Franchise Tech Support: How IT Helps You Make It Happen (Feat. Mike Isakson)
Amanda: Welcome back to “Franchising with Purpose.” I’m your host, Amanda Lepore. Technology, it’s all around us in our personal and professional lives. We now do almost all of our business on computers, tablets, and even smartphones, so it’s crucial to have that technology to succeed. What’s even more important is having the tech support to make it happen in the first place.
On today’s episode of “Franchising with Purpose,” I continue my conversation with Mike Isakson, a 50 year veteran of the franchising world with experience as both a franchisee and a franchisor. We discuss the IT department at a franchisor’s corporate office and how they support you as you succeed. If technology is crucial to your franchise opportunity, you’ll definitely want to pay attention. Now, here’s my conversation with Mike Isakson.
We talk about the information delivery and a lot of times that lives and probably should live on some kind of a web-based platform. And you mentioned being password-protected, and we want to make sure that everything is secure and not anybody can get into it, but it’s a really good segue into the technology team and what they provide.
So when we talk about IT and technology support, I think, “Oh, well, my computer’s broken, so I’m gonna call IT, and they’re gonna help me fix it.” And that, in my head, you know, coming from a corporate background, is kind of where I view IT, but it’s very different when we talk about technology in a franchise system and a franchise relationship. So let’s talk a little bit about what I can expect from a technology department at the franchisor, at the home office level. What kind of support are they gonna provide me?
Mike: Well, yeah, a couple of couple things. First and foremost, the franchisor should not, should not be providing any hardware support. I can’t get my printer to work, I can’t get my computer to boot up, or it does this, or it does this or does that. That’s hardware, interconnections to the internet, that should be…the franchisee should have a trusted vendor in their marketplace that takes care of all of those issues. And a franchisor that spends a lot of time helping franchisees with that is not doing the job that they should be doing.
The franchisor should be providing the software. Now, it can either be software that is specifically written for the franchisor, or it can be software that’s industry developed. And I know of several franchise companies that operate with an industry-accepted standard of how…and that software company is, specifically, it’s not written by the franchisor, but it’s an industry-accepted leader in that. And I can think of dozens of industries today that are using that. I can also look at franchise companies today that write all of their own software.
Now, there’s pros and cons on both sides. If the franchisor is developing a private bespoke, to use an English term, or a unique software system, the question should be is how big is the IT department? How big is the software and the writing of the software as opposed to if you’re using an outside service, an outside vendor? That is, how is the relationship between the franchisor and that vendor? How is it funded? Who does what, and how is it controlled?
And, right now, I think we are far better off to look for outside companies to provide that software, and then the franchisor is responsible to train the home office staff, the franchisees, and, in some cases, the teammates or the employees to use this software. Now, that software should be integrated for backroomed operations, but also, “How does it interface with our caregivers and our clients?”
Amanda: Absolutely. And, I think, in 2019, almost 2020s, software and technology is becoming the lifeblood. I shouldn’t say becoming. It became a long time ago the lifeblood of a business operation. And I think to the point of the homegrown solution is it’s something that the franchisor created to the management and the support of that, you know. God forbid something happens to the thing that I used to run my business, and there’s two people that are able to fix it and support it. What’s that gonna look like, and how long I’m I out of, you know, dead the water, so to speak, a lot of times with technology? So I think that’s important.
And I think I would agree with you that it’s a much better route to go with a vendor, a provider that people can support and work with, but you’ve just got more hands. And, again, we talk about specializing, that that company knows what they’re doing, and they’re building the best program for my business and what they need. And they’re not, you know, torn in five other different directions. They really can focus on what’s so important to run a business when it comes to technology. So, kind of…
Mike: And I think the other side of that is that the franchisee needs to understand, “Do I go to that vendor for support? Do I go to my franchisee? Where are those…how is that managed? Does the vendor provide all of the support or does the franchisee?” And I think it needs to be a hybrid. And the day in and day out operating of that franchisee’s business, the franchisor should be the expert at how we support our franchisees using that day in and day out.
Because, basically, most software, 20% of it drives all of the results. That other 80% sometimes I think vendors can help us use those tools, but the day in and day out support has to be done, I believe, by the operations department. Not the IT department, but the operations department, by the marketing department. Those are the folks that ought to be able to, at the franchisor, go to the franchisee and say, “Get on your computer, go to this screen, go to that screen, go do this and that.” That’s the number you want to look at. That’s the information.
One of the things I would just encourage everyone to study is, how good is the franchisor? Do they know that software system? They should…the operations people should know that system very, very well because that’s how you measure growth and development with the franchisee.
Amanda: Absolutely. And we talk a lot about data, and we talk a lot about measurement because you can’t manage what you don’t measure, right? And if you can’t go into your system and pull out those lead numbers, and those conversion rates, and all the things I need to know how I’m doing and my benchmark, and my operations team can’t help me with that, then that’s a red flag, in my opinion. So, I agree. It’s super important that those folks that are helping you run and grow your business know, “Hey,” like you said, “click on this screen, and here’s the number that you want to look at, and here’s what that number should be, and then here’s how we get you to where it needs to be.” Right?
Mike: Right. And the other side of that is also scorecards. What do the dashboards look like on the software? So another important part is, as a franchisee, I would want to know, is there a commonplace that everyone who supports a franchisee is recording interaction with the franchisee? So that if I call you, Amanda, with a problem as a franchisee, you can go on a common system and see what has been going on.
