September 2015 Archives

How to Qualify the Capital Intensive Candidate

Back in the 1990's, when "inbound marketing" was once again in fashion, I was working development for a large QSR brand.

Our prospective franchisees or candidates -we never referred to them as "leads"- called us on a land line. Sometimes, they would even fax us.

You must imagine this: A candidate needed to meet or exceed a net worth of $1 million to qualify for our development. I had to figure out whether they would qualify - over the phone.

Caller-id was no more revealing then than an email address is today. You could work for weeks with what turned out to be great candidate - except that they could not meet the financial qualifications.

What I learned, quickly enough, was to use a simple method to get people to truthfully reveal whether they were qualified or not. All over the telephone, using no other source of information.

The Secret Technique

I can reveal this method to you today - it still works.

You ask the on the phone - "Do you have a net worth that meets or exceeds our financial requirements?" at the exact right time in the sale process - after they have raised their hands and asked to go forward. People will truthfully reveal their financial qualifications - if your sales process is thoughtful.

(We actually had a terrific candidate who wasn't financially qualified. But we were able to match his talent with other capital - another story for another time. He is now a very successful multi-unit franchisee and a highly respected franchisee leader.)

The secret technique was waiting for, what my business partner Michael Webster calls, the Signal of Commitment. Only after I heard the right signals, could I ask for and get a truthful revelation of their financial qualifications.

Why Websites Don't Work

Contrast our ability to listen to a real human asking real questions about the business opportunity to what we ask for on websites.

Here is a representative application to a capital intensive franchise.

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You have already asked the candidate whether they were qualified - using a form on the internet!

How many worthless inquiries is this going to produce? Too many - but too few leads.

Your application process lacks grace.

You don't get the deal done with someone who is only committed to filling out a form on a website.

You don't get people to faithfully reveal their finances to a computer screen. (And if they do, they are completely oblivious to the costs of privacy.)

Summary

No, the only way to do capital intensive franchising is using old fashion technology - listening, waiting the signal and then asking for the commitment.

If you liked this, you will really like: Using LinkedIn to Sell Franchises -a Course from Franchise-Info (A no cost course with 13 lectures delivered to you directly by email)

Why You Have Bad Customers

Bad customers are everywhere. Showing up with coupons, but no cash. Wanting written estimates so they can price shop elsewhere. Bad customers make "frugal" a four letter word.

Even loyal and good customers are behaving badly -- how did it get so bad? Is it just this economy or has something else gone wrong?

Imagine that you sell and install "parts". You could sell auto parts, or you could sell specialized advice based on standard legal documents as an attorney or insurance broker.

Any business that has a specialized service component bundled with a standard good is a "parts" business. And most of us in North America and Europe are in this type of "parts" business.

Imagine your perfect "parts" customer. Call her "Maria". Why is Maria ideal? She is the perfect customer because;

  • She showed up for her regular appointments;
  • She accepted your service upgrades without hesitation, and;
  • She didn't haggle over the price of "parts" and service.

was good. For you and Maria.

Now, however, the "parts" business is getting hard.

On one hand, there are after market stores which will sell "replacement parts", even specialized IP is not immune to being sold as a "part". With their large, or on demand inventory, they can undercut you on the price of a "part".

On the other hand, is the rise of the "do it yourself mechanic", an unregulated body of individuals mimicking specialized work. The DIY crowd can "install parts" cheaper than you, given the right diagnostic.

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And now, Maria is getting wise. She shows up, more often than not, asking only for a written diagnosis of her problem. Or she wants you to install "parts" she has bought from a competitor.

Maria has become a bottom feeder. Soon, you will only see her when, in desperation, you put out another ill conceived marketing offer - buy one and get one free, or a BOGO.

You don't want to turn down business. But, you would like to fire Maria. Except, so many of your customers are starting to look a lot like Maria.

One response is tempting. You can raise prices and drive out the bottom feeders. This response risks alienating your good customers - turning them into "Marias". You cannot afford that solution.

What do you do with a problem like Maria?

