends leave, we mean it seriously and really is the basic philosophy of what we do. So we also try to see our work, to train our employees, to train our franchisees accordingly and so everyone who works at ANUBIS or around ANUBIS works according to the philosophy.

LB:
I'm here in Lauf an der Pegnitz in the system headquarters, but also here in the crematorium, where of course there is also care for the dying. And I have to say that you can also tell that it is lived here. I think it's great that the atmosphere is very friendly and appreciative. We just took a tour of the building here. And that really takes on forms that I would never have thought. For example, you said about the diamond. You can mint a diamond from the ashes of your animal or how is it made?

RM:
Yes, that is also a development in the entire product area, where I said that we used to have a DIN A4 page with products on the front and back, ceramic or copper. Today you have a 52-page product catalog with urns, with pendants, with commemorative medallions, where ashes can be poured in, where there are also diamonds, etc. There is a wider range on the Internet, while the catalog is a bit compressed and summarized where there is a tendency.

It is also a development and the desire for exclusivity, something special and unique also plays a role here. For the pet owner, too, the animal is always the exclusive, the special, the unique. And of course he would like to have his special memory here too. You either have that with the product selection, in that I basically have a broad portfolio of the possibilities. For urns not only the classic shapes, but also a little more unusual shapes.

Or, of course, especially as a highlight, the diamond, where from the ashes or from the hair or plumage, there is carbon in it, this carbon is extracted and then in a complex process abroad, at least it is done in Switzerland, in You are not allowed to do that in Germany, so a diamond is pressed here. The whole process takes up to around four or six months, based on the natural creation process, but shortened, where a beautiful, brilliant cut diamond is created from the rough diamond as we have here or as we have seen before.

LB:
Tell me very briefly what it costs. 1 carat, you just told me the price ...

RM:
Exactly, we have 0.25 carats here, which costs 3,900 euros and the largest currently is 1 carat, which is 17,000 euros. These are of course very exclusive exhibits that I will have as a memento. But we have also been developing steadily since we started offering this. It is not a rapid development now, we may have had six sales of diamonds in different sizes in the last year. But it's always this individually shaped wish to have something special from your animal as a memory if you don't want an urn.

LB:
Let's get back to the franchise system. Now first to ANUBIS. What does the name say, how did you come up with it?

RM:
ANUBIS, I came up with that, well, I'm a bit of an Egyptian fanatic. I have always had this ancient Egyptian philosophy, where Anubis just came out, practically 3,000 before Christ, where this human and animal god was present in Egypt. I have always liked that, this philosophy that there is no fear of death, but that in the end the realm of the dead for the ancient Egyptians was actually what is worth striving for. Life, well, was there now, the biology all clear, but what we really want is the realm of the dead. There I meet my animal, there I meet the Pharaoh, there I meet everything.

And that's actually what I'm working towards, that's my "happening". This impartiality, this looseness in dealing with death, with the old and with the sick, that suits me. That's my intuition. And Anubis himself, the man with the jackal head, also had the task of making the preparations. So when someone has died, to do the mummification, which you can often see in reliefs in drawings from ancient Egypt or from the ancient Egyptians.

So the one who carried out the mummification, the preparation, and who then also kept the grave guard with novrets, for example. And this companion, what is behind it in principle and this somewhat more innocuous way of dealing with death, these were the components where I said to myself, Anubis is actually the ideal name for my company, for my philosophy “we help when friends go ”, to be seen in the companionship, that is the right company name, which also correctly represents our thoughts and actions.

LB:
So Egyptian inspired. How do you come up with the idea of ​​expanding it as a franchise system at some point? How can I imagine that? Tell us the story of where you sat, said you know what, I'm opening my pet burial as a franchise system. How did this happen?

RM:
So that came at the turn of the millennium, when there was also the BSE crisis, where a lot was reported on television about what happens to the animals when they stay at the vet. Before it was all under lock and key, nobody talked about it, nobody reported about it in great detail. Because, of course, this product, meat and bone meal or animal fat, has flowed into the food cycle, in cattle, in pigs, etc.

