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In Latin, it's called consensus ad idem, meaning "meeting of the minds." In layman's terms, or in the case of Mitch Berliner and Peter Buttenwieser, it's simply two guys who turned a chance occurrence into an uber-successful business partnership that has exceeded their wildest dreams.

 

Although Their Paths Crossed By Chance,

Synergy Has Propelled Biz Partners To Top


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Berliner and Buttenwieser are managing partners of CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT, which for the past five years has earned the status of being the No. 1 residential business within the 400-plus offices of CertaPro Painters, America's largest and most-referred painting company. 

What makes their story interesting is that neither ever thought he would be in the painting business, but by happenstance - and most importantly, a lot of hard work - they have turned what Buttenwieser calls a "very synergistic partnership" into a thriving business that has been one of the most successful in the CertaPro Painters' franchise system.

"We refer to ourselves as managing partners vs. owners," said Buttenwieser of the pair, who each hold a 50 percent stake in the franchise. "While we each have our own areas of expertise and specialty, we are always seeking the other's advice and consulting in each other's domains."

In 2004, Berliner was an IT sales executive when he hired CertaPro Painters to stain the cedar siding and paint the trim on his home in Somers. When Berliner's general contractor said the finished work was some of the best he had ever seen, Berliner was so impressed... he bought the company.

Flash forward to 2005 and Buttenwieser was an advertising and marketing executive who hired CertaPro Painters to restore and paint his circa 1908 house in Bedford. Buttenwieser was so impressed... he called Berliner and ended up buying into the company.

"When I got a message to contact Peter, my assumption was that he was calling to complain about something. It turned out he wanted to discuss how we were marketing the company and if I would be open to selling him equity in the business," Berliner said. "I was initially hesitant to take on a partner, but in hindsight, I made a pretty good decision."

Buttenwieser had done his due diligence on CertaPro Painters and the painting industry as a whole. Three things caught his attention: 1) it was a relatively low overhead business; 2) the competition was mostly mom-and-pop businesses with no definitive branding; 3) as people increasingly turned to the internet to make home-improvement decisions, a national brand such as CertaPro Painters was well-positioned to capture internet market share.

Despite their bullishness on the industry, in the early going neither Berliner nor Buttenwieser quit their day jobs: Berliner with Hewlett Packard and Buttenwieser with his marketing firm, I Before E Marketing. "We started out thinking it would be a fun side business and we might make some great vacation money every year. But things kept getting bigger and bigger," Buttenwieser said.

That is an understatement.

Today, CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT has a management staff of 14 and more than 150 painters and tradespeople on its team. Two of those team members - Shawn Gallagher and Alex Ramos - who were the account manager and job site supervisor, respectively, when Berliner and Buttenwieser had their homes painted, are still with the company, Gallagher as Senior Residential Accounts Manager and Ramos as Senior Job Site Supervisor. In 2014, the entire team was honored with the Certa Cup, an award given to the top franchise throughout the CertaPro Painters' network.

"We are very proud of what we have built and for how many families we are putting food on the table," Buttenwieser said.

The majority of CertaPro Painters' franchises are single owner/operator businesses. While there are some husband/wife partnerships and a few where two businesses have merged operations, very few have grown organically as Berliner and Buttenwieser have done with their franchise.

Berliner is general manager, overseeing all sales and operations, while Buttenwieser manages all marketing and customer relationship management.

"It is a rare day when we do not speak at least two or three times," Berliner said. "One of our keys is that we can be really honest with each other because we trust each other, which really says something, given that 10 years ago we had never met. It's quite a remarkable relationship. During this whole time, I can't remember a single situation where we have had a major disagreement."

That being said, each business partner knows how to deliver a subtle message to the other when the circumstance warrants. You know... just the slightest little jab - with a nod and a wink - to get a point across.

"One thing we use with each other is the 'two strokes and a poke' method when we provide feedback to each other," Buttenwieser said. "The other day Mitch gave me some feedback on a piece of promotional literature that went something like this... 'Great job, looks really sharp; though I believe we discussed adding in a minimum job size, but I don't see that in the fine print.'"

More than a decade has gone by since their paths crossed, but the relevance of that meeting has never been lost on the pair. It's something Berliner certainly didn't forget to mention when talking recently about his two keys for running a top-tier CertaPro Painters franchise.

"Follow the system; that is why you bought into a franchise business. You can tinker here and there for your local market conditions, but don't try to outsmart everyone else who is doing this all over the country," Berliner said. "There are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of and landmines to avoid. And the best way to succeed is to get yourself a partner."


CertaPro Painters' best-in-class operational systems and procedures make it the most professional business model in the industry and its satisfied residential and commercial customers are the direct benefactors within the estimated $40 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada. CertaPro has been consistently ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in its category and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent.

         Founded in 1992, Audubon, Pennsylvania-based CertaPro Painters is the largest painting company in North America. With more than 350 independently owned and operated franchises worldwide, CertaPro provides a customer-driven painting experience for both residential and commercial properties that is unparalleled in the industry. The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. 


For more information, visit CertaPro Painters 


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When you are a big well respected company like Jacksonville, Florida based Paul Davis, lots of people come to you for your knowledge and expertise. The area of restoration and repairs, particulary after this awful spate of hurricanes, floods and now fires, is a busy one.

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Unfortunately, most of the calls that the EMS division of Paul Davis (Emergency Services--damage evaluation) receive brings them to an unhappy scene.

A house severely damaged or even lost, a teary-eyed family searching through what belongings may be saved. One can't help but sympathize with the emotions and difficulties these victims experience.

