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Expanding a Franchise: Consider the Cloud

Regardless of how comfortable you are with technology, consider how a cloud-based service might fit into your franchise expansion.

Starting a business is never an easy task. Managing a growing franchise presents its own set of specific problems, as you’re often negotiating between the policies of the umbrella business with the day-to-day realities of the individual operations you’re responsible for. However, with the right approach and tools, you can make growing your franchise business not only a successful endeavor, but a relatively seamless one.

I started my first franchise business with Massage Envy in 2007; by 2013, our family operated business was running five locations. While growing our franchise was exciting, it also presented quite a few challenges that are probably familiar to any franchise owner. For example, quickly hiring, getting staff onboard and managing employees across multiple locations proved especially challenging.

While a lot went into addressing this issue, and others, one surprising thing helped us keep everything together: a cloud-based collaboration tool. Regardless of how comfortable you are with technology, I encourage you to consider how a cloud-based service might fit into your own franchise expansion and here’s why.

  • It’s available anywhere. This is the essence of cloud computing, and it makes a huge difference when you’re managing multiple locations. A cloud-based tool allows me to access project and task lists, as well as files (such as documents, videos and graphics) from anywhere with an Internet connection including my smartphone, making it easy to oversee processes and projects at multiple locations.
  • You can see what’s going on with various projects − and share this information with others. When we opened our first store, we faced a legacy of complicated spreadsheets and printed paperwork to track the 66 different HR forms and procedures involved in new hire paperwork. This system, although complicated, was comprehensive, and included federal paperwork, state certifications, training videos and vacation request policies for each of our nearly 200 employees across the five spas I operate.

While, I didn’t want to eliminate anything and lose important information, I was also frustrated by the lack of visibility I had into the process. I simply wasn’t confident everything was being handled properly and on time at each of the franchise locations, but couldn’t afford the risk of simplifying the process by removing any critical steps.

Now, when a manager makes the decision to hire a new employee, he heads straight to the Smartsheet, the online cloud collaboration tool we use. New employees can download each of the necessary, most up-to-date versions of the documents, and the human resources manager can track the status of each piece of paperwork.

If I want an update on a new employee’s orientation process, all I have to do is check in online to see which steps have been completed and which steps are still awaiting completion. The process of getting employees onboard is also now automated: once all the necessary steps are completed, the collaboration tool automatically notifies HR and payroll.

Cloud technology is the “secret sauce” for operating and growing our franchise.

  • Eliminates the paperwork − at least some of it. It can be a difficult task to put the larger corporation’s official processes and guidelines into practice. Massage Envy, for example, prides itself on following a carefully mapped set of human resources practices to ensure employees are in a position to succeed, including interviewing, hiring, new employee orientation and training. However, overseeing these human resource processes at multiple stores requires a lot of paperwork, oversight and most importantly, time.

By using a cloud-based tool, I’ve taken a lot of this work online. I can now access everything in one place, and quickly glance at the status of things without shuffling through a ton of paperwork. This saves me both a headache and time − and when you’re managing a growing business, every second counts.

I’m always looking for smarter and better ways to run my business, and the idea that things were being overlooked did not sit well with me. In HR especially, running a smooth operation means happier and more satisfied employees − a business practice that pays out as a competitive advantage in the long run. Unfortunately, prior to finding a cloud-based tool, I was spread much too thin to manage every fragmented aspect of operations.

Using a cloud collaboration tool has saved our franchise time and money, and helped employees get off to a good start, which in our business, ultimately leads to better client satisfaction. It also allows me to spend more time with my employees − something I highly value − and less time pushing paperwork.

For us, cloud technology is the “secret sauce” for operating and growing our franchise. Although one might not initially connect an online collaboration tool with a skincare and therapeutic massage franchise, I have found that turning to technology to help run my own franchise business has helped save time on inefficient processes, while still ensuring everything is completed to my satisfaction. I know that my experience will resonate with anyone managing a quickly expanding and changing franchise. If you’re looking for a way to improve your operations, consider the cloud resources at your disposal. You might be surprised at what they can do for you.

D’onn Genovese is the owner and manager of five Massage Envy spa franchises in the San Diego, Calif. area. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.

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