And when there was the BSE crisis, where contaminated animal meal was fed on, where this Creutzfeld-Jakob disease was widespread, where many animals died or had to be euthanized, there was a lot of reports on the subject of what happened with the animal when it is at the vet?

Of course, you also saw reports of where the animals got into the chopper. Whether a dog, a piece of horse or whatever. How it is then processed and that startled people. You said, for God's sake, with my animal! I always thought if it got to the vet it would be burned. Then you just realized that this is not the case. Of course there was also a point that came along and then of course a report where a television team accompanied us for a week and also asked why I am doing a funeral? Who is that who wants to bury his animals? How does that work? How do I imagine something like that? How does it work in the crematorium? And it was a nice, objective report. It ran on all of the third channels, including ARD.

That brought a lot of information for people and then more and more inquiries came in. We have had inquiries from Rostock, Hamburg, Munich, North Rhine-Westphalia, Stuttgart, from everywhere. At the beginning we tried to serve from us here in the Nuremberg area, to drive over there, to fetch the animals. But you're completely overwhelmed, it's just too far, the distance. You can't realize that. In addition, individual inquiries have come from interested parties who have said that you have been in the market for some time, so to speak, and have experience in it, we don't have any. There is hardly anyone who offers something like this. Couldn't we join in? Couldn't we benefit from your experience?

These were these two components, the strong demand, the demand that goes beyond our region and the inquiries from interested parties, we cannot add to the experience you have. Back then, that was in 2001, our franchise system or the idea of ​​the franchise system came into being. Not about a license, about a license offer or something, but it was clear to me if, then franchising, where there are clear guidelines, quality management is in place and where there are clear structures and you work together with the entrepreneurs.

LB:
Did you have a role model there? Did you say that this is a franchise system, which I use as a model?

RM:
Of course you looked a bit back then, here Fressnapf, but that's a different category. Fressnapf also founded a few years before us and had also had a great development and also developed this franchise system. It was also a company where I said it couldn't be so wrong to set up franchises instead of licensees or branches in Hamburg, Berlin or anywhere. You have to look after them, how do you want to make it happen? So I take an independent entrepreneur who is of course trained accordingly, of course with the product range, brochure offer and equipment, with CI guidelines, with guidelines for dealing with the entire funeral order and with the customer here under ANUBIS or for ANUBIS works, but as an independent entrepreneur.

LB:
What should potential franchisees know about ANUBIS?

RM:
I think the decisive factor and the huge advantage with us is simply this free entrepreneurship. Well, we also had a time, that was sometimes a bit of a hardship in franchising too, you have to be honest. That was from 2001 to 2004, where we worked centrally. At that time there were no large crematoriums in Germany, so we said to the partners, watch out, take care of your establishment, your awareness, that you build up the contacts accordingly, about your work.

We pick up the animals from you and transfer them to a crematorium. At that time it was still abroad, in France for example. And you don't need to think about the products either, you don't choose a supplier and such, but you can also order them centrally from us. We always said clearly to our partners that this is the purchase price, that is the mark-up, 10 percent and that is then your price. So, everything stayed within limits.

Of course, what is sometimes the mistake of franchising, especially of start-ups, one did not look too much at what kind of entrepreneurs are those who want to join the system. Rather, they looked more at the quantity, this growth, this rapid progress.

Suddenly, after three, four years, 10, 12, also having franchise partners based in Austria was of course a nice affair, it looked nice. But in the end it was still not the entrepreneurial quality behind it, which is also needed to continue to be successful here and to advance the brand accordingly.

As a result, there was of course a crash with the franchisees, where they split up and then completely rebuilt the system. That is a bit of that learning curve, the whole thing has been put on decentralized feet, the way we still work today and which has proven to be excellent.

We offer companies or franchise partners framework conditions from suppliers that we negotiate with those for the system, for everyone together. The partners can then purchase on the terms and settle directly with the supplier. If there are bonuses, the partners also get their share of them, measured in terms of sales. They can also deliver to their own crematoria, with whom they settle directly, if desired, we of course negotiate general conditions so that they then have better prices than other normal animal undertakers.