A full Paul Davis Restoration team then moves in to clean up and repair the scenes after evaluation. Not a happy time but often it does end up with a happy ending.

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Even without Mother Nature's huge events, common hazards of life can cause chaos. One is extreme cold; but surprisingly, there are easy and inexpensive things to do so you never have to deal with this particular problem.

On December 7th Paul Davis' "flood house", a demo home at their state-of-the-art training facility in Jacksonville, was used by consumer journalist Jeff Rossen to demonstrate all the ways in which one can avoid bursting pipes and other cold weather hazards.

We have shared here: https://www.today.com/home/how-avoid-bursting-pipes-costly-repairs-winter-t119612

Full segment: http://on.today.com/2zX7kTK


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What's in a Ranking? Plenty.

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Clients ask me all the time how important rankings are.

Franchise Times, Entrepreneur, Franchise Business Review among others, all publish several franchise ranking lists per year. Here's my response.

Everything positive you can show about your system is a plus, clearly. The important thing is to participate-answer emails from publications or entities that tell you you are being considered for this list or that.

You can forward to your PR people, but much of the information will likely have to come from your CFO.

As a PR firm for franchises, we keep a list "alarmed" for the most popular and (and this is important) the most credible rankings.

Four months before the list is published we remind clients to look for an email, form or link that they need to go to in order to be considered for inclusion on the said list.

We will also happily vet a request for legitimacy which you can ask your firm or PR person to do as well.

You can Google the list and publication in question yourself.

Then I recommend you do this below: not with every one but certainly when you have amassed as many as this Number One in Home Inspection franchise has.

Go ahead. Toot your horn, but putting out a press release for every list you are mentioned on minimizes the weight of the honor. Announce two-three awards or rankings at a time and soon you will become the SuperStar in your category like Pillar To Post!

PILLAR TO POST HOME INSPECTORS® RECEIVES TOP

RANKINGS FROM ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE IN SIX CATEGORIES IN 2016

They Will Raise Veterans Discount from 10% to 20% on Franchise Fees

(TAMPA, FLA.) -- Pillar To Post Home Inspectors has achieved the highest position in the Top Franchise for Veterans ranking in Entrepreneur Magazine for 2016. This prestigious honor is the sixth such ranking from the famed business publication for Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. The company ranked as follows in the magazine's January edition of the Franchise 500: #1 in their category of Home Inspection, Best of the Best, Fastest Growing Franchise, Top Home Based Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchises. In addition, the booming chain has already awarded 70 additional franchises since January of this year.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with this honor," said Dan Steward, President & CEO of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. "It says so much not only about how hard we've worked but how hard our franchisees have worked and maintained absolute integrity in their home inspections."

In addition, Pillar To Post ranks high in Franchise Business Review rankings. Franchise Business Review is a national franchise market research firm that performs independent surveys of franchisee satisfaction and franchise buyer experiences, examines the critical areas of a franchise system including training & support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, financial opportunity, and more. Its survey results deliver the unbiased facts about the overall health of a franchise system directly from today's franchise owners.

Pillar To Post has been named by Franchise Business Review's rankings of Top 50 in Franchisee Satisfaction, Top 30 among Home Service Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchise for 2016.

"We have been doing so well and are so honored to be named among Entrepreneur's Top Franchises for Veterans," said Eric Steward, Marketing Manager for Pillar To Post. "The veterans who join our system end up as top performers. Our business model and structure and culture seem to be a perfect fit for those leaving the military. As a result, we have recently added an additional 10% discount on our franchise fees for veterans, going from a 10% discount to a 20% discount for them.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with over 550 franchisees, located in 48 states and nine Canadian provinces. Long-term plans include adding 500-600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com/

I personally could not be more excited. And I don't want to brag but I nudged Ms. Moss or ([email protected]) to do this the day some very misguided International Franchise Association board members allowed an even more misguided then president Stephen Caldeira to relieve Debbie Moss from her amazingly successful run as Convention Director.

After 18 years of being widely credited with the turnaround of the association's educational programs, convention and ultimately, their bottom-line financial performance, that was her goodbye. Well, now meet Debbie Moss, The Meeting Boss.

I always say everything happens for a reason and this situation is no different. It's what one makes of his/her bumps and lumps in life that determines one's future.

Now this world-class event expert has launched a meeting consulting business for franchise systems. MeetingBoss.com services will include in-office training for meeting staff, development of an exhibit hall or creating a sponsorship program, maximizing sales efforts or program development for any event.

The signature service will be the MBoss Assessment, which takes a comprehensive look into 13 key components of any meeting to evaluate how to improve KPI's without sacrificing the registrants' experience.

"Events can be executed so much more efficiently and profitably with an experienced professional. Even a small board meeting can realize $10-$15k in savings with savvy contract negotiations and experienced on-site management of food & beverage costs," Moss said.

As most of the readers here know, Debbie has more than 30 years of expansive experience from upscale board meetings for 50 to city-wide conventions of 7,000+. At IFA from 1995-2014, in her last 10 years, overall revenue at the Annual Convention soared from $1.7MM to $4.4MM and bottom-line surplus grew from $900,000 to $2.4MM.

I have some personal knowledge having served a year on the Board of the IFA and as Supplier Forum Chairman that Debbie brought the association from the red to the black.

Her efficiency in holding fantastic, organized and flawlessly orchestrated events accounts also for the savings realized during each convention; and further the rise in registrations because people want to attend a good, educational and well planned function.

Debbie Moss' career didn't start with the IFA. She was Convention Director and then Vice President of Industry Affairs for the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association for nearly 10 years before she was recruited by Don DeBolt, the then president at the International Franchise Association, to build the non-dues revenue at IFA in 1995.

