Mobile franchisee tips: Put yourself in the driver’s seat

A mobile franchise business could be your vehicle to a more flexible and dynamic career. You can be your own boss and call the shots or sell the shots (if you buy a coffee van), but as part of a franchise you shouldn’t be left to navigate your new territory alone.

Before buying a mobile franchise business, you need to be satisfied that the franchisor will provide the training, technology and ongoing support you will need to build your business as part of a reputable brand.

Training

Most mobile franchises offer three to four weeks of initial training, giving you the chance to learn about the equipment, booking system, financial management, marketing and setting goals. But is ongoing training part of the franchise agreement? Do you get a mentor? This training could relate to new products, technology or innovations. You may need new skills to stay competitive in a changing market. Are you able to access training modules from your smartphone or tablet? Does the franchise agreement cover the cost of a new qualification if you are, for example, an electrician branching into solar installation? Being given a DVD or a YouTube link isn’t going to cut it. Ongoing training reflects the quality of the franchise.

Equipment

As a mobile franchise business, your vehicle is your number one asset. It will be a good quality vehicle of a certain type, with branding on the exterior that identifies and promotes your business. You will either buy or lease the vehicle, depending on the franchise agreement. For example, one mobile coffee franchise sells the vehicle as part of the franchise fee for up to $150,000, while another franchise retains ownership of the van and equipment and the franchisee pays a licence fee of $250 plus GST per week. You may need to pay extra for such tools as a trailer and the ride-on mower. Does the franchise agreement cover vehicle maintenance or comprehensive car insurance? Is so, for how long? Consider how much you’ll spend on petrol each week, especially in a regional area. A GPS system is required, but software that syncs with the company’s CRM system to show routes and update appointments is even better.

HR helpdesk and support

You might start out alone, but then find you need to employ other people because you have successfully increased business. Does your franchise have an HR helpdesk that covers workplace compliance? Does the franchisor offer advice on hiring, on-boarding and managing staff? You will need to know current IR laws, regulations, wage requirements and the relevant regulatory bodies. You may have no experience hiring staff, so you need to find out if the franchisor will provide training. You do not want to risk a fine or penalty or end up damaging your reputation, the reputation of the brand or breaching the franchise agreement because you have failed to meet compliance requirements.  

Service providers

Many franchises have particular products and suppliers that franchisees must buy, use and/or sell. Find out if the franchisor gets a rebate or other financial benefit from these arrangements. Sometimes, the franchisor sells key products or services directly to franchisees. Check if you can source your own suppliers and if there are any limitations. If you choose your own suppliers you will need to consider reliability, quality, cost-effectiveness and warranties.

Another consideration is storage and access. Is there a centralised warehouse or do you need your own storage or office facility? For example, if you’re running a tyre business, where do collect the tyres from for your next job? If it’s a pool-cleaning business, where are dangerous goods stored? This information should be in the franchise agreement and disclosure document.

Technology

You’re on the road, so you want easy access to the information you need to run your business. You should be able to get client details and your schedule with a few taps on your phone. The franchise may expect you to buy particular software and IT, which could mean a new laptop computer, tablet or smartphone as well. Check if you will be able to access tasks, instructions, the operations manual, training materials, policies and procedures from any location or any device via cloud technology.

Is there a centralised system to provide local referrals and if so, what costs are associated with it? This system should cover CRM, scheduling, online booking, estimating, dispatch, routing, GPS, invoicing, payments, royalty collection and reports. Do you need to carry a portable EFTPOS machine or are payments made online? You’ll know the franchisor is up to date if they are using a mobile app to deal with payments, communicate, deliver training modules and audit.

Communication

Do you have the ability to stay connected with the franchisor? Unlike a fixed site, where you can ask the person sitting next to you for advice, you’ll need to get answers and support in real time on the road. You don’t want to get bogged down with multiple phone calls and emails. Is there an instant messaging service? Does the franchise use cloud-based platforms, such as Google Docs or Dropbox? Many franchises have an online message board, forum or social media group for franchisees to connect with each other to share ideas, marketing suggestions and ask for advice. You should also expect regular communications about company news, policy changes, product launches and new franchisees and staff.

Compliance 

You will need to know your rights and obligations under the Franchising Code before you enter into a franchise agreement. Decide if you can comply with the operations manual. What mentoring and guidance will you get? This is particularly pertinent when you’re the sole representative of a franchise and its core values in a local area. Do you have the personality to develop a quick rapport and make people feel at ease? Your vehicle will also be advertising your business. You’ll need to obey all road rules, be courteous to other drivers and keep the vehicle clean and repair any damage as soon as possible. You don’t want potential clients remembering the brand for all the wrong reasons. If you do have an accident, how will you manage the business while your vehicle is out of action? Does the franchise agreement include the temporary use of another vehicle in such incidences? Consistency and compliance are the keys to a successful franchise business.

Marketing and social media

A percentage of your sales will go towards marketing. Check if the franchise is using SEO (search engine optimisation), PPC (pay-per-click), social media and local search engine marketing. Research shows most people use their smartphones to search for a business, so check if the franchise has a mobile-optimised website. How does the franchise’s central website and social media help you at a local level? Your market, demographics and local competition may be different to a franchisee operating in another state. How does the franchise deal with those differences? Does the franchise use newspaper advertising, email or SMS to reach potential clients? It is unlikely you will be allowed to run your own social media because of quality control but find out if it’s an option.