What You Need is a A Bad Customer Detector

No, what you want is a permanent or real solution- a Maria detector if you will.

Your strategic problem is this. You are being asked to give away confidential information - a diagnostic scan, a specialized legal opinion or insurance solution- to a user that is not yet committed as a customer.The user may thank-you for your valuable information and take it without paying.

You may respond by charging something for this confidential information. And, this may work for a short period of time -but it may also turn more of your loyal customers into price conscious shoppers - on the slippery slope to being a Maria.

So, what you need is a way to detect Bad Customers.

How Would This Work? Create A Specialized Bad Customer Training Exercise

If you knew a user was going to turn out to be a Maria, your staff could gently turn her request for confidential information down. Staff would explain that it is policy to only give away confidential information to proven and loyal customers.

How could you get a Bad Customer detector? How could you train your staff to play "Spot the Maria Game"- staff that were top notch Maria detectors? How much would you be willing to pay get train your staff with the Bad Customer detector?

(The "Spot the Maria" is a fairly simple variant of a well known negotiation training exercise. The logic of this strategy can be found by googling "deterrence" or "sub-perfect Nash equilibrium". But, you don't need to know why this games has attracted the attention of theorists; you just need to know that there is training exercise, which could be customized for your unique problem.)

Who Also Uses Negotiation Role Playing?

, there are cheaper solutions - the custom solution should prove to expensive. There are many excellent providers of standard negotiation training exercises. Most of these providers or their affiliates can address standard negotiation exercises and provide training that sticks to your staff.

Two top notch Universities are: Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management Dispute Resolution Research Center, and Harvard's Program on Negotiation, each which provide standard negotiation exercises, which you can review on line for free. Each has its own Linkedin Group, DRRC Linkedin Group, and PON Linkedin Group.

DRR and PON have free newsletters, seminars and useful resources. They also have for profit training seminars.

Here is a partial list of the DRCC and PON testimonials:

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Did you like this? Why not click here and subscribe to Webster's Strategic Stories.

Kyle, age 21, handles the scheduling, appointments, estimates, and all payment transactions for the auto service center near my office.

On a weekday morning at 8:16, I call to inquire about getting my vehicle in for shocks and an alignment. Kyle politely tells me that if I can bring it in within the next 30 minutes, he'll have it out by 11:45, in time for me to make my lunch appointment.

I agree and head out immediately.

I arrive at 8:37 and notice that there are already three customers in the waiting area in front of me. Kyle is working fast and furious to make certain each gets their questions answered, receives an accurate estimate, and signs the required paperwork to begin the job. With so much to do, Kyle is multitasking like a one-armed paperhanger in a stiff breeze, and he's trying to make everyone feel like they are important and will attend to them shortly.

Kyle's friendly, knowledgeable, and he seems to be very competent at keeping so many plates spinning at once.

However, as I observe him more carefully, I can detect a subtle level of frustration brewing under the surface.

He's working solo throughout this rush and it's got to be incredibly stressful to take such good care of the four customers in the showroom while, at the same time, being constantly interrupted with questions from his service techs, while, at the same time, handling an endless stream of phone calls from prospective customers.

Eventually, it's my turn and Kyle begins by apologizing to me for the delay while looking over my shoulder to acknowledge the two additional customers that just walked in.

"I don't know too many people that are working harder than you are today, Kyle." I said to him.

Something about my statement must have made me appear like a therapist, as Kyle took a deep breath, shook his head, and began to offload his stress.

"I've been here for over a year and it's like this every day. Every day, man! They tell me to give friendly personal service to every customer and to suggest other things we can do for their car, but when they don't staff anyone else to help you, and they don't provide a voice mail system to help handle the barrage of calls that come in from the ads they place, you wind up playing the incompetent fool. Ultimately, no one gets the service they expect or deserve...I say I'm sorry a thousand times a day...and I can't wait for my shift to end."

I'm no therapist, but it doesn't take Dr. Phil to realize that Kyle is not going to be working here in six months. (Heck, I'd be surprised if he made it six more days.) And when he finally quits, this national big box retailer will attempt to find another Kyle to plug into that position.