Said Don Debolt, ""Debbie Moss is a meeting and event planning professional creating exceptional results, which I have personally experienced over the past 20 plus years. As Past Chairman of the International Franchise Association I saw first-hand how Debbie's meeting and events were produced on budget, on time and achieved impact for both large & small programs. Her approach combined vision, creativity, writing and staging general sessions to lead our association's revenue growth. High attention to detail, personal commitment, accountability, and communications are the hallmarks of her organization."

Another fan is the terrific Mike Isakson who we all remember as building giant ServiceMaster and who now is Managing Partner at Insight To Execution, "My opportunity to work with Debbie began a few years before I became IFA Chairman. In those volunteer roles, which included Convention Committee Chair, I had a front row seat to observe her ability to multi-task at an extremely high level -- always striving for flawless execution, better than better performance and rock solid efficiency & effectiveness. She demonstrated an affinity to look around corners for both challenges and opportunities and often took the lead to address those issues. Her commitment to build conferences revenue, while maintaining high standards, allowed the organization's finances to grow exponentially over her tenure."

Since I have known her I have always said that any meeting I ever attended would have been so much better had Debbie Moss in charge. Now she can be!!

Visit meetingboss.com for a complete look at the services offered by this long-time industry expert.

Wellington, Florida based LED Source is considered one of the top innovators in franchising. (See Entrepreneur Magazine October 2015 issue) Not only is the company a franchisor itself, but many of its customers are also franchise chains looking for awesome lighting designs and for a vendor that will outfit all new stores with the lighting of the future; LED lighting. In less than a decade it will be a "must have".

Many systems and large box store chains are already hiring LED Source to retrofit all of their old locations and to install all the lighting in their new locations.

ledsource-logo-211.pngFASTSIGNS and Massage Envy are just a couple of examples.

But CEO Marcel Fairbairn realized he needed to streamline the process between his franchisees and his vendors.

He generously shares his knowledge with you here in a Q&A.

  • Describe how your franchisees originally got all their materials when you first began the franchise program.

Our system was one where our zees were "forced" to buy ALL products through the "head office". In fact, we had a two-stage royalty where it would cost them twice as much if they were buying product from an approved vendor other than our office.

Our internal team would help the zee determine what to buy, process the order, place an order with our vendor, bring the shipment into our office, re-package the shipment to complete for the zee, send to the zee, carry the A/R, then process any returns that might happen as well. It was a crazy amount of administration and we eventually realized we were losing money on our franchise business due to this.

  • When did it occur to you that this was not the way to go?

Very early on we could see it was problematic but we felt there was no other way to do it. Our vendors are very big old lighting brands who are also finding themselves in this new, disruptive business called LED. They had enough on their plates with that to then delve into a whole other world.

The world of franchisees or small business owners as it was. It took my team more than a year to convince all of our suppliers to do business directly with our franchisees and to help design an expedient method for doing so.

  • What was your first real issue that opened your eyes?

The short answer is the impact it had on our financial performance. Since we were not making a margin sufficient to cover all of the support needs of our franchises, we were mounting losses each month.

Additionally, we were carrying inventory for our suppliers who never seemed to have what we needed when we needed it.

So we'd cover their deficiencies as best we could which never really seemed to be enough.

In the end, we were hurting our zees, ourselves AND our suppliers and I really took a hard look within to come up with a very obvious answer.

  • What was the very obvious answer?

If it's broke, fix it. First we pushed very hard on our vendors to create a model they had never used before. Again, we are talking multi-billion dollar businesses with 50 or 100 years history.

Change does not come easily and there is a tremendous amount of time and work involved so this was an enormous task. The fact is we never really had to admit anything because it was going to be such a positive change for our vendors and our zees. There was very little, if any pushback.

  • What exactly IS Vendor Direct and does it have steps that you put in your manual now so franchisees can follow easily leaving you all out of the fray?

Vendor Direct is quite simple. When a franchisee signs on, we provide them with a list of vendors, contacts, links to training videos and materials, etc. We basically introduce the franchisee to their suppliers.

The franchisee goes through the process of signing up as a dealer, applying for credit, etc. It has been a huge update in our manuals and processes, but well worth it in the end!

  • What was the reaction from the franchisees as you transitioned to this plan?

Initially there was some hesitation. Having us supply them gave them a certain comfort factor. They didn't have to deal with many other individuals.

The real issue was one we helped with to make sure that the franchisees receive credit from these large suppliers who often had very strict standards.

The truth is we were acting like a bank even to some who were not very solid credit risks.

But we worked through that and the affected few did very well in the end and now have solid credit and a solid business to go with it. Since then we've received nothing but praise.

We've got a stack of testimonials from happy zees who are discussing everything from the choices now available to the speed of shipping, wider availability, etc. Some of our zees have created very good relationships with their new suppliers and many of these relationships have already been quite productive.

  • How's it working for you and them now?

Even on my side, my finance team was at first skeptical towards the idea. Because we were, in reality, lowering our revenue, how could this possibly be a good thing?

The facts are the facts.

While yes, our gross sales have been impacted; our bottom line has already increased and will continue to. In addition, we've been able to re-purpose people who had been glorified order placers or trackers to now support franchisees in other, more productive ways.

We've allowed the manufacturers to discuss process and support THEIR products, and we support our zees on application, training, marketing and general business management.

As our business continues to scale, we do not have to borrow money or tie up resources toward massive inventories or administrative costs. Plus, our franchises have proven very quickly that the program works by rewarding themselves and us with growing revenues!!

