Expand Your Brand Using Other People’s Money by Using Franchisor Strategies

Back many years ago, I met a fellow franchisor, he’d built a nice company with 250 franchisees which operated Kiosks in shopping malls – you know those carts in malls that sell various wares. What he did was make each Kiosk its own business, at first as “independent contractors” but later as Franchisees due to the Franchise Law rules. Each franchisee had to sign a two-year franchise agreement with non-automatic renewal, where the Franchisor could merely take over the business, location, as he already had the lease-space agreement with the malls, including the corporations that owned many malls around the country.

After two years, he stopped renewing franchise agreements, took control of all those little businesses, and then sold the whole thing and retired a very wealthy man. Unfortunately, many of the independent contractors, turned into Franchisees were forced out after building up their businesses and providing a substantial amount of goodwill. The franchisor’s concept was built by the blood, sweat and tears of all those individuals, who did make decent money in the meantime, but were then basically terminated when their franchise agreement term ended.

Recently, there is an interesting company in the “Handy Man” sector which has a franchise agreement that states it may unilaterally buy back the franchisee’s business at any time after 2-years of operating. In the Franchisor’s option to purchase there is a mathematical formula for valuation of the Franchisee’s business that negate the value of any “goodwill” and allows the Franchisee to choose if he will see at “Fair Market Value” of assets (used equipment, office furniture) or twice the earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization (EBITA).

Why would a Franchise Buyer buy a franchise like that? I suppose there might be a few situations where it makes sense for instance, the Franchisee just needs a couple of years of income and believes they can build up a good “book” of business, and if it starts to go South, the Franchisor may buy him/her out and they can move on, less risk? But what if the Franchisor chooses not to buy and the business fails? What if the business succeeds wildly and the Franchisee is forced to sell-out a thriving and growing business?

If you think about it, it is a brilliant strategy for a Franchisor, have others build your business, take all the risks, and if they succeed, you terminate their franchise agreement instead of renewal, and if they fail, you simply let them fail, then sell that territory to a new franchisee, until one succeeds and then you just keep winning and building on the backs of others. As a franchisee buyer it may be wise to recognize such strategies and be weary of them, unless it serves your temporary purpose of a short term business and solid temporary cash flow based on your abilities and the Franchisor’s model. Think on this.

Tips On How To Create A Powerful Online Presence As A Small Business Owner

We are living in the internet age and for your business to be successful you should ensure that you have a strong web presence.

The first thing that you need to do is to have a website. Here you need to purchase a unique domain name and sign up for a web host. Although, there are many free web hosts and portfolio sites that you can use, you should avoid using them.

This is because such sites tend to make your business look unprofessional. To be on the safe side you should always go the paid hosting plans. The good side is that the hosting plans are usually cheap and almost every small business can afford them.

Once you have done this you should now design a stylish and user-friendly website. If you don’t have the skills to design a website, you should consider hiring a professional who will do it for you. To be successful you should ensure that your website has a current design.

In addition to having a website, you should also ensure that you have profile pages on the popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

The main function of the social networks is to help you communicate with your customers. To ensure that you are able to easily communicate, you should put links of your social profiles on your website.

To increase your followers on social media, you should share content that is beneficial to your customers and clients. When sharing content, you should be very careful and avoid spamming your readers.

If you are a lover of videos, you should highly consider using YouTube videos as a way of marketing your business. The good side is that it’s very easy to create the videos; however, if you don’t have the skills to create them, you should hire a professional to do it for you.

Another great way of having a strong online presence is by purchasing advertising space that is relevant to your readers and followers. A great way of going about it is buying advertising space on Google. You can also write articles and post them on websites that are relevant to your readers.

Although, you might be desperate of having a strong online presence, you should avoid deceitful ways of marketing. For example, you should avoid “sock-puppeting.” This is because such methods can easily create serious backlash against you which would be devastating to your business.

A Guide To Understanding The Process Of Software Development

Many business people don’t fully understand the complexity of a software development process. It’s natural, since specialized books about development are read by developers and other IT people, and many others might still be referring to a software project as ”coding” or ”writing”. With better luck one might add ‘designing’ and ‘testing’. Quite inaccurate.