It's a crying shame, too. Because if Kyle had just a little support from upper management, he'd be a safe bet for long-term employment. Imagine how much better he'd be with five more years' experience!

If management in this operation would observe what I did, they'd be the ones listening to Kyle, and they'd most certainly provide him with the resources (another counter person, etc.) and the tools (voice mail, etc.) he needs to succeed.

By supporting Kyle, their customers would get a much improved service experience; the kind they'd tell their friends about. And those referrals from delighted customers would have a substantial impact on revenues, decreasing their reliance on expensive couponing and marketing gimmicks to get new customers into the store. Not to mention the repeat business from their existing customers.

Unfortunately, this story isn't going to end like that.

With a death grip on wages and operational costs, my prediction is that this national retailing giant is going to keep churning and burning the Kyles right out of their organization. Their employee turnover and marketing costs will continue to escalate. Customer satisfaction, repeat business, and referrals will continue to erode. Stock prices will continue to fall.

Are you paying more attention to your daily deposits than you are to your Kyles?

POST NOTE: Kyle apologized again when he called at 2:18pm to tell me that service to my car was finally completed. He said one of his techs went home sick and that he had to install the shocks himself.

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Yes, our Telephone Doctor customer service and communication training covers this as well.

This subject gets covered a lot; however, we want to reiterate some key points on both email and live chat.

Points that will make life easier for those who use these methods of communication.

Live Chat

If your company is using live chat online, here are a few tips that will help you and the person on the other end.

A Telephone Doctor survey shows a live chat conversation will end up in a phone call nearly 50% of the time. What does that say to you? Well, it says to me, the conversation didn't go the right way. More help was needed. That's because the written word can often be mistaken for something it wasn't meant to be.

That being said, as many of you recall, Telephone Doctor started out as experts in telephone skills. As the other touch points of communication came along, we fine tuned our tips, skills, and techniques to help email, voice mail, snail mail, fax and face-to-face. (Texting is left out for now, because it's not in the mainstream just yet. Certainly there may be clients who prefer a text, but in the office/business world it's not "there" quite yet.)

Back to the live chat line. For those not familiar with live chat, simply put, it's servicing and communicating with customers, one-on-one, via a web-based site online. It's email in real time. In reading some of the printed live chats from clients and customers it was very clear to me, the biggest problem was: the personality is missing.

It appears the company person goes directly into a "robot mode." Yes. No. And a lot of one and two word answers. No smiley faces. Nothing that says, "Hey, I'm human" or "I care."

While we're not looking for answers that rival Gone with the Wind, we do know that three words make a sentence. We also know one word answers are considered rude and cold.

We found another BIG concern on live chat and email are the words many of us confuse day after day. Which is your albatross?

Here they are:

You're - Your

There - Their - They're

Grateful - Greatful

To - Too - Two

Hear - Here

Seamless - Seemless

Know - No - Now

Effect - Affect

When to use I vs. me

The list goes on and on. I'm about to give you the absolute best answer for never making these mistakes again. Ever!

WHEN IN DOUBT - LEAVE IT OUT!

If you're writing an email or doing live chat and aren't sure which 'word' is correct, use a totally different word.

Example. I found myself mixing up 'greatful' and "grateful'. As in: "It was a great party. Thank you" and "I am very grateful for this opportunity." So rather than worry if I used the right word or not, now I say, "It was a fabulous party. And I am so appreciative for this opportunity."

Remember, 'when in doubt, leave it out.' While we often don't think others will mind these errors, they do. They wonder about our credibility; our intelligence; our thoughtfulness.

If you're using live chat, think of the person you're communicating with as sitting right across the desk from you and talk with them. Not down to them.

Email

Do you know the top 5 email frustrations? Here they are:

1. Poor spelling and grammar

2. Unrelated subject lines

3. Forwarding unrelated messages (Ouch that can be bad!)

4. All caps. (It's OK when you're excited in a positive way; not necessary other times.)

5. Reply to all when not necessary and

5A. Messages that are way too long

We are all aware we could probably name five more offenses and frustrations. However, these top five keep coming up to the top time and time again. We believe they are the best of the worst. Keep them in mind as you email.