  • You are clearly happy with the decision. In one sentence sum up what you learned from it.

It's hard to put such a laundry list of lessons and bumps on the head into one sentence, but for sure the one thing that comes to mind is that you should always play to your strengths. In this case, we were a challenged, even deficient supplier to our zees, and it showed in their numbers and our own.

So I looked at what we were doing and said to myself, "we are very good at what we do but this is not it. So let's get out of this role!" And that's precisely what we did.

About LED Source

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

When you buy a franchise you are not necessarily thinking of an exit strategy or how you're going to sell the business in 10 or 15 years. But in the case of Sonja and Rich Heaton, it was exactly what was on their minds. And they can share some lessons about planning for just such an event.

After years of owning a Signarama in Orangeburg, SC, Rich and Sonja Heaton started actively positioning their business to sell. It took most of the next decade for the couple to build the business to where they wanted it to be to achieve a maximum return of investment and complete the sale.

"We went into the business knowing one day we would sell and started preparing and understanding the process about five years into the business," said Sonja Heaton. Even though they had it all planned, when they finally got to the selling point, the process still took nine months.

Before buying their Signarama franchise, the Heatons had spent five years running another franchise. They also worked for a jewelry firm for five years and Rich was a petroleum executive for seven years at a company that he played a pivotal role in selling. Sonja Heaton says these experiences taught them the importance of customer service. A lesson they took with them to their Signarama store.

"Sign companies in general have a reputation of slow turn around and customer service," said Rich. "We made sure we provided our services in a timely manner. We practiced the cliché, 'the customer is always right'" and put it into practice by refusing to say "no" to any project. We would take rush projects that many other companies would turn away. We provided solutions to problems no one else had the solution to."

That can-do attitude helped their business succeed by creating a loyal customer base.

"We specialized in small- to mid-sized chain accounts," said the Heatons. "These smaller businesses needed the service that the larger companies like McDonald's were getting, but they weren't able to get them because other signage companies didn't think they were big enough."

Now that they've finished the process of selling their successful franchise, the Heatons are looking forward to moving to Charleston, SC, but they're far from thinking about retirement.

"We have started a consulting business to help people build their businesses as we did," said the Heatons. "We are now helping people with their exit strategies and preparing them to get to a point where their business is ready to sell."

To reach out to the Heatons with help selling your franchise go to: [email protected]

ABOUT SIGNARAMA

Signarama, the world's largest sign franchise, offers branding and messaging solutions in addition to comprehensive sign and graphic services to consumers and commercial customers - from business signs, vehicle wraps, and digital signs, to advertising and marketing services. Signarama is part of a successful system of business-to-business franchise brands and development services under the United Franchise Group. As part of the $49-billion-plus worldwide sign market, Signarama has been at the forefront of the sign industry for more than two decades. Approaching 900 locations worldwide, the company expects to have more than 1,200 locations worldwide by the end of 2017. For more information visit http://www.signarama.com/

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Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

LED Source- the Franchisor's Vendor

My client LED Source is an awesome company that has now been valued very highly by the "right people".

They are a franchisor & also a vendor to franchisors, retrofitting lighting for great chains like Massage Envy and Starbucks.

We will ALL eventually need LED lighting so they are out there promoting themselves on both levels. They are a terrific futuristic franchise opportunity and at the same time franchisors and chains, such as Starbucks, need to be retrofitted with all new lighting.

But how to go after a Starbucks type entity when you think "hey I'm just a small company?"

Be a small company that ROARS!

If you can make an intelligent presentation as to the whys, wheres, how tos and in LED Source's case, the tax credits the customer will receive, you can pitch anyone. It just takes tenacity and an intelligent, succinct "pitch".

Window Genie- 3M Partnership

Another great example is another terrific client of Sanderson & Associates: Cincinnati based Window Genie.

Window Genie has reached an agreement with 3M Company to provide a residential window film solution as part of the company's lauded Envision™ line of films. The partnership will provide Window Genie, a franchise chain with over 200 units that provides window cleaning and window tinting to homes in more than 24 states, an opportunity to service over 125,000 residential customers with window film that reduces fading, heat and glare and can help lower utility bills.

Beginning April 1, Window Genie franchisees will offer the residential Envision™ film options that include clear view, glare control, sun block and shade offerings. The film options range from 70%-40% for total solar energy rejection (TSER), a quality which stands to save homeowners significantly on their utility bills.

Window Genie's partnership with 3M is the result of two years of discussions between the companies, initiated by Window Genie.

"We approached 3M two years ago actively seeking the partnership," said Ken Fisk, vice president of operations for Window Genie.

"We believed Window Genie's reputation as an established residential home service business put us in a great position to illustrate to 3M the value of forming a partnership with us.

Through two years of conversations pertaining to the opportunity 3M had to penetrate the residential market through a partnership with Window Genie, a company with over 125,000 residential customers in our database, both parties agreed it was mutually beneficial to move forward."

"The partnership is mutually beneficial," said Fisk.

"While Window Genie is able to further customer satisfaction by providing a highly recognizable brand of top quality window film, 3M is able to successfully penetrate the residential market and build brand awareness for their line of residential film among Window Genie's customers that span over 200 markets in 24 states."

For years 3M's line of Envision™ Wrap Films has been an industry favorite, earning commendations for its high performance, sustainable materials and comprehensive warranty.

Founded in 1994 by Rik Nonelle, Window Genie recently appeared on Inc. Magazine's 2014 Inc. 5000 list and on Entrepreneur Magazine's list of top 100 home-based franchises. The partnership stands to benefit Window Genie franchisees every bit as it will benefit customers," said Fisk.