One can think of several metaphorical comparisons to describe software development, such as writing a book or building a house. Some of them are a good light in the dark, some are rather misleading. And while many people may argue whether creating software is an art, a science, or a precisely elaborated process, we’d leave that choice to someone else. It cannot be described sparsely. But we’ll try to give some descriptions and comparisons in a compact and clear way.

Do We ”Write” Software?

One of the common but rather vague things is comparing creating software with writing. Writing code, writing a book, and so on. You can start writing a book without a plan and go with the flow; with custom software development you cannot, unless developers do a rather small piece of software on their own – and for themselves. Moreover, an outsourced software project never starts with writing code.

Books and software may both have strict deadlines. But once a book is published, what’s written is written; rewriting is not an option. But software keeps being under constant improvement with new versions being released – it’s a natural thing. It’s almost impossible to get every need of your end user, catch up with business and technological changes once and for a lifetime. Books aren’t that dependent on changes; software is. But that’s good: your software, unlike a book, can’t become just another mediocre thing on the market, can’t become irrelevant and outdated. The processes are absolutely different: we prefer using the words ”create” or ”build” software rather than ”write”.

Do We ”Grow” Software?

”Growing” software on a good basis and a good set of documentation is possible to a certain extent. Like with writing, it’s not the best description one can suggest. It partially gets the incremental, agile nature of making and maintaining relevant software. But while ”growing”, the product is rarely tasty until it’s ripe, and the owner has to wait awhile.

The difference is, in software development there are different stages of being ”ripe”. Startups usually demand rolling a minimum viable software product on the market, getting feedback and making corrections and improvements. Each version is more ”ripe” than its predecessor, and it has to be ”watered” by support and maintenance, kept fresh amidst all the business and technological changes.

Do We ”Build” Software?

This one is considered by many specialists the closest way to describe software development, and we can agree with that. Construction works show the huge importance of careful planning, preparing, guiding the work, and performing it. The limits of software depend on how its architecture is constructed. The amount of works doesn’t grow gradually, since every building is different, and requires different approach. There can be a hospital, an office building, a school or a barn, and same physical size doesn’t mean equal amount of labour. Something is done with concrete, something can be done with wood and nails, and the latter doesn’t work well with complex and valuable software for mobile startups and other businesses.

– Everything depends on the kind of a building you need. You need to figure out the problem the software will solve, and conduct the necessary preparations, do market research, gather info, etc. The more complex your software is, the more resources must be spent on planning. Bad planning – and the whole app fails, falls like a house of cards by the first gust of a wind.

– Then you and your chief architect (project manager) can proceed to design that perfectly combines functional requirements and interface, resulting in proper user experience. Sure you want those who will work or live in the building to be fully satisfied with it. Same thing with software. One more good thing, once the design is approved, it’s way easier to give more precise estimations for the remainder of the construction (development) works.

– When furnishing a house, you needn’t building things you can buy: household appliances and furniture. It’s much cheaper and way faster. Same with software: if your software development team is experienced, it will use all the available resources to stay away from writing needless basic things: there are lots of software toolkits, frameworks, classes, and libraries for that, each for a particular case. And if the team means business, they will easily find tools and technologies that will get your tasks done as fast as possible. Custom pieces of furniture take more time and efforts, but in most cases there are already existing pre-built ways to save your time and money without compromising security and efficiency of your software.

– There will always be changes in functional requirements. Again, changes can painlessly happen within the planned architecture. Here we once more emphasize the importance of preparations – although this topic is worthy of a separate article. And we cannot go anywhere without mentioning quality assurance, which constantly checks different aspects of how the software works. What’s more – even a minor change involves testing, so that’s not the place to cut the costs (in fact, QA usually takes about 30% of the whole development time).

– Optimization of software (inner walls of a building) is limited to the approved architecture, and here main expenses are all about labor, not materials. But what you receive in the end is better software and satisfied users. Meanwhile users speak their minds on what they would like the apartments to look – and one should never neglect these opinions.

– One more thing worth noting – a good architect (or a good creative expert in software development) is always ready to consult you on things that should be solved immediately, and what can be left for later without breaking your plans or the quality of your software. You are most likely to not know the subtleties of the technical side – so leave making suggestions and explanations to your team. Unless you are an experienced IT person and you needn’t reading this article to get these insights.

