Technology is becoming a competitive advantage for franchisors and a motivating factor for existing business owners to convert to a franchise model. And with the right platform in place, franchisees can finally take a holiday.
That’s the view of Poolwerx CEO John O’Brien, a former chair of the World Franchise Council who has spent his entire career in the franchiser industry.
Founded in Brisbane in 1992, more recently Poolwerx has embarked on a major global expansion program. The retail and services company has 160 specialty pool stores and almost 600 service trucks in Australia, New Zealand and seven US states.
It’s growth is fuelled by acquisitions, as well as Ma & Pa pool businesses converting to the Poolwerx franchise.
Speaking to media during NetSuite’s SuiteWorld event in Las Vegas last week, O’Brien outlined five reasons to buy a franchise versus going it alone: there’s better buying power, marketing support, training, human resources and technology.
“A few years ago, technology was probably the 5th reason to join a franchise or convert to a franchise. Today it’s probably second behind marketing,” he said.
“Five years ago technology was probably just an accounting tool and maybe a CRM tool and maybe not much else more than that. But today it actually becomes that backbone of your entire business.”
Recognising that technology was quickly turning into a competitive advantage, Poolwerx made the decision to replace an industry solution it had been running on for 13 years with three NetSuite solutions: retail point of sale, back of house accounting solution and a service scheduling product.
“If technology is going to be our competitive advantage in the future then we need to have an ERP platform that’s cloud-based, visual and you can run your business from anywhere and we can plug everything into it,” O’Brien said.
The roll out began six months ago and will be scheduled to be in place across the whole business by November. So far it has already led to efficiencies in service scheduling and higher value retail transactions.
It also gives the business an immediate view of sales and forecasts. “Once upon a time we used to have to wait until five days after the end of the month” for those numbers, O’Brien said.
“At a corporate level to have real time visibility over everything that moves in your business is pretty powerful,” he said.
This visibility also allows the franchisees take a holiday, while still having visibility over their business operations from anywhere in the world.
“As a franchisor one of our key things is not just to make our people profitable but to have a lifestyle,” he said.
O’Brien also touched on the ongoing franchise inquiry — the 6th government inquiry in 12 years — and welcomed any changes which may be on the way.
“Every government inquiry comes with more regulation — the good thing that comes with regulation is it makes the industry squeaky clean.”
Since entering the US in 2015, Poolwerx is looking to expand into new parts of the world to take advantage of a large, and growing, market.
After 12 months of research the company currently has 15 countries on its expansion hit list where it has registered its domain, trademark and IP.
Two weeks ago the company signed a letter of intent to acquire a business in Europe with 105 stores and is conducting due diligence on a 75 store acquisition in another geography.
O’Brien said those deals will take Poolwerx into non-english speaking countries and NetSuite gives the company greater confidence to do that.
“We realised if we were going to go into other countries with other tax and language and legal issues, we needed to have a platform that could handle all of that. Europe is next for us,” he said.