"We look forward to improved training and support by providing one brand of film to our franchise partners," said Fisk. "We believe it will help streamline systems and enable growth with a more successful method of coaching throughout the entire Window Genie system."

ABOUT WINDOW GENIE

Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing.

Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating more than 200 units in 24 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit www.windowgenie.com.

ABOUT LED SOURCE

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions.

In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

The good news in PR during the '90s? Clients on magazine covers, Wall Street Journal columns, 900 word stories in their major dailies. The bad news? Lots of mistakes, lots of jockying for space, bad photos appearing, misquotes.

2015-Content Management. I'm liking this better. Here's what we can do now and make sure it's seen by thousands of people. With photos, graphics and artwork.

WINDOW GENIE CLEANS HOUSE IN 2014

National Brand Partnerships, Technology Enhancements, Franchisee Growth Planned for 2015

(Cincinnati, Ohio)---If 2014 was any indication, Americans are appreciating home cleaning services the likes of which Window Genie provides more than ever. The 21 franchise locations opened throughout the year--with three additional locations pending an early 2015 opening--are proof enough of the growing demand for the mobile cleaning service famous for window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. Now, heading into 2015, the company that celebrated its 20th year in business in 2014 is gearing up for even greater growth, spurred in large part by the multiple programs and partnerships set to take off in the year.

Beyond franchisee growth in 2014, Window Genie was also lauded by a number of business journals throughout the year. Inc. Magazine recognized Window Genie as the 13th fastest-growing business in the Cincinnati metropolitan area in addition to placing it on the upper half of its annual Inc. 5000 listing of fastest-growing companies in the United States. In addition, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Window Genie 195th on its annual Franchise 500 list, cementing its place as one of the fastest-growing and top home-based franchises.

In 2015, says Window Genie founder and CEO Richard Nonelle, the company has big plans to benefit franchisees and customers alike. "We will continue to focus on improving the experience between franchisee and customer," says Nonelle. "We'll do this both through new partnerships we've founded with a number of national brands, including Yelp and Home Advisor, as well as by enhancing our technology." Window Genie's mobile search strategy, adds Nonelle, will be in full effect in 2015, which will entail an improved online presence and SEO enhancements to benefit owners.

Window Genie aims to continue its growth in 2015, and Nonelle points to years of consistent annual expansion as proof that his plan is a sustainable one. In the last three years, 60 franchisees have joined the Window Genie system. Window Genie franchisees can be found all throughout the United States, with target markets for growth for 2015 in the East and West coasts and throughout Florida.

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About Window Genie

Founded in 1994 by Richard Nonelle, Cincinnati-based Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing. Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating 140 units in 28 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit www.windowgenie.com.

Claiming your local business listing, not only verifies you as the owner of a valid business, but also gives you the authority to ensure the listing is up-to-date and strengthen your business's SEO.

Whether you have already started claiming listings or are looking to get started, a free SEO report will give you the perfect base of knowledge with optimization tips and top directories to be listed in.

While each local directory has its own specific steps (like the top 5 directories to get listed on), there's an overall general process for claiming your local business listing on directories and indexes. This post will provide you with tips and guidelines about the process of claiming your local business listing.

1. Does a listing already exist?

Many search engines and directories will ask you if your businesses already exists in their records. Even for businesses (including local ones) that have been around for as little as a month, there is a good chance that there is a record of it online somewhere. Don't be surprised to see your business listed with inaccurate or incomplete information. Over half of local businesses have incorrect information online (check here to get a free local directory report on your business).

2. Be prepared with your business's information

To claim a listing (whether there is already one created for your business or not), you will need to input general information about your business. The information required usually consists of:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website address
  • Business category

You want the information to be accurate and identical on every other listing on the web, not only to improve your SEO but also so as not to confuse anyone searching for your business. With 50% of mobile search users visit a store within a day of their search, inaccurate information could be the difference between a new customer or not.

Information that is not necessarily required, but improves your listings visibility is rich media. Optimizing local directories by adding descriptions, photos and videos to profile listings increases customer conversion by 5-10x. The more information your business provides, the more you're in control of your brand and can optimize conversions.

3. Verify your business

The last step ensures that you are the business you say you are. While it may seem inconvenient (because it builds in an extra step), the verification step is actually great for the security of your local business listing and your overall marketing.

There's three ways this verification can occur, two are fairly quick and the third will take a few days:

  • An immediate phone call where you will verify via a pin number
  • An email where you click a verification link
  • A mailed postcard with a pin number verification

One important thing to note regarding verification: you can't choose the method.

To make sure you don't miss your verification, answer all calls, check your spam inbox, as well as your regular email inbox, and make sure everyone in your business knows to be looking for a verification postcard (all depending on the method used).

4. Hurry up and wait

While you were able to complete the local listing process quickly, directories may take a little more time. Your listing changes can appear in a matter of minutes, days or months, depending on the review process.

When you need to make changes in the future, tools like Google My Business will allow you to change many details easily, without re-verifying. However, some local directories might require re-verification on any change (again, it's with your best interest in mind!).

If you are looking to claim many local business listing at once, SearchCast can help get you started and keep every listing up-to-date, taking all the work out of constantly having to keep on top of each listing site. Click here to see the impact claiming one of your local listings will make to your local SEO.

The post Claim Your Local Business Listing appeared first on LocalVox.

What's New with Google Maps?

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Google Maps recently updated their local page quality guidelines.

The updated guidelines include changes for both single and multi-location businesses with a focus on creating consistencies.