But otherwise it is an independent, freelance entrepreneur who can also build his own crematorium with us, which is also unusual in the industry. So here, too, he is free to do what he does. He gets every help from us, every support from us, but he is a very free entrepreneur. And that is simply a huge advantage, this very independent work, but still in a strong network.

LB:
That distinguishes many systems, there are the systems that set the guard rails very broadly, what their system now apparently is, where they say he is free as an entrepreneur, he has a lot of freedom. There are of course the very narrow ones, where you can neither left nor right, but have clearly specified where to go and you are not allowed to look left and right.

RM:
That's right.

LB:
It's just very, very free with you.

RM:
As a note, we always appreciate our meetings, which we have twice a year with the franchise partners. Once with your partner, once here with us in the region. These are always meetings, too, of course it's a bit controversial at times.There are always topics in the system that do not suit everyone, logically. There is heated discussion, then you sit together again in a friendly way, of course, that's the way it is.

We're all actually good guys, good people. But it is also the case that a lot of things are going on democratically here. Sure, there may be an end point where a decision has to be made, but we try, purely from our intention, to always coordinate this with the partners by democratic agreement when there are new products, changes, recordings of certain things To really explain this to partners in such a way that they then take it on of their own accord and support it. Because in the end, in my opinion, it is the greater success that lies behind it.

LB:
What do good franchisees have to bring with them to join ANUBIS? What are you looking for?

RM:
Of course, we make sure that there is already a commercial background here. Because it is a company that I have to run, where I have to know what accounting means, what commercial management means of the company. And of course also very clearly, because we are dealing with animal owners, with emotions, with deceased animals, he should of course also bring something with him at this point, the understanding and the feeling. And maybe also that he either once had a dog or an animal or still has one up-to-date, that he can just go along here, empathize.

Because that's often the mistake in our area, too, where many say, well, it's an open market, I now have my dollar signs in front of me and things are really going on there. I throw my notes around and everyone wants me. It is crucial and the pet owner notices that, especially in our emotional business, with what passion and with what honesty I work, what expression I have.

And it is a basic requirement which feeling I bring along in addition to the commercial and, of course, the purely financial. Of course, I'm starting a company. A lot of what you see here with us often have a bit of atypical ideas, like, yes, I now have 5,000 euros here, now I want to start. Well, I can't start a business like that. It is clear that I have an investment to make, I have to set up a shop, a vehicle, everything I need and of course I have to have reserves for a certain period of time if I have to make a living from it. And I just have to calculate everything properly, calculate entrepreneurially and that this is guaranteed, that it is available, that is what we pay attention to.

LB:
You just talked about numbers. What do you have to bring with you as an investment? What does it look like if you want to start small with a shop, not your own crematorium.

RM:
When you talk about invest, that's actually an area where you say around 50,000 euros. So what I need now for the license fee, we have 9,500 euros with on-site training. Then, if I add office and all sorts of things, I'm maybe around 25,000, depending on the equipment requirements up to 30,000 euros, and then I have the first year when I say okay, I have my costs. I still have to add my life to that. It is very clear. But it is also forgotten by many. They always think okay, this is my investment and feed, no idea, somehow it works by itself. But that is also forgotten by many and you have to tell them clearly: Please think about it and if that is not guaranteed, the whole thing makes no sense.

LB:
Is there only one type of license now or do you have different ones? If you want a crematorium, is that a different type of license?

RM:
No, as I said, franchise licenses where you can join the system and if a partner, as is currently the case with our partner in Karlsruhe, who is now building and building a crematorium, then another additional agreement is made that is linked again to the term of the contract. Wherever we give all the input, the support for the crematorium, for the approval process, no extraordinary contract is necessary now, just a supplementary contract for the crematorium.

LB:
ANUBIS has been around as a franchise system for almost 20 years. If that happened around the turn of the millennium, there are still a lot of franchisees from back then. How do you ensure sustained satisfaction for the franchisees, is a big issue with all franchise systems, especially with long-term franchisees, how do I keep them satisfied, how do you do it?