As you can see, the last example is really the closest, and the list of similarities can be continued forever. But the ones we presented here should be enough to understand the process of software development, which is impossible without patience, expertise of the team, and mutual understanding.

Tips For Sorting Out Office Problems

Working in an office is very good. Office jobs are usually jobs that you can leave at the door when you are going home and you don’t have to worry about them.

A lot of people get fed up with their current situation will turn to an office job because they know that they might not experience as much stress. However, office jobs are not without problems and if the job has deadlines, you could still experience a high level of stress.

If you work in an office, or you are the supervisor, you will know that things can go wrong between the members of staff. Read on for more information about office related problems and how to resolve the issues.

Staff Members Arguing

One of the most prevalent issues among staff members is when they aren’t getting along. Arguments will flare up over the littlest thing and it causes an atmosphere within the office.

Atmospheres are not conducive to a good working environment, so you need to put a stop to these arguments once and for all. The first step will be getting the two members of staff to sit down and work it out.

You could find the root of the problem and they might even end up being friends. If that does not work then you have to move them away from each other. Seat them at different ends of the office so that they are not close enough to argue.

If they are still arguing, then you have to consider moving one of them to a different office, or you will have to take disciplinary action against them. You can’t let arguments simmer and you can’t have the opinion that it will all blow over. If you do this, then the argument could turn into a physical fight and you might end up having to fire both members of staff.

Stealing Office Supplies

You should not get surprised if members of staff end up stealing from the office. They won’t steal massive things, it will just be bits of stationary here and there and you might even thing that confronting them is not worth the trouble.

However, if they then come to you and say that you need to buy stationary, then it can become a big issue, especially if you have to buy new stationary over and over.

The best course of action here is to face the culprit, but to do it discreetly. Don’t do it in front of everyone. Then you should put a sign up saying that stationary and office furniture is the property of the company, and you should see a change in the behavior.

Car Parking Issues

A lot of offices have restricted parking, so you should have allocated everyone with a parking space of their own. However, if you notice that people are coming in earlier and earlier and they are arguing a lot, then there could be an issue with the parking spaces.

If the wrong people are using the spaces, then you will either have to number the spaces or put names on the spaces. Have a sign that says people for towed if they park in the wrong space.

If this still does not work, then you have no choice but to issue locks for the spaces. Parking locks are made so that they get installed in the middle of the space and there is a raised barrier so that the space gets block. The barrier will only lower when the correct car drives into the space.

Best-In-Class Is Not Necessarily Best-For-You

Everyone is constantly talking about best-in-class, and very often, for the wrong reasons, labeling themselves as such or indicating that is what they strive for. According to the business dictionary, best-in-class is defined as:

“Highest current performance level in an industry, used as a standard or benchmark to be equaled or exceeded. Also called best of breed.”

So what is this thing that many companies strive for, and is it truly what they should be trying to achieve? Sometimes by focusing on best-in-class, are we missing what is best-for-you?

No two businesses are exactly the same — that is a truism. Comparatives are always interesting and knowing what others are doing is of value — what is working or what is not. But there is a danger when looking at best-in-class — who decides what it is, and furthermore, when looking at instituting what someone had deemed as best-in-class — are you perhaps trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

Often times, corporations are disappointed with the results from their efforts to emulate somebody else “best-in-class. Too often, these corporations spend a couple of years trying to implement something, which truly didn’t make sense for them, but because they were told to achieve “best-in-class” and as this is what the “best-in-classes” do, they felt obligated to try. Furthermore, who is it that decides that a certain approach, company, whatever is best-in-class. Where is that Oracle of Delphi that makes this determination?

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of seeing what has worked (or hasn’t) for other firms. Yet once you’ve done that — then look at the business you’re running, and see if it makes sense for you. Having been an executive in many different industries, and consulting in many more, I can comfortably say that the Pareto rule is alive and well. That is to say that 80% of the aspects of the business are similar — processes, business drivers, etc.. However 20% are unique. What I have also learned it that if you ignore that 20%, anything you try to institute is doomed to failure. It is the square peg, round hole scenario.