Ok, I promised this wouldn't be a long article. Hope you enjoyed. Love to hear from you on this or any topic you'd like to hear about.

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Reprinted with permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy Friedman is a featured speaker at franchise, association & corporate meetings. She has appeared on OPRAH, Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning & many others. For more information, call 314-291-1012 or visit www.nancyfriedman.com.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

Amidst all the mobile marketing hype over the past few years, many franchisors and franchisees are still struggling with the basic challenge of whether or not to have mobile optimized local websites, and how to get started.

Are mobile websites really that important? What's the ROI?

What's the best way to develop a strategy and implement mobile websites? Do you need mobile apps too?

There are lots of questions, and it can be overwhelming, so let's look at how to determine the right approach for a localized mobile website strategy, and what's important to consider.

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Image Credit: "One Half of All Local Searches"
Graphic courtesy of http://tag.microsoft.com/

First, Check Analytics to Gauge the Need

For most franchises, your target customers are seeking out information about your products and services at the local level while browsing on mobile devices, to some degree. If you have analytics running on your local websites, though, it's easy to gather data on this, rather than just speculating.

In Google Analytics, for example, you can quickly drill down to see how many visitors to your local websites are on mobile, and then see which specific devices are used the most among visitors.

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Even if the mobile audience size isn't massive right now, chances are it will continue to grow. You want to make sure those visitors have a good experience, and that you're optimizing for conversions on mobile devices.

Assess the Current Mobile Experience

Assuming the percentage of mobile visitors to your local websites justifies you optimizing that experience, the next step is to pull up your local websites on a few different devices and take an honest look. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer coming to the site for the first time - is it a good experience for them?

Chances are you have to zoom in, aimlessly thumb around the screen to find the information you need, and there's no clear and easy way for you to take the next step, whatever that may be for your particular business (i.e. Request a Free Quote, Schedule an Appointment, Get Directions, etc.).

Typically if you've done zero mobile optimization, when someone accesses one of the sites from a mobile device, they see the normal desktop version of the website, but shrunk down to fit a smaller screen.

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Since most people on mobile are in a hurry and looking to do something very specific, showing them the entire website - as it was intended for viewing on a desktop computer - is usually information overload. Keeping your websites in this state is a great way to leave a poor first impression, and drive those would-be customers away in frustration.

Define Goals & Map the Ideal Workflow for Mobile Visitors

Before diving into the technical aspects of setting up proper mobile optimized local websites, it's important at this stage to define clear goals for what you'd like to achieve. Going back to your analytics data that you've hopefully accumulated over time, make some well informed decisions on what types of people you're looking to target, and what the ideal workflow and conversion points are that you should optimize for.

For example, let's say you have an auto maintenance and repair franchise. Let's assume that most prospective customers visiting a local website via mobile are drivers who've just had some sort of problem with their car (i.e. the "Check Oil" light just came on), and they're looking for nearby locations that they can go to for service.

The main goal for this use case would likely be to have the visitor convert by calling the location, scheduling an appointment, and/or quickly pulling up directions.

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Presenting the basic contact information, a concise list of services, current promotions/specials, and a prominent "Click to Call" and/or "Schedule an Appointment" button will probably suffice for the initial page the visitor sees.

Remember, the screen size and an assumed short attention span are your biggest limiting factors, so you need to be selective about the content and navigation options you present, and always keep in mind the conversion(s) you're aiming for.

Implementing Mobile Optimized Local Websites

At a basic level, I always recommend that our franchise clients set up mobile landing pages for all locations, which can be done fairly easily from within our franchise CMS system. This way, no matter how a visitor finds a local website, and regardless of which specific URL link they click originally, they'll always be directed first to this mobile optimized landing page.

This is a great starting point, because having a well executed mobile landing page alone - with focused content and clear, targeted calls to action - should greatly improve conversion rates.