The major changes include:

1) Descriptors can't be used in listings

Descriptors refers to the title of a listing where you could previously add a place or service, such as "Starbucks Downtown" or " Joe's Pizza Delivery." Google now requires businesses to use the exact name of the storefront in order to create consistency across listings. Extra descriptors, while helpful at times, can be confusing to online searchers and should only be included in the business description. One thing to note: individual practitioners with specified degrees are not considered a descriptors.

For multi-location businesses, the main business name should be used, unless location(s) in a certain demographic area have different names. For example, Panera and Saint Louis Bread Co. are part of the same business but have different names based on geographic region.

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2) Two or more brands that share the same location must pick one name

If your business is a bookstore with a coffee shop inside, you will be forced to choose the primary focus of your business: either bookstore OR coffee shop, not both. Google made this change in order to provide searchers with a clear idea of the type of businesses that are located on Google Maps. Google does not want to direct a searcher to a mislabeled small coffee shop that is really a large bookstore at the same location.

3) If different departments have individual pages, each must be labeled with a unique category

This rule applies to public-facing departments that operate as a distinct entity, such as the Toyota of Escondido Collision Center. The name and primary business should be differentiated from other departments (Collision Center vs. Sales Department) and will typically have separate customer entrances. In addition to having separate categories, each page may have different hours of operation.

The "Toyota of Escondido" dealership would fall under the category "Toyota Dealer," while the "Toyota of Escondido Collision Center" will be in the "Auto Repair Shop" category.

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4) Virtual offices are not allowed

If a you have an employee who works remotely for you out of their home in a different city, you can not list your business as having a location in that city in an effort to have your business appear bigger. Your business must have a physical location that is staffed during regular operating hours in order to be included on Google Maps.

5) Your business category should be as specific as possible

Since this new rule is a SEO best practice, I know you are already doing it!

However, if you aren't, make sure to choose specific category names instead of an overarching category in order to show up accurately in searches. Stay away from broad categories and dig into the nitty gritty of your business.

6) Solo practitioners who work in multi-location practices should display both names

Any professional that is the sole public-facing figure in a location should display both the brand/company and his/her name. Professionals who fall into this category would be doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, insurance agents, etc.

Example: [brand/company]: [practitioner's name]. Therefore, Joe Miller, the sole agent at an Allstate insurance location would use the name: Allstate: Joe Miller

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It is not yet clear how strictly these changes will be enforced, but Google implemented these changes to make it easier for customers to find your business, not to hinder your chances of being discovered. By not updating your Google Maps local listing to meet the new guidelines, your business runs the risk of being suspended - a high price to pay for not making a few quick changes.

If you haven't created a Google Maps listing yet, fear not! With the introduction of Google My Business, the technology giant has made it easier for small businesses to dominate local search from one central dashboard.Download LocalVox's free eBook to learn more.

A tale of a man, a woman, their plumbing, two countries and Google.
by Frances Leary

I'll be the first to admit that dishing out Google compliments is not something I endeavor to do on a regular basis. In fact, to the contrary, I am typically so perturbed with Google's latest algorithm change that I'm rather on the quick side to voice my disdain for the organization.

Well, this time I'll have to eat my words.

It all began with a late-night kiss goodbye as I bid my husband farewell and he set off on his business trip to Athens, Greece. A few days later, the kiss was followed-up by a well run dry, an overworked water pump and a malfunctioning valve shut-off device.

I'll spare you the plumbing details. Suffice to say that we had no water.

Now, I want to preface this all by saying that I had been well-prepared for every issue that we had anticipated might happen. And I tried everything I knew to try. Obviously we hadn't been prepared for this specific problem.

By process of elimination, it seemed the culprit was likely the snazzy electronic valve control that always seems to cause problems when my husband is away. Go figure.

So, instead of calling a plumber, I Google Hangout-ed (is that a verb?) my husband. Yes, while he was in Greece. And he Google Phoned me back...from Greece...to my cell phone in Canada.

We took care of the first part over the Google phone...only to be interrupted by his trip to the Temple of Poseidon. Poor thing, I know. On his return, we spent nearly an hour on Google Hangout so I could use the camera to show him valves, etc. and so he could listen to the variety of whirring sounds the pump was or wasn't making at any given time.

With the help of a variety of wrenches large and small, we got the water running again. Whew! Thanks to my husband, my coordinated use of hand tools and Google...we had running water again. And at NO cost to us.

So, I'll give Google its due. Google Phone's call reception was clear and had only a bit of a delay, and my husband was able to call my direct phone number. The video quality of Google Hangout was also excellent, and only slightly delayed. What a truly fantastic service...no cost to connect from one side of the world to the other.

And that, my friends, is how Google fixed my plumbing.

The End.

What's Google Up to Now?

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First came Google+ Local, which was then transitioned to Google Places, which has now morphed into Google My Business. Google is great at letting you become familiar with their tools just before they implement a massive overhaul that forces you to change and learn a new set of tools. And repeat.

But not this time. Often Google's changes elicits groans and headaches from its users. Google My Business, which debuted in June, seems to be a welcome update that straightens out a lot of the problems people experienced with Google+ Local and Google Places.

About Google My Business

Google's definition: "A free and easy way to find and connect with your people, wherever you are."

In a nutshell, Google My Business is Google's attempt at making the management of local business data and business social pages more efficient. They've seemingly combined the best features of Google + and Google Places in an easy-to-use dashboard. And if you're already on Google Places and Google +, Google will automatically upgrade them to Google My Business. These changes mean that business owners waste less time, allowing them to spend more time actually running their business.

Check out Google's snappy video that breaks down how Google My Business can help your business and "unlock the full potential of Google".

