How franchisors can prevent tech from holding back growth

April 29, 2019 | By Firefield CEO and Founder, Adam McGowan

Lessons from two franchisors that outgrew their software

For franchisors, tech is a critical part of the operations infrastructure that you provide for every location. Your franchisees want a strong model, brand, and support structure. It should be a given that franchisor support includes cutting-edge software.

Each franchise unit needs software tools for daily business operations. That software can either enable or hamper the growth of the franchise as a whole. The one way to ensure you’re poised for growth? Tech strategy designed to add efficiently franchise units and maximize their profitability.

Think of it like this. If your business is thriving and hiring new employees, sooner or later you’d require a new office space and more desks just to fit everyone.

It’s the same with technology. What works for a few franchise locations, won’t necessarily fit hundreds of new employees spread across dozens of sites. You’ll eventually need software with the capacity to match the expanding needs of your business.

When a franchise is starting out, third-party software should be sufficient. However, there comes a point where future growth is practically impossible without a tech strategy and at least some custom solutions.

Using franchise operations software to grow your business

Visionary franchise leaders know that with the right tech strategy their operations and franchise software can create opportunities in several areas. There are at least three categories of software to think about for franchisors looking to drive growth: Sales/marketing, operations, and franchise management.

3 Types of software for franchisors:

  1. Franchise Marketing and Sales Software:  Marketing automation and CRMs make it easier to land franchisees and bring new consumers to your franchise units. There are tons of great software tools for marketing and sales, available right off the shelf. It is likely you can find a software tool (or a combination of tools) that will serve all your needs. If you strategize and configure your marketing and sales software properly, it will seamlessly shift into product and service delivery.  
  2. Franchise Operations Software: Once you have consumers in the door, tech can boost the output of daily business options. Unit operations require new technology to stay competitive while effectively delivering the product or services to consumers. This is an area where proprietary processes and software can create a massive competitive edge for sales and delivery.
  3. Franchise Management Software: Finally, franchisors need management and oversight of your franchise units. Painlessly managing royalties and relationships with your franchise units is critical for the health of your entire business.

Driving growth with tech strategy

With an effective tech strategy, a franchisor can make sure all these software tools are working together (and not creating barriers or slowdowns).

I’ve found that marketing and sales software is typically in the best shape, leaving franchise operations and management as the biggest growth opportunities. However both will also cause huge problems if you get that software wrong. If you have problems with your operations software, those issues will follow all the way up to tracking royalties and franchise management.

Improving the software used in each of these stages can drive growth for overall sales and royalties.

I’ve seen these growth opportunities first hand, while working with business leaders committed to growing a franchise. These are leaders who can see their business is outgrowing their current technology and proactively moved to find software that can keep pace with them.

For new or established franchisors to harness this growth, leadership starts out asking two questions. First, is our tech preventing growth? Second, what results can we get from investing in new software?

We have two case studies that do a great job of illustrating my earlier points, if you’ll forgive me for bragging about our team here. Both of these franchisors have worked with Firefield and ultimately show how other franchisors can build tech that scales with their business.

When your franchise outgrows third-party software

Early on, a business faces technical challenges when they begin franchising. However, when a franchise expands to more units, that growth can expose gaps, cause problems, and start to overload franchise software. Scaling a franchise into a national brand requires the enterprise-level tech capable of supporting thousands of employees and customers.

Most businesses start out using third-party software for accounting, scheduling, and all other business operations. However after franchising, The Flying Locksmiths found relying on third-party technology for their core operations was hampering their business. The software wasn’t designed to scale.

Their physical security specialists had to implement workarounds just to get through day-to-day operations. The leadership at The Flying Locksmiths knew it was time to invest in software that would improve efficiency as they added new franchise locations.

The Flying Locksmiths needed software that gave their franchisees a variety of tools. Their software needed to manage scheduling and dispatch, help technicians in the field, accept payments, and handle accounting through an integration with Quickbooks.

Franchises can be successful using third-party software, building custom tools and integrations as needed. But reducing your reliance on off-the-shelf solutions can account for the evolving needs of a franchise, increasing efficiency and profitability.

If you’re using multiple disconnected software solutions and your technology is slowing down employees, those solutions may break down and force you to start exploring new options. Over time, any business must make changes to keep up in the marketplace and stay relevant to consumers.

Building scalable franchise software is likely more accessible than you would think. It all starts with leaders who are prepared to sit down, create a tech strategy for success and put it into action. For The Flying Locksmiths, their tech strategy is paying off and they are now the largest national locksmith and physical security franchise.

When your platform needs a redesign after franchising

After Supporting Strategies, a bookkeeping service for small businesses, moved to a franchise model they began to take a critical look at their technology. The software they were using had been built and evolving for a decade. Their bookkeeping units were now outgrowing the software they used for daily business.

They needed to replace and consolidate tools that served hundreds of employees, dozens of locations, and thousands of clients. A priority in their tech strategy was building a new platform that would scale to accommodate their fast growth.

As a result, they started working with Firefield as their tech partner. We had to migrate millions of emails from old systems to the new platform we built, myWorkplace. In addition, we had 35 bookkeeping franchises across the country to onboard, with hourly tracking and client billing that couldn’t skip a beat.

Now they have an internal email client, time tracking systems, task management toolkits, and reporting packages. The platform integrates and interfaces with applications like Quickbooks Online.

Through all this, myWorkplace continues to perform as Supporting Strategies’ unit, employee, and client counts continue their rapid ascent.

Now they have the franchise software that enables them to efficiently and quickly add new locations.

“Firefield has become a critical business partner for us. Not only did their team design and rebuild our software on a new platform, but also brought a thoughtful planning and execution process to the table — allowing us to build the system the right way out of the gate and ensure we ended up with the right features and a great end-user experience for our team.”

Leslie Jorgensen, MBA, Founder & CEO, Supporting Strategies

Strategizing for long-term growth

Last year, both Supporting Strategies and The Flying Locksmiths made it onto Entrepreneur’s list of Top New Franchises. Both franchisors have successfully leveraged software in non-technical industries, creating a path for them to thrive in the marketplace.

What if you’re considering moving to a franchise model? You might already be talking with franchise consultants and lawyers. In addition, both of these successful businesses show that developing a tech strategy is also a critical part of expanding as a franchise. For a franchise, or any small business, software projects will fail without a tech strategy.

Your franchisees (and consumers) are now expecting, if not demanding, constant evolution of technology. That constant evolution requires a strategic approach to ensure your tech upgrades are robust and hold up over time. If you’re investing in franchise software, you need to plan for it to grow with you.

Franchisors can reach a breaking point with software, like a seedling quickly outgrowing the tiny pot where it was planted. You want technology that will give you space to flourish.

You can get more details about these growing franchisors in our full Firefield case studies for Supporting Strategies and The Flying Locksmiths.

Ready to start exploring a new tech strategy? Learn what’s possible for you in a no-cost Firefield advising session.