Mobile franchises offer the ultimate combination of business and lifestyle. They have been around a long time, but it is only recently that the combination of technology and an increasingly time poor population has made them an integral part of our everyday life.
So whilst a mobile business mightn’t have been on your radar, it is an option well worth considering.
When going into your own business, particularly for the first time, it’s tempting to be attracted to the bright lights and the idea of a business sitting prominently in the main street of town. This is the traditional picture of small business and it has also become the norm for many of the big franchising brands.
But with our increasingly hectic lifestyles and our interconnectedness through technology, especially social media, new opportunities have arisen – mobile businesses are coming into their own. This is being led by the customer – the ability to jump online or make a call and have someone come to you, whether it be lawn mowing, car cleaning or even a coffee, epitomises convenience and gives back the one thing you can’t buy… time.
A lifestyle choice
From a business owner perspective, being mobile provides a number of unique benefits - the obvious one is the elimination of a lease and all the expenses that come with it which means that from a ROI (return on investment) perspective, mobile businesses are extremely attractive.
However, there are other benefits that only a mobile business can provide.
• The ability to choose your own hours and schedule your business around other aspects of your life;
• The freedom of being outdoors and in a different location every day;
• Now, with technology, the ability to literally turn off your business when you turn off your car; and
• The ability to expand (depending on the terms of your franchise agreement) and duplicate your efforts.
Probably the hardest thing initially for the first-time mobile business operator is learning to ‘switch off’ from their business and enjoy the lifestyle benefits that it offers. A mobile business is as much a lifestyle choice as it is a financial one, so it is important to plan and ensure that you realise all the rewards that this business model potentially provides.
The biggest operational difference between a fixed location business and a mobile business is that in a mobile business you go to the customer. This sounds obvious, but the implications are massive. In a fixed location, you turn the sign on the door to ‘open’ and wait (hoping that your marketing initiatives have paid off) for customers to walk through the door.
In a mobile business, you are the main marketing initiative! Your ‘door’ is you, whether it be your website, your social media presence or your most powerful tool, actually knocking on your clients’ door. This is the difference between a good mobile business and a great one. Waiting for the phone to ring (no matter what initiatives your franchisor may or may not have in place) is not a marketing strategy. As a mobile business operator you have to take responsibility for getting your business in front of potential clients within your area.
Today, technology is all about mobility and the ability to be ‘connected’ wherever you are… but this is a relatively recent focus.
So now that technology has caught up with mobility, mobile business is perfectly positioned – when we started our business back in 2004 mobile payment technology was brand new and mobile ‘point of sale’ (POS) systems were virtually nonexistent. There was no iPhone or iPad and if you wanted a mobile CRM (customer relationship management) or POS system, it was going to be complicated and very expensive.
Now there are a number of ‘apps’ that will do the job, and all on subscription. We introduced ‘Vend’ on iPad to our operation a few years ago and it revolutionised the administration side of our business – invoices were issued in real time and ‘after hours’ financial management was virtually eliminated.
This was often a daunting thought for the mobile operator – trusting employees with your customer (and a car!) unsupervised. But technology has also given the mobile operator more power than ever before to expand their business with full visibility – from full GPS tracking (even available through iPhone apps), to shared calendars, dispatch software and ‘real-time’ customer transactions.
As a business owner you can literally have a virtual ‘presence’ with every customer, even when you’re not there!
All this makes the process of expanding your business not only easier and less stressful, but more measureable, trackable and therefore profitable.
Choosing the right mobile franchisor
Here the principles are similar to any franchise business model. As a business operator you want to be able to focus on your customer by providing great service and building relationships. Everything else, from your website to the design of your business card and uniform, to the sourcing of your products etc, you shouldn’t have to worry about – this is where the economies of scale of a franchising model come into play.
A franchise system should be able to provide you with the framework for your business at a much lower cost than it would be if you put it together and then managed and maintained it yourself. When assessing this, remember to take into account the expertise and time required to design, implement and manage a business model, particularly on a national or international scale. This is where a franchised business gets a big head start on an independent small business operator.
In mobile business, look for a franchisor who has the runs on the board in the industry that interests you – if possible, spend time with some of their franchisees to get a feel of what it will be like to operate your own franchise. Remember, it can sometimes take a while for the business to build and become well established, so this is something you should plan to do for a few years – you need to like it!
What is right for you?
The answer to this is different for everyone – some are focused purely on financials and some purely on lifestyle, and then there is any combination of the two in between. Just remember there is a balance – the more lifestyle you go for, the less financial rewards you can expect. A good strategy is to run hard with the business for the first year or two, and then assess the work/lifestyle balance you’re looking for and work out what your business needs to look like in order for you to be able to realise it.
Mobile businesses offer a range of industries, lifestyles and financial returns, but all of them upfront offer a level of freedom that is hard to find in any other business model. With the right approach, dedication and strategy, they can be as financially rewarding (particularly in terms of return on investment) as any franchise model out there.
Jim Cornish is the CEO of Nanotek, and a Director on the Board of the Franchise Council of Australia. Jim’s business career included senior positions with multinational companies such as Mars, Merial and Nestle Purina prior to co-founding Nanotek in 2004.
Through a combination of exclusive polymer nanotechnology and a unique service delivery model, Nanotek has grown into an international multi-award winning franchise system with operations in over 15 countries – establishing itself as the number one mobile car cleaning franchise in the world.
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