Franchisors in search of new concepts have discovered a rich market in small businesses that could benefit from the perks that larger companies enjoy, but cannot justify or afford them. Having access to these professional services can have a profound impact on the success of small businesses.
By providing cost-efficiency or support programs for small business owners, these business-to-business franchise concepts deliver benefits and results that allow owners to save money and time. And that in turn creates an attractive market that franchisors are very happy to serve.
"It is astounding how often billing errors occur in telecommunications services," said Dennis Schooley, CEO and managing partner of Schooley Mitchell TelecomConsultants
"Telecommunications is confusing and frustrating for the business person who needs to concentrate on core business services. That's where our services are so valuable," he said.
Schooley Mitchell, begun as a chartered accountancy (CPA) practice in 1980 in Ontario, developed software to analyze its own telecom services and discovered that it was frequently being billed incorrectly. "Like most businesses, we did the old 'weigh it and pay it' method. If our bill weighs about the same as last month's, we'll pay it," said Schooley.
"By uncovering significant errors, we realized that if we were being overcharged so often, other businesses needed to examine their telecom services," Schooley said. "Offering this analysis service to others seemed like a logical extension." The firm, led by Schooley and founding partners Kelvin Martin and Ken Reid, is the largest independent telecommunications consulting company in North America, with more than 150 offices.
Schooley Mitchell Telecom Consultants are rare in that they are not affiliated in any way with telecom suppliers. They examine a client's telecom services and invoices, analyze costs, make unbiased recommendations and accept payment only if their suggested changes are implemented.
"The most attractive part of our service is that our customers pay us only out of the savings we create for them," said Schooley. "We can never decrease your bottom line, we can only increase your revenue by finding savings as a result of billing errors," he added. Since many businesses overpay as much as 40 percent on telecom services, utilizing an independent "watchdog" like Schooley Mitchell can be an important source of potential savings.
To help small businesses save money on business supplies and services, SaveItNow! Franchising Systems, LLC provides group-purchasing power. Founded in 1986, the organization concentrates the buying power of more than 4,000 companies across the nation to negotiate Fortune 500® volume discounted prices and service guarantees with major national vendors.
President Tom Jackson explained the advantages of leveraging this purchasing muscle. "Any one of our products may not be a significant enough source of savings on its own, but when combined with savings on other products and services, we are able to save our customers ten to forty percent in these areas," he said.
Products such as computer supplies, furniture, office supplies, janitorial supplies as well as services such as air express shipping, telecom and printing are available through a single point of contact through SaveItNow!'s online procurement solution provider (PSP) application.
"We're bundling products and services so that whether your business has ten employees or 2,000 employees, you can achieve significant bottom-line savings," said Jackson. A SaveItNow! consultant first conducts an audit to analyze existing purchasing practices.
"We also can help you automate purchasing, resulting in soft-cost savings," said Jackson. "The process of how you are buying can be as important as what you are buying," he added.
"We do all the billing in our back office so that a customer can order directly from our web site," said Jackson. "We've got a huge investment in our call center, web site and infrastructure so that making purchases is streamlined and requires less manpower for our customers," he said.
Recognizing that small businesses are struggling and need to save money in as many areas as possible, Cartridge World helps by saving business owners fifty to sixty percent off retail by refilling printer cartridges.
This is a great time for us because we can help businesses save money and we can be environmentally responsible," said Burt Yarkin, CEO of Cartridge World North America.
Cartridge World, headquartered in Adelaide, South Australia, has 300 retail stores worldwide. In the United States, Cartridge World has locations in California and Texas and is expanding into Florida, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
Customers bring their cartridges to Cartridge World to have them refilled with premium grade inks. "We use high performance inks that have the same chemical and physical properties as the original inks," said Yarkin. A typical refill takes five to ten minutes, depending on the type. "We try to provide 'while you wait' service when possible and our service includes thorough testing of the cartridge and ultrasonic cleaning of the printheads."
While business owners search for ways to save money on products and services, many also seek ways to become more productive and efficient.
ACTION International was founded in Australia by Brad Sugars, who wanted to deliver training in sales and marketing to the small-to-medium business sector.
Because he soon realized that he could never reach enough small businesses if he did all the consulting himself, Sugars decided in 1996 to invest in testing several outside independent franchised consultants.
Today, an ACTION International franchisee brings the skills of a mentor, business partner, sales manager, marketing manager, team trainer and sounding board as a personal business coach for business owners seeking measurable results. ACTION International franchisee Steve Brock, president of ACTION North Carolina, said, "The clients that need us most are those that want to change what is going on with their business. Maybe they've tried working an extra five hours a week and that hasn't solved their problems."
Brock describes ACTION's "affordable mentoring approach" this way: "We engage with a client every week for about 16 to 18 months. Our goal is to impact every facet of their business by identifying the action steps that will produce massive results."
"We don't just develop a plan and give it to the business owner," said Brock. "We strive to create the lifestyle and results that the business owner desires and then we help make that dream a reality," he added.
Brock emphasized that an ACTION International consultant is there for the implementation of the plan and helps measure results. There are more than 423 ACTION business coaches worldwide, with 72 consultants practicing in 26 states in the United States.
An unlikely client who has benefited from the mentoring services of ACTION International is professional soccer player and children's coach David Bascome. The Bermuda native was working out of his home in Pennsylvania, operating Bascome Professional Soccer School.
"I had no mission statement and no uniqueness," remembered Bascome. Bascome hired ACTION International coach Don Schin to help him organize his business for results. "Before I began working with Don, I was coaching 200 kids," said Bascome. "At the end of three months, my business had grown to 600 students."
Bascome is enthusiastic about the benefits of having a personal business coach. "What Don did was help me step back, evaluate my business and plan action steps to achieve my goals," said Bascome. Today, in addition to operating his soccer school, Bascome is a motivational speaker who successfully markets three soccer video tapes, children's soccer camps and plays on his area's professional soccer team, the Harrisburg Heat.
"I was brought up in a home with 30 kids in Bermuda," said Bascome. "Now, I am able to travel back to Bermuda to do charity work for the Sunshine League. The success I've had in my business has made me want to go out and help others," he said.
Kurt Gustafson, an insurance agent in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, contacted ACTION International out of desperation. "As a young agent, I started with zero policies and by June 1998, I had built my business to 1,700 policies," he said.
Gustafson then acquired his father's 1,500-policy client base when his father retired. "What was easy to manage before became unmanageable for me," said Gustafson. "I couldn't handle the day-to-day business requirements to serve my customers and it began to show," he said.
Gustafson knew that David Drewelow had become an ACTION International consultant and contacted him for help.
"David took the time to really examine my business on every level," said Gustafson. "Just a year ago, my team consisted of three people flailing away at problems in no organized fashion. It's easy to focus on putting out fires instead of developing systems that organize and support your business," he added.
Gustafson benefited from the structure and accountability that having a business coach provided. "I shudder to think how many customers saw how I was operating a year ago - not keeping up with their needs - and I'll never know how many customers I may have lost because of that," said Gustafson.