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T AMING TECHNOLOGYKeeping Your Customersin Sight—Getting Insightsfrom Your CustomersAdding Value To The Franchise With Accounting, Contact/Customer Management, and Time Billing SolutionsBy Paul B. Baron F ranchise professionals can directly attribute part of their success to identifying and imple- menting business processes that are reliable, repeatable and cost-effective. Everyone wants to gain insight “behind the numbers” in order to capture more business, grow or leverage an installed customer base. The integra- tion of technology solutions into existing franchise business processes, systems and services, or included as stand-alone “must have” components, is important to the success of the entire franchise organization. Accounting software, contact management solutions and time-tracking and billing software, either offered together or separately, add affordable value to the franchise and winning results for both the franchisor and the small business entrepreneur. Using Technology to Drive Growth In today’s cost-conscious environment, technology may be the best partner of all for franchised small businesses. Whether it’s an effective Web site, a good piece of business management software or a powerful new computer, these tools can support a host of core activities. However, technology needs to be considered carefully and managed to generate Technology solutions for accounting, time- a maximum return on investment. Here are a few tracking and billing, and contact and customer maxims to consider: management spread success throughout the franchise organization. Encouraging the usage of Do not overlook the basics of good computing. these software products as part of the small-business investment offers an opportunity for the franchisee to better understand the business and customers and to begin growing immediately. For the Use technology to ease your load franchise organization, these applications provide Technology alone cannot ignite growth or solve all the backbone for reports and communications to development problems. Yet as part of an integrated view, manage, and support the success of its expansion strategy, it can provide the extra edge a franchisees. From front-office marketing solutions growing business needs. Lean on technology to to back-office integration with other productivity make quick work of time-consuming manual solutions help franchisors and their business units processes, such as number-crunching, check-gener- manage revenue, monitor operations and integrate ation, reports and database marketing. Use it to business applications to be more productive and capture and manage often-elusive data about cost efficient. customer contacts and habits. In addition, put it to30 FRANCHISING WORLD AUGUST 2005
work to spot trends that aren’t evident in cards today, companies can download house. Even if it makes financial senseday-to-day routines. spending data from the Internet to for personnel to write an essential piece analyze. Alternatively, use a software of software, the cost of maintaining andChoose carefully program that will provide reports and updating the software in the future maySmall-to-mid-sized businesses can get data to outsource business needs, such not have been factored in. Ask thesecarried away with automation. By as payroll services or tax requirements, two questions: Will it take less time,focusing too much on technology, small to an independent accountant or effort and cost to manage thebusinesses can do themselves harm so bookkeeper. outsourcing relationship than it would tothey must focus on choosing the right complete the task in-house? Is thetools from among the many technology Practice smart computing product or activity being considered foroptions available. Comparison-shopping Whether the franchise buys software or o u t s o u rc i n g s o f a r o u t s i d e o f t h eis important, as is looking for vendors builds its own tools in-house, do not business that mastering it will notthat offer interoperable, expandable and overlook the basics of good computing. advance the core competence andscalable products that can grow with Technology is only as reliable as the strategy? If the answer is “yes” to both,your company. Companies that offer people using it. Outline a set of then outsourcing is likely to be the rightsolutions for both small and mid-market technology procedures for securing data answer.businesses may be able to offer a desir- from outside eyes and equipment failure.able “one-stop shop” and smooth Ensure that all employees are familiar Accounting solutions—successmigration path for the life of a business, with the procedures and follow them. If begins with better insight behind theas well as the corporate needs of the a company relies on technology, numbersparent of multi-unit operations. guarantee that backup capabilities are If accounting is more than just sound. “keeping score” and is essential toConsider a simple solution making better business decisions, thenNot every business challenge requires a Look at outsourcing offer franchisees a solution that is easy tofull-fledged technology hammer. For Rapid growth often leaves little time for use and will produce the informationexample, if an accounting package is managing a technology department. upon which some of the most importantbeyond the current abilities or budget, That’s why some companies consider decisions are based. Both franchiseestry