One for All Tech Is Best; Systems Must Be the Same for Everyone

Article excerpt

Byline: SIMON JACK

COMPUTERS are becoming essential for most franchisees. But should systems be provided by a franchiser, or should franchisees be able to choose their own hardware and software?

Brian Duckett, managing director of London consultancy Horwath Franchising, is in no doubt.

'It should be a standard part of a franchise package,' he insists. As well as bulk-buy discount savings on equipment, having similar reporting and accounting systems means best practice can be adopted across every franchise.

'Actual performance can be compared with budgeted performance and franchisees compared with one another,' he says.

'For example, if someone's costs are lower than average you can learn how to cut yours, and if another's are higher, they can be told, "You're doing something wrong here". This can help make every franchisee more successful.'

But most important, a common system allows franchisees to concentrate on the main business of the franchise, says Duckett. Stuart Brown, director of another London-based consultancy, Franchise Directions, says computers may also be used operationally, for example, to give customers quotes for services.

He believes the internet will be a powerful tool for franchising, but care must be taken not to weaken a brand by allowing too much leeway in website design. 'In most cases the franchiser should provide a website and redirect new business to specific franchisees,' he says.

Franchisers have invested in IT in a variety of ways. For Cash Generator, which spent two years installing an electronic point-of-sale system, one of the main advantages is that it makes sure that franchisees have the right stock.

THE company in Bolton, Lancashire, has 40 stores and 33 franchisees, and hopes to expand to 150 branches. It sells new electrical equipment and buys and sells secondhand goods.

It also allows people to borrow on valuable items, and runs a chequecashing service for those with no bank accounts. …