So let’s give “best-for-you” more credence. Create your own horizon — take heed of the lessons learned from others, but don’t follow blindly — just because some amorphous mass tells you this is what should be done. Create your own footprint… and who knows — tomorrow someone might be calling you best-in-class!

The Pros And Cons Of Working In Serviced Offices

Many industry experts never fail to remind business owners about the importance of always creating and maintaining a good and solid impression. And there are many recommended ways to do this. But the process of establishing and sustaining a good impression usually starts with having an impressive business premise and address.

Having a really prestigious office or business address can certainly be easy if you have the money and resources to do so. However, there are many starting and start-up entrepreneurs who may not have enough money to do this or even if they do, they would rather invest such funds in other areas or aspects of their business such as in promoting or marketing their brand and in hiring and paying some new additional employees.

But having an impressive office in a highly prestigious location is now a more reachable goal today, thanks mainly to many innovative business and office solutions providers. And one of the more contemporary ways to have a remarkable office in a good location without shelling out too much money for this endeavor is by investing in serviced offices.

Serviced Offices

A serviced office is an office or work site that is fully furnished, equipped and ready for occupancy and use anytime by any interested party or entrepreneur. These offices are owned and managed by a serviced provider and you simply rent a space from them to carry out your work or run your business.

This innovative business solution offers entrepreneurs several attractive benefits but there are some disadvantages as well.

PROS:

  • You can give your business a good professional image. This specific type of office always boasts of stylish interiors and the building where it is located also has an attractive façade as well. Your clients or customers, partners or investors will be impressed by both the exterior and the interior part of your office since these are always well-maintained by the service provider.
  • Lease or contract flexibility. You can rent such an office for just a few months or even weeks but you are allowed to extend the length of your stay anytime. And in case you want to increase the space you are leasing, your provider can easily grant your request.
  • Marginal overheads. These types of offices do not require costly deposits and down payments.

CONS

  • A serviced office space will become quite expensive if you continuously rent it for long periods of time.
  • These types of offices may lack some unique and endearing aspects. These types of offices tend to be too uniform and traditional looking. And you may get tired of looking at or working at too common and unchanging, even boring designs and arrangements.

There Are Many Reasons Why You Should Use Courier Services

When you use courier services, you can rest assured that you get convenience, reliability and security with each service they offer; whether you need to send a parcel to a recipient in the country or internationally, whether you use overnight services or same day services, with courier companies your parcel is in excellent hands and you will always know its whereabouts.

Courier services offer lots of options

With a courier service, your parcel can be sent the next day, on the same day, nationally as well as internationally. In fact, with an international courier you can send your parcel to practically any corner of the world, door to door. Courier services offer many different choices in terms of delivery and collection options and there are many different pricing structures to choose from as well, depending on your specific requirements such as the type of parcel, how urgent the delivery is, and the type of content.

You can always keep tabs on where your parcel is

Perhaps one of the best things about using a courier service is the fact that lost parcels are practically a thing of the past. The sophisticated tracking methods that are used by parcel services these days offer complete reliability and peace of mind. At any stage of the delivery process you can keep track of where your parcel is and whether it has arrived safely and securely. This enables you to inform your recipient about the expected delivery time and if you are unsure about what is happening with your parcel, you can either give your courier a call or you can go to their website, enter your parcel tracking number and you will have access to all the particulars of your parcel, literally at your fingertips, in real time.

More affordable than you think

There are many different courier companies which make the courier industry incredibly competitive and give the client the benefit of choosing the delivery options and pricing structure that best suits their needs, whether it’s for business deliveries or for personal parcel deliveries, locally or internationally, overnight or same day. The emergence of parcel booking agents and re-sellers means that your parcel collections and deliveries can be even more affordable than you ever may have thought possible.

With the courier service industry being such a competitive market with many national and international courier companies trying to get their hands on a piece of the pie and each one offering more sophisticated parcel services than the next; it may be hard to decide on which courier to use. It is important to do research before making a choice so that you get the best possible service at the most affordable prices.