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Depending on how much information you think is necessary to communicate to mobile visitors through the local websites, you may consider creating additional mobile optimized pages, or full mobile websites. It all depends on what your objectives are for mobile visitors, and how you can most effectively and concisely provide the information they want, while helping to increase conversion rates.

Regardless if you have a single mobile landing page per location, or full mobile websites, make sure that the design is done carefully to accommodate for small screen sizes. Ideally, mobile optimized pages should be "responsive", meaning the layouts and widths of these pages will automatically adapt to the screen sizes on a multitude of different devices.

I recommend consulting with whoever is responsible for management over your local websites, to determine the best technical approach for implementation, as it will vary depending on the content management system and other technologies used to run your current system.

What's your strategy when it comes to optimizing your franchise's local websites for mobile devices? Please share what's worked, what hasn't, and any questions or feedback you have in the comments below!

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As we enter the "teens" of the twenty-first century, we find technology playing an ever-increasing role in both our personal and professional lives.

One of the dominant trends that has become a part of our daily existence is the increasing importance of Social Media. What began as a way to connect and share information with friends, has grown into the most important mechanism for communication since the invention of the telephone.

Social media has played a role in some of the most significant events in recent years. The ousting of the Egyptian government, the on-going struggle for freedom in Syria, Presidential elections here in the US, coverage of riots in the UK; all of these things played out on Social Media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and others. It is becoming obvious that social technologies are having a huge impact on our world.

It is also becoming obvious to companies large and small that Social Media is a phenomenon that is not likely to go away any time soon. But how do we make it work for business?

One way that savvy businesses have found to harness the power of Social Media is by updating their training platform to a Social Learning Management System.

A Social LMS brings one of the most powerful technology tools in recent years directly into the daily operation of any business. It offers the power of collaboration and knowledge-sharing in a way that benefits the entire organization.

Just a few of the business advantages that a Social LMS offers include:

  • Faster and more cost-effective training delivery
  • Easier access to information
  • More effective HR processes
  • Better new-hire training
  • Community building within the organization
  • Mobile learning technologies
  • Better connection to vendors and partners
  • Localization of training into different languages
  • Establishing a culture of learning

The business benefits of a Social LMS are nearly unlimited. Imagine the power of a fully connected and collaborative franchise system.

The isolation and ineffectiveness that many of today's franchisees are feeling should be a thing of the past.

Replacing it would be a culture of information sharing, connectedness and community. The technology that has so dramatically changed the political and social world in which we live can bring that same positive change to business.

TOPYX® is the Social LMS that allows companies to more effectively manage their training, information management and corporate communications - all from a single cloud-based platform. And the best part is that TOPYX can be implemented quickly and seamlessly.

Click here to request a free, personal demo of what TOPYX can do for your organization. It's time to harness the power of Social Media for the benefit of your business!

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Most business owners know that customers will walk - take their business elsewhere if they're not treated as they'd like to be. But how does a business owner find out what the customer really likes or dislikes?

Well, as the Telephone Doctor, your customers have told us what they won't tell you. Here are TEN things only your best friend will tell you. (By the way, that would be us...The Telephone Doctor.)

Dear Telephone Doctor -

I'm not a person to be confrontational and cause a scene. However, there are several things that bother me when I call or walk into an establishment. If you pass this on to management, it couldn't hurt and probably would help. Thank you.

Dear Owner/Manager:

  1. Nobody greeted me when I walked into your store. No one said, "Hello," no one asked if they could help me, and no one said goodbye when I walked out. Well, at least I wasn't any trouble.
  2. Your sales staff looked tired. Yea, they did. Otherwise why wouldn't they greet me with a big smile and some enthusiasm? It didn't look like they even wanted me in the place.
  3. I bought a lot of stuff. I couldn't believe no one said, "Thank you." No one told me to enjoy my purchase. I did get a luke warm "Have a nice day." But it was said so routinely, it didn't mean anything to me.
  4. When I phoned for some information, my call was treated as an annoyance. I sensed very little desire to be of any real help. Know what I did then? I called a few more places until I found one who sounded as though they wanted my order.
  5. Whoever answered your phone never identified themselves. I happen to like to know who I'm talking with and when I don't, it hurts any trust I might give your company.
  6. During the phone call, the voice of whoever answered sounded aggressive and challenging. I didn't feel very welcomed.
  7. When I walked in, all your employees were talking and laughing amongst themselves and ignored me until I asked a question.
  8. There was no management around. Remember the old saying "when the boss is away, the mice will play." Guess what? They do!
  9. When I told your staff about my problem, which was important to me, no one sympathized with me. It was 'business as usual' for them.
  10. Everyone looked angry. No one was smiling. Remember, sometimes it's the things you 'don't do' that make me want to go elsewhere.

