A couple of years ago, on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv, a well known Canadian franchisor attorney posed this question to the group:

"A large franchisor has asked me to obtain recommendations of software used with success by other large franchisors to electronically manage franchise agreements and other documents, and to keep track of renewal dates, notice dates, lease dates, etc...", 

My response to this questions needs to be longer and may offend the promotional rules that the ABA enforces, so I will publish it here and not as a response on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv.

And no offense to franchise attorneys, as some of my closest friends are attorneys who practice franchise law, however I've found few that can answer this question - as it is largely an operational one.

With over 20 years of franchise operational expertise, I have run across just about every problem a database could solve.

The secret about database software is that many franchisors who have implemented a solution aren't using what they've built.

They may be just using certain modules or features so that the franchisor CEO may proclaim the success of automating his enterprise.  

 A. What does the franchisor really need database software for?

There are two reasons a franchisor uses database software:

a) is to manage new franchise sales, and;

b) to ensure communications are delivered to franchisees.

However, the selling of franchises is the primary objective.  

There are good reasons to automate a franchisor's processes, procedures and information.

Unfortunately, most franchisors are not organized well enough.  They will have serious challenges in figuring out how to implement an database solution.

A database solution can't magically transform a franchisor's sales process, document management, operations support, ongoing training, local and national marketing programming, and social media if the franchisor doesn't already have those functions organized and working smoothly.

A database solution can't make your people smart.  You may not like what you discover about your team and how they perform their work as you implement your database solution.

The processes you think are in place and guiding your business  may be written down or in a work flow chart defining the critical path, but the reality of what actually happens may be different - in a startling way.

And if you choose to not carefully consider and inspect, you will be automating garbage.

B. So what's a franchisor to do?

·         Well first stop asking your franchise attorney for technology advice.

·         Look internally, audit and document top-down your business practices.

·         Do ask your franchise attorney about compliance and your franchising practices.

·         Determine what you want as a franchisor out of database automation.

·         Thoughtfully involve your franchisees in the process.

·         Think about what you can do now with what you have today in preparation for eventual automation.

·         Don't be fooled by the siren call of franchisor nirvana by database providers.

Here is one, of many, simple exercise: how do you document the receipts of your franchise disclosure documents?  Can you instantly find the receipts of all the franchise disclosure documents and match them up with the execution of the franchise contract? Would your franchise attorney be happy with this record?  

If the answer is no, you need to work on your internal audits before thinking about a database solution.  If you passed this simple exercise, then I might be able to assist you in picking the appropriate tasks to automate with a database solution.  

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