Ensuring the Safety of Your Business Through Document Storage

The documentation that your company produces is extremely valuable for a number of reasons. Crucial company financial documents, employment letters and client files all fall under the confidential company documentation umbrella. Unfortunately, paper-based documentation can be under threat due to a variety of reasons such as fire, theft or natural disasters. Even if you store your documentation digitally, on an internal or external hard drive, it is important that you protect your company’s information. To ensure the safety of your company’s documentation, it is best to take on the services of a document storage company. Before you choose a storage company, there are a few factors to take into consideration:

Storage Systems

A well-designed storage warehouse will have processes and systems in place to make your document storage as effortless as possible. It is crucial that there are not only efficient and comprehensive systems in place, but that you understand them and how they work. It does not really help to have your documentation stored safely if you cannot access them easily whenever need be. Depending on the size of your business, you may generate paperwork at a speedy rate and if your documentation is not stored in a logical system that you understand, it will hinder your ability to retrieve what you need when you need it. A well-designed storage system is quite a complex operation; hence you need to choose a company that specialists in document management. A good document management company will be able to explain their different storage options to you. In addition to this they should be able to suggest a solution that is best for your business’s document storage requirements, be it tweaking the existing system or customizing a system to suit you.

If required, your document storage company should have an electronic document management system in place to conveniently scan and safe keep your business documents in order for you to access it offsite electronically.

Safe and Secure Storage

Safe and secure storage is crucial for all your documentation. Because your paper documents can be damaged by climatic conditions, fire or theft, you need adequate security against all these hazards. A document management company will have the safest facilities for document storage possible. This includes vault-type storage; climate controlled environments as well as excellent fire prevention and management facilities. Should you have scanned paperwork and are utilizing digital storage systems, then the storage company will make sure that all your information is backed up and stored on secure servers.

Retrieval

Being able to access your documentation whenever necessary is vital. A well planned storage labeling system should be in place that gives you easy access to all your files irrespective of how many you have stored away. For example, even if your particular vault is lined with shelves containing rows upon rows of boxes, you should be able to find documents alphabetically, by year and by type. In addition to this, you should be able to access your documentation 24 hours a day, should there be any emergency requiring you to produce the relevant paperwork.

As you can see, there are many benefits to secure document storage for your company. Not only will you have an organized system in place that you can utilize to find whatever you need, when you need it, but you will also have peace of mind that important business documents are well protected. The good thing about offsite document storage is that even if your business premises get completely destroyed, at least all your paperwork will be safe.

What Are the Advantages of a Multifunction Printer?

While the first multi-function printers were developed for home use and small business use, more and more medium and large companies are starting to see the benefits of these multi-function devices. All-in-one printers combine multiple capabilities such as fax messaging, scanning, copying and printing in one single unit. In this article we will discuss the many advantages of multi-function printers.

The convenience advantage

When you talk about office automation; multi-function printers are exactly that. These devices offer the convenience of real multitasking, giving you features that you may not have had if you had opted for standalone devices, especially when you run a small business or work from home. For instance, you may not have intended to purchase a fax machine, but now you are able to send and receive fax messages without the additional cost. The same goes for the scanning and copying functions of the machine. They are added bonuses, complementary services if you will; offering you various levels of convenience.

The cost saving advantage

Of course there is the cost saving advantage as the multi-function printer does everything that would otherwise need to be done by an additional three standalone devices. The purchase price of a multi-function printer is a bit higher than a traditional one, but it is nowhere near the amount you would pay for a separate printer plus all the additional devices; allowing you to enjoy all the features at a fraction of the cost. You also save on maintenance costs in the process.

The space saving advantage

One of the biggest advantages by far is the fact that your multi-function printer saves a lot of space, which is great if you have a small office or if you’re working from home. Instead of having to create space for your printer and your fax and your copier and your scanner, you can now enjoy all the different types of functionalities at one central point.

The power saving advantage

Multi-function printers only require one power cable, eliminating ‘cable spaghetti’. All-in-one devices also use less power than if you were to operate several standalone machines simultaneously, leading to increased savings when it comes to electricity usage.

Disadvantages

There are some disadvantages to multi-function devices as well. One of them is the fact that if something goes wrong, everything goes wrong. If there is a problem with the printer, for instance, it can result in all other features failing as well; if you have run out of toner, it will affect the printer, the fax, and the copier. Also, the overall performance quality of these all-in-one machines is generally not as top-notch compared to individual machines.

