Freedom and autonomy are two reasons why individuals start companies as independent business owners. While there are many great benefits to being a contractor, running a business on your own can be difficult and overwhelming, particularly when it comes to operations, marketing and technology implementation.
By contrast, franchise owners who take advantage of available systems, technology and support can enjoy more freedom and autonomy while still having the ability to shape and promote their businesses.
Whether the business needs help with systems, greater buying power or networking and support, there are several distinct advantages franchise owners can have over independent owners.
When a business professional becomes a franchise owner, he or she is part of an expansive network of people, processes and technology. The franchise puts specific systems in place that can evolve to meet the needs of both employees and customers.
To that end, there are office systems, technology systems, marketing systems, front line systems and sales systems. These systems work together to provide a reliable, brand-compliant foundation for conducting business. They also offer a level of accountability by ensuring that every franchise operates with the same brand standards.
This consistency is necessary for ensuring a reliable and unchanging customer experience across franchises, regardless of geographic location.
Unlike many independent owners, franchise owners often have access to technology and software systems that provide professional business tools, such as branded emails, websites, marketing materials and templates for estimates and invoices.
Not only do professionally produced documents present a positive brand experience, they also provide critical information that ensures the customer knows exactly what he or she can expect. Oftentimes, independent owners don’t have the ability to purchase new technology — or even the time to implement updates and upgrades to existing systems.
Lee Downing was an independent business pro for nine years before becoming the owner of four Aire Serv franchises in Tenn. He described the systems available to him as a franchise owner as “phenomenal.”
“When you print out a four-page estimate in detail, there’s no comparison,” Downing says. “Many shops are still handwriting work orders. The systems we have are the best. We definitely have the best tools in the bucket.”
Technology tools such as proprietary software programs enable more streamlined sales systems, which then empower the franchise owners to conduct business more efficiently within their niche.
Franchisees use proprietary software that empowers their sales team to present customers with detailed information that helps them identify the right heating and cooling systems for their homes. For independent contractors, using proprietary software may not be possible simply because of the scale and cost.
Franchises typically have access to a vendor network that franchise owners can leverage to realize greater efficiencies, lower costs and more product selection. As a group, Franchisors use the power of the vendor network to help franchisees save on equipment, including vans and trucks as well as services like credit card processing and payroll.
Because of economies of scale, the vendor network not only helps franchisees identify the best vendors in terms of product and service quality, but also the best vendors in terms of discounts and rebates. Most contractors don’t have access to these money-saving opportunities.
Scott Jay was an independent business owner for eight years before becoming the franchise owner of Aire Serv of Branson, Mo., in 2008 and Aire Serv of Springfield, Mo. in 2018. Having the independent business experience has made him appreciative of what a vendor network can offer.
“We get thousands back every year just in rebates,” Jay explains, “and we get price reductions because of the buying power.”
With a complete supply chain solution, franchise owners can be more competitive in the marketplace.
Sharing knowledge and information is an important driver for business success. For contractors, hiring professionals to help with finances, operations and marketing can be expensive, particularly in ultra-competitive markets.
Franchise owners have a network of experts to consult at any time, such as marketing professionals who help them devise and map out marketing plans for their local markets.
Jay said that when his franchise contract renewal came up, he put pen to paper to see how much it would cost to hire people with the same expertise that Aire Serv provides.
“My franchise fees come in way less than what it would cost for me to hire talent to do the same thing,” he says.
While professional business services are key to reaching customers and mitigating missteps, franchise owners often find there’s an even greater benefit at play: namely, the relationships with other franchise owners.
Franchise owners enjoy a special camaraderie and freedom to support one another — without worrying about losing revenue to a competitor.
“You’ve got a group of people you can rely on and bounce ideas off of when needed,” he says.
Downing agrees, adding: “I have lifelong friends. The family feeling I get from the other owners is my biggest benefit.”
While every franchise brand operates differently, moving from an independent business to franchise ownership can create greater opportunities for revenue and growth.
Whether that means more access to technology, better prices on services equipment, or professional and personal support, franchise owners will tell you they appreciate the ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves — while still controlling their own business path to success.
Franchise owners have the benefit of belonging to a community, and the support of a vast network of resources.
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