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Reprinted with permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy Friedman is a featured speaker at franchise, association & corporate meetings. She has appeared on OPRAH, Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning & many others. For more information, call 314-291-1012 or visit www.nancyfriedman.com.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

The Real Importance of Job Descriptions as Risk Management

Job descriptions aren't legally required and, as writing them sometimes feels daunting, you may be tempted to avoid having them or to not update the ones you do have.

But I know from experience that real job descriptions are helpful for myriad reasons and provide important legal protection for your organization.

Why have job descriptions? They serve as a communication tool between the employer and employees so there's mutual understanding about the expectations and responsibilities of the position. They provide a useful reference for performance management and as grounds for termination if an employee cannot or will not meet the written duties and expectations of the job.

Job descriptions justify Exempt or Nonexempt categorizations as required by the FLSA, and they can protect an organization from employment claims brought under the ADA or Title VII. The key is to do them well.

Be thoughtful about making sure all the "essential duties" of the position are documented. The EEOC describes these as the tasks which are fundamental to the position and, if removed, would fundamentally change the job. You can also think of essential duties as the reason the job exists. If you are creating a description of a position that isn't new but already exists, get input from the person doing the job as that person knows the job well and will appreciate being consulted.

When culling the essential duties in a job description, focus on what needs doing, not on how it's done. Here's an example: don't say, "lift up to 50 lbs. equipment" if what is actually required is that the equipment be moved. The function to be accomplished is transporting the equipment so that's what you should say to make sure you don't exclude individuals who might need a reasonable accommodation such as using a dolly.


You should also pay attention to bona-fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ) to make sure the job description does not violate Title VII or other laws related to protected to class protection, such as those based on race, gender, age, national origin or pregnancy status. So, for instance, don't specify that the job occupant needs to male or female unless you can prove that it's really required to this this job. For instance, a counselor of a support group for teenage girls discussing sexual issues needs to be a woman if the girls are to feel comfortable opening up. So being female in this case is a BFOQ.

As mentioned job descriptions are not legally required but, if you have them, they are treated as legal documents and they must be kept for at least two years. So be thoughtful and careful about creating them and consider using Job Descriptions Made Simple to ensure they work well for you!

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Your CFO has the ability to play a very important role in your quest to make your company successful. But it's an opportunity that goes untapped in too many companies.

Part of my mission in this blog, and in my consulting work, is to change that.

The key is to bring your CFO into the core of how you create credibility and trust with your Board of Directors, shareholders, and lenders. You have a network of people who are interested in, or invested in, your financial success. Make sure your CFO plays a leading role in helping you develop that credibility and trust.

It starts with taking a more strategic approach to how you manage the financial side of your business. Smart financial management is made up of these three components.

  • Confidence
  • Insight
  • Accuracy and speed

This is where you can turn the role of CFO, and the role of your accounting function as a whole, into a strategic asset. You want to transform their role into one of helping you create trust and respect and away from the old view of accounting as just gatekeepers and people who are just a cost center.

Begin evaluating the CFO role, and the accounting function as a whole, in each of these three areas.

Confidence

The foundation for success in managing the financial side of the business is captured in this one word - confidence.

You have a very unique opportunity to build confidence, trust and credibility with everyone who has a stake in the financial success of the company - your management team, lenders, investors and shareholders.

They need to have confidence in the financial information they receive and have confidence in the people who provide that information.