Multi-function devices enable you to enjoy every possible office function from one device which is a great space saving and cost saving option for small office setups. Multi-function printers also provide convenient centralized document management facilities in a larger office environment.

Strategic Process for Site Planning

Real estate site selection can be a complex web of evaluating store attributes within a potential store trade area. The process utilizes both a science and an art to the overall selection process combining a number of factors that weigh on the viability of the location. Complicating the process is that each location has its own special attributes, which makes site selection more directional in nature as opposed to a cookie-cutter process. That being said, here are some key attributes that should be considered in the overall evaluation:

Traffic Counts – While these are clearly site specific (think of the difference between a rural site and an urban site), analyzing the traffic counts will help offer a predictability of volume. The key is to understand what the potential traffic patterns are for the site before one can look solely at traffic counts. If a road carries a number of cars, but that road does not feed well into the site, the traffic counts may be misinterpreted. Understand the natural flow into the site before assessing the traffic counts. One way to gain some perspective on how traffic counts mirror volumes is to compare existing site volumes with their traffic counts. Many operators jump right into new site selection without looking back at existing sites and creating a model based on their geographic areas. This may give you a more reliable predictive model for your future sites.

Population Counts – Population count is the next logical indicator for your location. Not only do you want to look at the population count as it stands today – and is it enough to support a site – but also how has it been trending. Positive growth indicates a viable marketplace while negative trends may raise a red flag. In addition, gaining a better understanding of the ethnicity and socioeconomic trends in the trade area will offer a better snapshot into the merchandising mix that should be presented at the site.

Seasonality & Geographic Nuances – Determining whether the site is seasonal or not should factor into your analysis. Operators shouldn’t necessarily shy away from seasonal type stores but rather not be surprised by them after they open. Closely related to seasonality would be a trade area driver – i.e., a mall or theme park – that may positively or negatively impact your store’s performance. Monitoring these outside forces will tighten up your model. In addition, look for the non-seasonal enhancements or barriers to your site. A river that bisects your trade area, for instance, will effectively cut your traffic to the store no matter how close in proximity the homes are. Even certain companies can impact your site. A large manufacturing facility that releases a number of employees at the same time can cause bottlenecks in the traffic flow that will cause potential customers to avoid the area at these peak times.

Visibility – This may be more anecdotal than the other attributes but should still be a consideration. Judging whether the site is easily viewed from afar as opposed to a site that is hidden by overgrown trees should be a factor. Driving the site from all four directions allows for the owner to gain the perspective of potential customers as they approach the location. Other considerations would include that speed of the traffic as it approaches the potential site. If the traffic flow is traveling at too great a speed or drivers are distracted due to complicated traffic patterns, the opportunity to notice your location is diminished.

Competitors – Obviously, understanding the competition within the trading area is critical. I would approach this competitive evaluation in a three-fold fashion: a) gasoline, b) convenience store, and c) quick-service restaurants. Look at the competitive landscape in degrees of competition – meaning, some competition has greater negative impact than other competition. Ranking your competition based on this impact for all three categories will paint a more holistic overview. Keep in mind, that some competitors may impact only the gasoline while others may have a greater impact on convenience product sales. With the c-store industry creeping further and further into food-service, mapping the quick service restaurants in the trade area will give you a better indication of the viability of your food-service operation.

Location – Location, location, location. There are many factors that come into play when picking the best location. Is it a premier corner? What day part side of the street is the site? Is there easy ingress and egress in and out of the location? Are there divided highways in front of the location that make access more difficult? Is this an inside lot location and not even a corner? What is the length of the property frontage? There is a myriad of considerations for the actual site location that need to be evaluated in the context of the other attributes.

Let’s face it; there are a number of variables that come into play. While one cannot be certain that accurately depicting all of these attributes into a real estate site evaluation model can guarantee success, it will at least put you in a better risk aversion position. That is the science of it.

I have been around the block long enough to know that some stores simply defy their science and just work. The art of site selection is far harder to quantify than the science. While those stores are the anomaly, evaluating new locations by putting their attributes through the litmus test above, helps minimize the downside risk of opening an under performing location.