Just like I go to the doctor. I want the doctor to be able to go and see my last physical, my last weight, my last blood pressure, etc, etc., and then say, “Okay, here it is today,” just like in franchise support. When I call and need help from the marketing department, or need help from ops, or need helps from this group, they can go on the screen and go and say, “You know, I just noticed that we’ve been working on this problem for the last five calls. What’s going on?” I really don’t think that…you know, so I’d ask the question, are they keeping a record of support so that we can be better at supporting the franchisee?
Amanda: Absolutely. When we talk, you know, franchise support really, at its core, is service, is customer service, right? It’s a huge piece of it. So, what, you know, I don’t… Like, you made a really good point and good analogy of when you go to the doctor. I don’t want to have to go to my doctor and say, “Well, this is what, you know, the last doctor said were the issues, and this is what the blood work showed, or this is that and the other thing.” I want my doctor to come in and say, “Hey, here’s what’s going on based on the information that we have from your last visit, or the last specialist, or whatever the case may be.” And you know, franchise is very much the same. I don’t want to have to tell you what I just told the last guy that I talked to. Awesome.
Mike: That is exactly right in that operations support person needs to pull all of those pieces together from sales and marketing and hold that franchisee accountable. And there needs to be a cadence of accountability.
Amanda: Absolutely. It’s a theme I keep hearing in this conversation is that accountability piece, both, you know, holding the franchisee accountable to things when we talk about sales and marketing and all that, but also who’s holding them accountable for the support that they’re providing?
My other question as it relates to technology, and I’m not sure, and I’ll leave it up to you, how do franchisors, when we talk about choosing the best technology and, you know, the systems that I’m gonna use to run my business, and it’s up to the franchisor, I think, to kind of vet those and pick them, you know, all while listening to current franchisees, what’s working, what’s not working. But how to franchisors choose the best technology for their business? Is that something that I should want to learn about? Ask about?
Mike: Well, quite frankly, there, again, is why you buy a franchise. So, that is, as a franchisee, I need to accept the software system that the franchisor selected. If I’m going to, you know, debate about whether it should be this company or that company, or it should be Windows, or it should be Apple, or it should be this web browser or this or that, that isn’t why you buy a franchise. That’s the roadmap. And so, there shouldn’t be any debate about that.
We’re using this vendor, we’re using this system. You’ve got to have these kinds of computers. “Oh, I like this kind.” “No, uh-uh.” That’s the stuff that there shouldn’t be any discussion about. And that’s all identified before you buy the franchise. So once you’ve bought it, you know, a franchisor makes the decision to go with this, then you don’t change platforms every week, every month. It’s a big decision to change a platform. And that’s a question I’d ask and say, “How long have you operated on this platform?” “We’ve been doing this for 20 years, you know, or 10 years, or whatever.”
Amanda: Yup. And you’re absolutely right to change platforms, especially something you’re using to manage all aspects of your business is a huge undertaking. So definitely be leery of, you know, a company that changes platforms every couple of years because it’s definitely not a small undertaking at all. Mike, any other thought…?
Mike: But, on the flip side, also, if a franchise company has changed a platform, ask why. And that’s also good because maybe, you know, if they say, “Okay, there is a better way to do something. We’re going to change it.”
Amanda: Absolutely. And you’re right. That is why you buy a franchise is because those systems are in place, and they’ve been tested, and, you know, you trust the franchisor to say, “Hey, this is the best system out there.” And sometimes it’s not any longer, so you also, to that point, want to make sure that your franchisor has their finger on the pulse of what’s going on, especially in technology because it does change so very often. But, you know, is this really the best solution anymore, and is it time to change? So definitely two sides to that coin for sure.
Mike: And I think that’s one of the key things in my mind is if a franchisee is not either creating and keeping customers, clients, or teammates, that’s the most important thing. That’s the role and the function.
Amanda: Right. Could not agree more. As we kind of wrap up the technology or the IT segment here, any other things that I, as a franchisee, or potential franchisee, should be considering or thinking about or anything else that I should know as it comes to technology and the support I can expect from that team?
Mike: Again, I think it’s very much integrated into the operations group has gotta quarterback the IT support, and what’s the process for issues. But, again, that’s not cloud IT support with hardware support. That’s two whole different deals.
Amanda: Yeah. And, you know, we talked a lot initially about that transition from what we called a jobber, right, a lifelong career person working at a corporate office and making that transition to business ownership. So I think it is important to note that difference because what’s been IT support for you up to this point, which is, you know, “My computer is broken, I’m gonna call them,” is when you buy a franchise, it looks very different. And you still need that IT support.
You should find a local vendor in your area that can help you with those things, but that’s definitely not what you go to the franchisor for. Those things are very much the high level, you know, platforms, what’s going on in the industry, all the things that I need to effectively run our brands and our business.
Mike: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
Amanda: Thanks again for joining us on “Franchising with Purpose.” You can find me on Twitter @Amanda_GHC. And don’t forget to visit Griswold Franchising on social media for more information. Griswold Franchise Opportunity on Facebook, @GriswoldFran on Twitter, and Griswold Home Care Franchising on Instagram. And make sure to subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and check out my personal favorite, griswoldhomecare.com/franchise for more. We’d love to hear from you, whether it’s a review on your favorite podcast app or a tweet. If you have any questions or if you want to hear something specific, send us a message. We’ll see you next time.