using a single credit card for all outsourcing. Very small businesses tend and franchising systems need thebusiness purchases. With most credit to err on the side of doing too much in- (Continued on page 32) Franchising Success Powered by Sage Software Adding Value to Support Growth • Branding • Customization • POS Integration • Training & Support Manage Your Manage Your Manage Your Time Numbers Customers Timeslips by Sage is Peachtree by Sage ACT! by Sage is the #1 ideal for anyone who accounting software contact and customer bills for their services is for owners of management solution and wants to turn successful, growth- — used by millions to more of their time into oriented businesses build relationships and money. who want the insight behind their numbers. get results. www.sagesoftware.com Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 866-290-0788 AUGUST 2005 FRANCHISING WORLD 31
Franchisors Need: Franchisees Need: • To deliver value within the • To track and manage customers, franchise package that will job estimates, sales, quotes, inven- support the success and growth of tory, ordering and payroll. the franchisee. • Bookkeeping and payment • Useful reporting functionality to processing, including invoicing, get the information they need to credit card, accounts receivable better analyze the overall and POS. business. • Organized scheduling and • To distribute sales leads and track reminders. progress and success. • E-mail and marketing tools to stay • Easy start-up, with necessary in touch with customers and training and support. capture new business. • Ease of use, training, and support.(Continued from page 31) results will help companies to optimize a new software application, “industrialbusiness analysis tools that can help sales results and increase the bottom strength” printer or point of sale system,manage the organization more effec- line. Histories of past calls, meetings and use the investment to its maximumtively and more profitably, whether it’s notes about follow-up and potential potential. Get to know the capabilitiesfor one location or 10,000. Good opportunities are easily accessible to of the purchased technology and useaccounting software will help help users stay on top of their schedules. them to help expand. For example,franchisees better manage their books, accounting software not only can keepbusiness, and Internet presence by deliv- Time-tracking and billing solutions the books, but it can also discover trendsering features that provide the valuable Time-tracking and billing are specialized in customers’ payments that can allowinsight needed for success. Both the processes that are critical to organiza- franchises to predict cash flow in thefranchisor and the small-business owner tions and service professionals who track future. As this example suggests, ITwant to be able to review crucial projects and bill for their time, such as acquisitions not only need to adapt aselements of the operation instantly to contractors, lawyers, accountants, the business grows, but also to identifyquickly spot potential problems and consultants and engineers. If your emerging patterns and red-flag opera-opportunities—and react accordingly. franchise falls into this category, consider tional problems. This information adopting a time and services billing combines to provide companies with the Customer and contact manage- solution to support the success of the information they need to keep thement solutions—make contact, build business. This software will help company’s growth strategy on course.relationships and get results. maximize profitability by reducing the Integration of accounting solutions, Small businesses require a centralized time spent on administrative tasks while contact-management and time-trackingplace to organize key customer data accurately capturing time and properly and billing software, as well as point-of-easily. This used to be the Rolodex or documenting project-oriented and sale systems in retail establishments, canfile cabinet. Now, with e-mail, the Web, billable tasks. Additionally, the range of be an additional step to aid small-direct mail, telephone, fax, mobile reporting capabilities, including pre- business success. Successful franchisorscommunications and personal digital packaged and customizable reports, who include these applications as part ofassistants, successful businesses need to offers the insight to help better under- a complete solution are delivering theget and give answers quickly and reliably stand the business and make better tools and training that support and accel-to make contacts feel important. decisions. Whether the model is a one- erate the growth of their franchise systemFranchisees require an easy-to-use person independent, a small, two-person and of their company-operated andsolution that will track and manage office or a large organization with many franchised business units. Icontact information, sales opportunities, partners and associates, time and billingcalendars, to-do lists, reports, correspon- solutions help to optimize the efforts and Paul Baron is director of newdence and more. Contact management the billings. business development, fran-software helps individuals and teams chise systems of Sage Software,manage customer relationships by Use What You Buy North America. He can bebuilding more solid relationships. These Once firms have invested the capital for reached at email@example.com FRANCHISING WORLD AUGUST 2005