A lack of confidence from that group of people is a big warning sign that your accounting function is letting you down.

Note: Here is an interactive, graphical dashboard you can use to grade the confidence level each group has in you and your accounting function. Check it out. It's a fun tool.

Insight

Next, the information you provide about the financial side of your business needs to be insightful. Too many CFOs fall short here because they see their role as just preparing financial statements... or just preparing a tax return... or creating an analysis schedule you asked them to prepare.

Insight goes way past that. It's about providing information that helps management make better decisions. It's about providing information to lenders and investors to help them better understand the key drivers of performance.

Financial information that is insightful and helpful is an important part of creating confidence and trust in their eyes.

Accuracy and Speed

And the third component has to do with the accuracy and the speed with which you provide financial information. Provide slow and inaccurate information and you kill your credibility. No one will trust your numbers if you do that.

And nothing kills your credibility more than providing financial information that is inaccurate or tends to bounce around and change.

But when you provide accurate information and you provide it quickly after the end of the month, and you do that consistently month to month, you set yourself out as a company that has its act together. Lenders and investors love that and it will help you forge a strong relationship with them that will last a long, long time.

(The Monthly Confidence Package is an important tool I use every month to grow that kind of strong relationship. Here is an article I wrote for the Business Bank of Texas that talks in more detail about the components of the Monthly Confidence Package.)

Where Do You Stand?

In an upcoming post I'll share an assessment tool to help you evaluate your accounting and financial function based on those three key result areas.

And I'll go into more detail about how a strong accounting function will make your life easier and help you win financially in the game of business.

Let's make sure your accounting function is doing its part to help you grow your business.

That's the smart (and fun) approach!

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Location brings information together

Although the success of Culver's stems a great deal from the delicious food it serves, the company also relies on Esri ArcGIS Business Analyst software and data to ensure the locations its new franchisees are selecting will be successful. Using Business Analyst, new sites can be easily compared and contrasted by analyzing the demographics of existing restaurants, then pinpointing new areas that are similar.

Owners of successful franchises, like Culvers, have relied on GIS technology to discern markets for many years. The software provides tools that help organize information by using location as the common identifier for data. By understanding where franchises, the competition, and customers are located, franchisors can make informed decisions, improve communication, and share their knowledge with others.

"We chose Esri because they have the best information available for what we need to know," says Dave O'Brien, real estate manager at Culver's. "Using ArcGIS Business Analyst, we are able to easily compare and contrast new sites by analyzing the demographics of our existing restaurants and then pinpointing new areas that are similar."

O'Brien uses a combination of software for an in-depth view of the market at analysts' desks as well as a providing an easy way for anyone in the company to incorporate the information they find into the tools they need to do business. ArcGIS Business Analyst, including the segmentation module, provides in-depth customer analytics.

The Business Analyst Segmentation Module provides block group level geography, consumer survey data from Mediamark Reaserch Inc. and an intuitive interface so the analysts can accurately estimate demand and market potential for potential new franchisees.

Business Analyst Online is used for creating boardroom-quality maps and easy-to-understand reports that are used by the franchise partners. "We are a family company, and this is apparent in all our daily efforts," stresses O'Brien. "We want our franchise partners to succeed. Without them-the local owners and operators in their own communities and hometowns-we would not exist."

Selecting the Choice Sites

Even with an extensive menu, every food item at Culver's is made fresh to order throughout the day.

With almost 500 restaurants that stretch from Wisconsin's heartland east to South Carolina into Texas and west to Utah, existing franchise partners and franchise candidates are continually looking at possible new sites.

"The best way to determine a good site versus a bad site-besides understanding its access to guests, how to place signage, how good visibility is, and the location's prominence in a particular market-is almost certainly going to be a comparable store analysis," says O'Brien.

Whether by existing franchise partners or new franchise candidates, new sites are always being scrutinized for potential. "Working with franchisees requires a lot of time; we're either on the phone discussing locations or viewing prospective sites in person," explains O'Brien.