RM:
I think that's the way it is with us, on the one hand, of course, the biennial partner meetings, that is a factor where we really have a very communicative and lively exchange and a team-oriented exchange. That is one thing, the other is also the innovations that we continuously offer our partners. We ensure that we have now completely relaunched the brand in 2017 for our 20-year-old, where we have received the core of the ANUBIS logo, but have redesigned it, made it fresher, where we have the feel of the service brochures, the paper , where we redesigned the whole thing. So where we have revised and redesigned the entire product range including the website.

We then also had the virtual pet cemetery, to make the customer connection a little better, reprogrammed and made available, and forums made available. And we are also constantly developing what giveaways are now for promotional items, making suggestions to our partners. So we are actually always on the move with thoughts and innovations and offer it to the partner so that he says, this is great, I concentrate on my regional area, I don't really need to worry about anything else, can have my own ideas I can also bring them to the system. The colleagues also like to hear that, they are also happy to take on this, but also of course the head office, which does something for me all the time and keeps me fresh here with new ideas.

LB:
So communication and constant further development of the system. Now quality, also an issue in franchising, with many partners. How do you maintain the quality so that the work in North Germany is exactly the way you want it to be as in South Germany?

RM:
These are our guidelines and principles, with which the partners have to work and where it is specified how a funeral order has to run, how the labeling, how the bereavement care, how the answering also of inquiries, in which timeline has to run. In that year we have let the whole thing flow into an ISO certification, the ISO 901 2015 certification, where practically now in January the last two partners, i.e. practically all franchise partners, all businesses, regardless of whether with a crematorium or whether they are only companies that are also ISO certified.

LB:
Okay, was that a requirement or did everyone do it voluntarily?

RM:
Again in our understanding of democracy, we worked on it for a long time. The partners weren't necessarily so understanding because they said that it costs money, what do I get from it, etc. But that has actually prevailed within the last three years. More and more partners were in favor and said that this is simply a competitive advantage. Not only do I say that a crematorium is certified, but also really I as a company, so that my customers can see that I am working correctly and according to certain guidelines and principles. And it is simply important as a competitive advantage and as a measure of quality compared to the customers and that has finally prevailed in the system, but not imposed, but through conviction. That’s always the nice thing.

LB:
Now they had already said something about the great learning they had, that at the beginning they included a lot in the system, that it wasn't always that good either. Was that what you were just hinting at when you said what potential franchisees should know about your company. You will certainly go into it now when I ask you about the greatest challenge as a franchisor. Was that the biggest challenge back then and if so, what did you learn from it?

RM:
That was clearly the biggest challenge. You can say, except for two partners, we had 12 at the time, except for two partners and then one of them left again, you separated from the others. That was of course in the development phase.

LB:
Are there two left afterwards?

RM:
Yes exactly. That was tough.

LB:
That is a challenge!

RM:
It's an absolute challenge, but it was essential. So, I also know after that, after a couple of years, there were two former partners who said it was our biggest mistake. Some of the others no longer existed, they dissolved by themselves. Because they founded their own brand, so to speak, where someone also had this brand as trademark protection. Well, that was not regulated among each other and it was also not regulated who worked where and how, who had what ideas. Everyone was left to their own devices.

LB:
What have you now specifically learned from it?

RM:
I have learned specifically from this that the decisive factor is not quantity, but quality.

LB:
The franchisee?

RM:
Yes, the franchisee. It is very clear and natural that here too you simply have different factors, entrepreneurial thinking, also the financial background and also the person as a type, that there are simply factors in order to be successful with the group, with the system as a whole.

LB:
Well, if I got that right, they also rebuilt the whole system. From more centralized control, more specifications to decentralized and more freedom.

RM:
That is of course also a decentralized factor, which I also find an advantage. And entrepreneurial freedom, that's important.

LB:
This is important to them because they exemplify this lifestyle.

RM:
Yes, and I think in our industry, you always have to see the industry. There are certainly industries where it is important to work centrally. In the case of large franchise companies, it is certainly more of an advantage that it is a line. But now in our area individuality is a higher factor and there this individual track, this somewhat more liberal track, is part of the entrepreneurial activity.

