Choosing the Right Franchise

Franchise Technology

Some older Americans aren’t as tech savvy as younger people: 41% don’t use the internet at all and 23% don’t have cell phones.

Some younger Americans aren’t as tech savvy as we think they are. American 20-somethings are good with computers in the same way they’re good with electricity because they can turn on the light switch.

The L.A. Times recently published a survey which was conducted by email among men and women 18 and up, and found that plenty of Americans were stumped by basic computer terminology. They were given a broad range of vocabulary words, including both tech terms and other words, and asked to choose among 3 definitions for each word.

  • 42% guessed that a motherboard is the deck of a cruise ship.
  • 27% thought a gigabyte was a type of insect.
  • 12% thought USB is a European country.

That means that more than half of respondents probably knew each of those words… but if you are not that great with technology, you’re not alone.

How much does this matter in choosing the right franchise? Tech franchises often say clearly that they are looking for executive managers, not technicians, as franchisees.  And most franchise business opportunities aren’t tech companies at all.

But many franchises offer as one of the advantages of their system some proprietary software that helps manage the business. Others offer web-based marketing options. These things are often presented as great advantages — and they might be, if you can easily learn to use the software.

The franchises you’re considering may include any or all of these types of software in their systems:

  • Customer Relationship Management systems
  • Content Management systems
  • Point of Sale systems
  • Inventory Management systems
  • Lead Management systems

The cost of buying or subscribing to systems like these individually can be significant, so they’re valuable. Having the systems configured to work for your particular business is also valuable, since that can cost thousands of dollars.

However, about 75% of CRM installations fail (in businesses across the board, not just in franchises). They fail not because the software doesn’t work, but because people don’t use the software. The interface between the chair and the keyboard, as IT specialists somtimes call human workers, is often the problem.

The situation is complicated in a franchise business because franchisees may be accountable for the information collected by the software. The proprietary management software may for example provide the revenue numbers used to calculate your franchise royalty fees, or it may track productivity in a way that’s visible to the franchisor. You can’t just decide to go back to your spreadsheets or to use pencil and paper.

This can mean that you end up being dependent on the employees who are good with the software… and many franchise businesses are in fields with high employee turnover.

When a salesperson for a franchise starts enthusing about the proprietary management system, get realistic about what that means for you personally. Is it an opportunity to gain a new skill? A serious savings over the software you’d have to buy if you struck out on your own? Or is it something you’ll find hard to work with?

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