Pros of Google My Business

  • Clean dashboard. One great feature about Google My Business is how simplified and visually appealing its dashboard is. It's quite beautiful and intuitive.
  • Everything is in one place. One dashboard holds local business data and social pages together. This is a great improvement from before when you had use one system to manage local business data and then use another system to manage the social page.
  • Quick access to key features. Now Reviews, Insights, Google Share +, and YouTube are just a click away without overcrowding your dashboard.

Cons of Google My Business

  • Access to less data. Unfortunately, the side effect of a cleaner dashboard means that you don't have easy access to a whole heap of data. Unlike its previous incarnations, Google My Business does not include keyword data, custom fields and tags, custom Q&A fields and Coupons and Offers.

Other Changes to Google My Business

  • You can write a longer introduction (for the verbose business owner).
  • You can upload more photos (which is great for engagement).
  • You can invite followers to hangouts.
  • Home services and non-local businesses benefit from the product. You don't need a Google Maps location to be listed on Google My Business.

Since it's still new, the downsides are just not as apparent yet. But overall, Google My Business is a big step in the right direction. The consolidated local business data and social pages will be a great benefit to businesses. And its simple and clean dashboard will mean that fewer business owners will be intimidated by Google.

What do you think of Google My Business? Yay or Nay? Let us know in the comments. 

The post Understanding Google My Business appeared first on LocalVox.

That is a question we should all be asking.

Then we should decide if the answer matters to us or our business. 

If you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shops and a Subway franchisee is going to several of your locations buying and tasting your sandwiches, there isn't much you can do about that.

But if you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shop and Subway's HR person calls your best development person, or contacts them through LinkedIn for an interview, you need to ponder that dilemma and decide if and how to combat it.

We are in an age of lots of connection!  Do you have employees sending out resumes from the office computer? You can track that. Are they posting their resume on LinkedIn with notes such as "Looking for Job Opportunities"?  That's another matter. 

There is always the standard non-compete agreement which you can ask an employee to sign upon hiring.  Make sure the agreement is legal and protects you from the things that matter.  No need to put a bunch of items in that you can't enforce and do not matter to you and your business. 

I've always found in my thirty years in franchise PR, that an employee that is gone should be gone.  In other words, even if they seemed ideal, if they can be stolen, they shouldn't be in your shop. If you've let them go and they end up at a competitor, well that's his/her new headache, and no longer yours.  You know why you terminated them. Let your competitor find out too!

Then there is the matter in our case of clients stealing employees. I use the word "steal" but can they really do that? It's a human being.  Is it ethical? No   Is it legal? Yes, unless you have a non-compete agreement worded properly that forbids that action.  Even then you can ask for no more than a year-long reprieve. The upside? You got rid of a client with questionable character and an easily bought, disloyal employee.

My favorite is when you have been working with a company for years; they see how well you are doing and decide to go into your industry, in our case PR, by shopping your business or your competitors' for people.  

This scenario teaches you so much about people, loyalty and business that any possible damage that can be done by the occurrence is totally exceeded by the brilliant lessons you learn from it.

In this scenario, they likely end up with all the industry misfits that couldn't make it at the competitors' shops and really, when you look at all the pieces together, what's missing is the burning passion and talent that drove you to start your own PR firm, franchise service business, restaurant chain, consulting business, whatever you have created that built a name for you to begin with.

In other words, don't sweat it. The joke's on your competitor!

There is a sea of social media for local businesses to navigate these days, and while Google joined the choppy waters some time ago, only recently did it become a force to be reckoned with in the social media world. Though it may be tempting to brush off Google's foray into social media as just another outlet, don't; the impact of Google Plus on local businesses can be huge.

Google Plus Gets Your Business on the Map

If you want your business to show up in the map results on Google, then Google Plus is a must. Because such a high percentage of local business (more than 85%) comes from online search, this map ranking is a huge benefit. (If you already have a Google Places page, great. Go ahead and setup a Google Plus page also. At some point in the near future they will be merged, and you'll be prepared for that to happen.)

Hint: If your business or franchise has multiple locations, setup a Google Plus page for each location.

When you setup your Google Plus page, it's crucial to select "Local Business" as your type of page. Complete all the necessary information, including location, website and contact information. Then, make sure you verify your page. This must be happened in order for your page to rank in Google listings.

Another important strategy you can use to boost your page rankings is to use keywords that your audience will be searching.

For example, if you are a real estate agency, do not simply put your agency name (ex: Coldwell Banker). Instead use also a keyword phrase such as Real Estate in your name. It is also important to use these keywords in your categories, if possible, as well as in your page description. All of these things will help Google identify your business and rank it for the proper keywords.

Google Plus Helps You Show Up on Local Searches

In addition to showing up in map listings, active Google Plus activity can help increase your general website's ranking for keyword searches on Google. In order to help expedite this process, in addition to using keywords as specified above, it is important to post consistently on Google Plus. What does that consist of? Largely, it means posting content to your Google Plus page that links back to your site and making posts that use keywords.

Receiving reviews from Google users can also help increase your rankings because it increases your credibility as a respected resource. Consider asking your clients or customers to leave a review on your page. You may be surprised how happy they are to do just that.

Engaging with other users on Google Plus is also beneficial. However, most audiences aren't active on Google Plus, so this will not really increase your interaction with your potential clients and customers (as it would potentially on other platforms like Facebook or Twitter). This engagement will, however, help increase your Google rankings over time.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

If You Would Like Frances Leary's Help in Setting Up Google Plus for Your Franchise, please Contact Wired Flare & click here.