I have my guidelines, I have the proper concept, so to speak, of how I have to work, even now with the Dekra certification, but otherwise I'm my own entrepreneur and ultimately responsible for myself. And the franchisor also gives me this leeway so that I can also contribute a little individually. I think this is important and beneficial in our emotional field of activity.

LB:
Yes absolutely. I don't think you can pretend empathy. You can't say that you are empathetic if you do it this way or that. Everyone has that individually. I can imagine thtat. Now let's look into the future. What can we expect from ANUBIS in the future? You just said something about a virtual pet cemetery that you set up. Maybe you want to say something there? And maybe also the projects that you have planned for the future?

RM:
Yes, of course, we have set up our virtual pet cemetery for some time, which is really very well received by pet owners. There is also a mourning forum where a very communicative exchange takes place. Where we now have almost 5 million clicks a year on this virtual pet cemetery. That is quite a number. You can just see that there is a need from the people.

LB:
How can I imagine that, virtual cemetery?

RM:
If you go to our site under “virtual pet cemetery”, I can create a grave site when my animal has died. This is free of charge with us and regardless of whether the animal is buried with us or not. So I can build a grave, I can then add text, I can light a candle that burns for 7 days, other friends and acquaintances or one from the virtual pet cemetery can do that. Other participants can also light candles and write condolences. I can also decoratively decorate a memorial card, there are various suggestions to send to friends and relatives and can say that my Bello has passed away and it was a bad day for me. So, I can take part here too.

It's just like a cemetery, only virtual. And the advantage of course, I'm always there, I can always go in, even when I'm on vacation. I can access my grave site from anywhere in the world. And that is already popular with many and we simply have our style here, too, a lot with the pet owners, with the users, we have done surveys, what else do you want, what do you still need, what is still missing, what should be more beautiful and be better. And because of this, this virtual pet cemetery and the forum, where people can exchange ideas, have evolved and developed and have become what it is in the end. And of course it is also a product of constructive cooperation with the users themselves. I don't want to work past them, I want to work with them.

And the forum is a really great story too. We always have a forum meeting twice a year. Where people have found each other personally via the virtual deep cemetery, via the forum, where couples have developed, where friendships have been made and where here, also with us, meetings always take place twice a year at our pet cemetery in Grünsberg. Participants come from Karlsruhe, Saarbrücken, partly from Passau, from Würzburg or here from Nuremberg, the Erlangen area, and come and meet there. From this real friendships developed and friendships were made. It is a wonderful thing that this virtual state becomes such a reality where people approach each other. Don't just communicate anonymously with each other. I think that's a great thing and a very nice thing.

That is one thing and then our other endeavor is that we continue to develop agencies in Germany. And then also that the ANUBIS partners, who do not have a crematorium at the moment, also find themselves in the situation of opening a crematorium that they also have their own ANUBIS crematorium for themselves in their region.

LB:
There are also two planned?

RM:
There are currently two additional plans planned, yes.

LB:
Yes, nice, thank you so far, that was fun. Great insight into ANUBIS animal burial as a franchise system. I can imagine that this could be interesting for many who also have an affinity for animals and I think it is also important to make the last path dignified. Nice system, I really like it. Let's come briefly to final questions, Mr. Merker, are you ready?

RM:
Yes.

LB:
Wonderful, with the book we said yes, let's leave that out. You mentioned Karl May and Das Parfum.

RM:
Yes, exactly, I am not the reader.

LB:
That's perfectly fine too. Then the last question before we say goodbye. With all your current experience, what would you advise your 25-year-old self?

RM:
Good question, I would say I'm actually a very satisfied person. You had to experience what you experienced, it worked. And I would advise myself, if I do it again. So there is no fact for me

LB:
So a very great inner serenity and calm too.

RM:
Satisfaction.

LB:
Very nice. Mr. Merker, thank you very much. Of course, I wish them and you again, my dear listeners, more time for the really important things in life, ciao.

RM:
Ciao.