He goes on to add that ArcGIS Business Analyst helps everyone focus on trade areas that are more appealing before going out to visit prospective restaurant locations, helping to decrease the time it takes to narrow down choices.

Culver's analysts define areas being serviced by existing restaurants by creating locations on a map of their restaurants and using tools within ArcGIS Business Analyst to delineate market area boundaries around sets of customers. Next, Culver's uses the ArcGIS Business Analyst Segmentation Module to mine valuable customer profiling information.

The Segmentation Module consists of Esri's Community Tapestry data extension, which classifies U.S. neighborhoods into 65 segments based on their socioeconomic and demographic composition. Operating on the theory that people with similar tastes, lifestyles, and behaviors seek others with the same tastes-"like seeks like"-these behaviors can be measured and predicted.

The ArcGIS Analyst Segmentation Module has intuitive wizards that guide the analyst to answer questions about customers such as, Where are other neighborhoods that look like neighborhoods we are currently in that tend to have higher sales volumes? What do they buy? How can I reach them? and Where can I find more like them?

Using these spatial analysis tools, Culver's is able to segment the demographics of a restaurant location and find new areas that have similar attributes.

ArcGIS Business Analyst allows Culver's to define areas being serviced by existing restaurants. The software extension does this by creating locations on a map of the restaurants and defining market area boundaries around sets of customers, in this case one-mile rings.

To quickly share this information with corporate managers and new franchisees, the Culver's Real Estate and Franchise Development team uses Business Analyst Online. Business Analyst Online is a Web-based solution that applies GIS technology to extensive demographic, consumer spending, and business data to deliver on-demand analysis and presentation-ready reports and maps. Reports and maps are easy and convenient to use, with more than 50 templates readily available for the Culver's analysts to use for presentations to their board members and potential franchisees.

"We want to give our franchise partners the support they deserve," says O'Brien. "GIS technology gives them the ability to maximize their potential at Culver's."

Today, GIS is seen as a strategic business solution that helps businesses continue to grow. The company is expanding into the state of Florida, a new area for development. "GIS is a tool to help us make even better decisions as we continue to expand," says O'Brien. "GIS doesn't replace anything we have now, including people. Instead, the software has become a necessary tool that complements our existing business process."

The Culver's Culture

Intuitive wizards in ArcGIS Business Analyst make it easy to answer questions about market areas, in this case finding the census tracts with the highest population growth in order to decide where to open a new restaurant.

The first Culver's restaurant opened in 1984. Co-founders Craig Culver and his wife, Lea, oversee almost 500 restaurants in 20 states through Culver Franchising System, Inc. Culver's attributes the success of its franchise restaurants to the owner/operator concept and the understanding that their business, as much as they'd like to say is about the food - it's really about people.

Franchise partners and team members make sure everyone who comes to Culver's feels welcomed. This resonates even today each time a team member holds open a door, or checks in tableside to find out how the meal is.

Culver's guests order from a cashier or drive-through, but the restaurant goes a step further by bussing tables and bringing around fresh coffee refills. Culver's has won many accolades including recognition as one of 25 high-performing franchises in the country by the Wall Street Journal.

Franchise partners operate their restaurants full-time. Before they can open the door to a new restaurant, each franchisee must complete an intense 16-week training program where they learn, hands on, the business of operating a restaurant.

Founded in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin, Culver's is a growing franchise. The fast casual restaurant specializes in frozen custard and hamburgers called the ButterBurger®.

Culver's is a growing fast casual restaurant that just opened it's 473rd location in December. The restaurant's founders Craig Culver and his wife Lea look for franchise partners willing to work side-by-side to create restaurants that ensure every guest leaves happy. Culver's works hard to help its franchise partners choose great locations to ensure they are successful.

Today, the Culver's oversee franchised restaurants in 20 states through Culver Franchising System, Inc.

First opened in 1984, Culver's specializes in Frozen Custard, a premium ice cream, and the ButterBurger, a juicy hamburger so named because of its lightly toasted and buttered bun. Without a holding pan in sight, the restaurant cooks everything to order, including making the namesake frozen custard, fresh on the premises throughout the day.

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