Have you heard recent rumors that Google Plus is going away, due to the recent departure of Google's senior vice president Vic Gundotra?

The search engine giant introduced this social network in 2011, in hopes that it would be a competitor for Facebook.

To build users, Google Plus was integrated across Google's platforms, including YouTube, Gmail, and Hangouts.

It's never had quite the reach of Facebook, but many businesses have created company pages where they can make posts and engage with customers.

At Ripley PR, we have recommended Google Plus pages as a tool within clients' B2B public relations and social media marketing strategies. But is it still a valid use of time and resources?

For basic social media interactions with customers going forward, Google Plus may not be the best option for most companies.

Right now, with the shuffling of more than 1,000 Google employees from the Google Plus team to other parts of the company, it remains to be seen what the future of the social network is. Most analysts believe that it will likely become a platform to link the whole network of Google products.

Along with that, Google Plus may evolve to target more people in the business sector, and there may be opportunities for advertising on the platform in the future. For that reason, we believe it is still worthwhile for our clients to have a Google Plus company page.

We will continue to watch the evolution of this product, and assess how it can help meet the needs of our PR and marketing clients now and in the future.

Why is it that AdWords always gets the best data and reporting?

I know the answer is because advertisers are Google's primary source of revenue, but still.

The rest of us shouldn't be left in the dark when it comes to reporting.

Over 90% of clicks on Google go to organic or local listings and we've lost access to referring keywords and can't see click-to-call data - which is the best measure of ROI short of actual visits.

What Is AdWords Click-To-Call?

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For those unaware, a few years back, Google introduced the "click-to-call" AdWords extension.

With this extension a "call" button was added next to ads that allowed mobile users to call a business with one click.

A "call" costs the same amount as a standard AdWords click. Click-to-call works especially well in the locksmith industry.

Just imagine, if you were to search for a locksmith from a mobile phone, are you more likely to call them up or leisurely sit back and read about their services?

 

AdWords Click-To-Call Reporting

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When you sign up for click-to-call in AdWords you're given detailed reports on your calls. As you can see in this AdWords click-to-call report, you can see that out of 1,839 actions, 10 of those were phone calls.

This is great data that lets you allocate your advertising spend appropriate and calculate ROI.

Why Local Search Is Made More Difficult By Google

It's simple.

Over 90% of searchers click on organic listings but all organic click-to-call data is withheld.

On Google+ Local we have access to: impressions, website clicks, more info clicks and driving direction clicks.

The simple addition of calls would make local search and Google+ Local optimization a no-brainer but until then we'll be left with lots and lots of local businesses wondering what the ROI of their SEO campaigns are.

What are you waiting for Google?

If you need help managing your Google+ Local page or local online presence, contact us for help!

The post Come On Google! Give Us Our Local Click-To-Call Data! appeared first on LocalVox.

 

 

 

So, your partners are getting their content out into the world wide web, now what?

Spreading it around and making sure people read it is the next step! Social media is a great platform to fulfill this goal because, as you may be aware, it has completely revolutionized the way we interact!

That's why, in this post, we'll review why social media is important for your partner local units and what it entails! Just so you get an idea of how big social media is, Facebook has over 400 million users; while "Tweeters" produce over 1 billion posts per month!

This is a big market for your business since potential customers are mingling and looking for local answers to their needs in there! Join several social media sites (the ones that make sense to your business), and get some of the benefits they have to offer:

  • Participating in Conversations about Your Business

  • Building a Relationship with Customers

  • Getting Feedback About Your Business

  • Raising Brand Awareness

  • Greater Exposure Online

What Partner Social Media Management Entails

Sharing in All Your Accounts

Partners should have their own social media profiles so they can share their customized content through them. Plus, the more social media they are a part of, the more exposure they'll get for their brand! Remember that the main objective for your posts is for them to be read, so make sure your partners are sharing them throughout their local social media accounts as soon as they're published!

Engaging the Audience

On top of that, you should think of social media as a way to start conversations about your company. This is a great way to start building relationships online. By sharing interesting news (for example) through local social media accounts, you're engaging audiences outside of your business! They'll get a sense of trust that will, more than likely, encourage them to join in on the conversation!

Answering Comments

Social media is a great space for you to get feedback from your customers because interactions are immediate. Just make sure you're answering back! Questions and concerns may rise from time to time and your customers could use social media as a way to reach out to you. A big part of managing social media is making sure that your partners are there for their customers when they need them!

Conclusion

I'm sure you've noticed it: people are constantly connected to social media. So much so that they not only use it as a way to interact with peers, but as a way to find solutions to their needs! They're talking about your business in there and your partners should join in on the conversation! Spread the word about your company at a local level and gain exposure in the vast sea that is the world wide web!

 

How Empowerkit Can Help

Again, social media is all about engaging recurrent and potential customers. It sounds like an easy and laid back task, but for those in a tight schedule, simply sharing content on social media can be perceived as a nagging task. Alas, local social media accounts are left dry and don't produce any results! If you or your partners don't have the time to be active on Twitter and Facebook to produce a successful web marketing program, we'll publish their latest content updates to their Facebook and Twitter profiles for them! This way, they'll have more time to interact with users at a local level!

Plus, if they don't have the interest, time or knowledge to keep their partner sites up, we'll be more than happy to help out! Partners can call us at 510.859.8452 to make new content updates!

To see what the other 5 key elements of a successful partner web marketing program are, click on the links: SetupDesignContent MarketingOff Site SEOAnalytics. Have any questions about this post or Empowerkit? Let us know in the comments! We'll be happy to reply! Try Empowerkit for Your Partner Web Marketing Program!

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Social Media appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

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