Many dealers look back and fondly remember their younger more innocent days when life appeared to be easy. You’ve been running your business for many years now and you’ve finally realized that things aren’t working the way that you though they would. You started your business and worked hard. Money was made, and money was spent – things seemed to be so good. The economy took an unexpected downward turn and suddenly things weren’t going as well. Customers began defecting to cheaper competitors; the time it takes to make a sale increased and suddenly you’re working for your business instead of your business working for you.  The recent economic decline has served to magnify the weaknesses in ALL business, and especially small businesses.

It’s often hard to admit that you need help, but when you reflect on the past and truly understand that your future depends on “getting help”, then only a special kind of stupid will doggedly ignore the obvious…something has to change!

One of the easiest ways to revive a stale business is to work with an industry consultant who can review the operations of the business, and provide the necessary advice to begin the recovery process. In the water quality improvement industry, many franchises and dealer networks exist that can help you accomplish this.

In a small business, true succe

  • ss means effectively balancing five factors:
  • Customer Acquisition
    • Regardless of how many customers you have now, you need to always be acquiring new ones.
    • Credibility
      • You live and die by your reputation, especially in today’s internet-driven society. You need to cultivate and maintCash flow
        • Your business needs to be self-sustaining for cash-flow and shouldn’t require you to be constantly writing checks to the company of continually relying on a bridging loan to stay afloat.
        • Credit
          • You should have access to enough business credit to finance unexpected expenses, and you should also have access to credit for your customers. In additions to access to credit, your credit-worthiness often affects your pricing from vendors.
          • Capital
            • Your excellent credit and track record of good business practice grants you access to capital for large investments like heavy equipment, buildings, and other critical business infrastructure.
            • Customer Retention
              • If your customers aren’t “coming back for more” every single year, you’re doing something wrong. Don’t be so arrogant to assume that you ever “own” a customer. You need to keep an e
              • ain an image of integrity, consistency, and dependability.
              • ye on the value proposition that you’re offering and ensure that your clients understand that you truly value their business.

Franchises and Independent dealer networks are designed to help new and existing dealers with these critical components to success and longevity. The potential power of these organizations lies in the collaborative nature of a truly effectiv
he chain.e group. Component manufacturers, Engineers, Assemblers, Marketers, and Dealers working together for mutual success; each understanding that their business works better when assisting the others in t

Choosing to ally with a dealer network or franchise organization can be a daunting prospect, since there are many groups on each side of the fence and some that deliver the benefits of both types of operation. Deciding which one is right for you requires a thorough understanding of how each model operates, and of course careful introspection into what you and your business need to be successful (again).

Many people don’t fully understand the differences between franchises and independent dealer networks and it can often get quite
Comparison between franchises and dealer networks

confusing. This table illustrates the commonly-found characteristics of the groups (These are broad observations, not rules):

 

The most obvious benefits of franchises and independent branded dealer networks to your business are:

Branding

 

 

Franchisors and Network Brand Managers spend millions of dollars in developing, promoting, and preserving their respective brands. You can leverage the power and presence of their brand/s to promote your business and make it easier for your customers to trust you.

 

 

Business Assistance

The largest benefit of buying

into a franchise is the turn-key business assistance available. Most franchises, and some dealer networks provide invaluable tools like Operations Manuals, Motivational seminars, Mentoring & Coaching, Business Consulting, and even industry-specific legal guidance.

 

Advertising Assistance

Corporate marketing experts w

ill usually be available to help you create successful marketing plans and even provide creative support for your local efforts. Broadcast-ready TV and radio spots, direct mail pieces and sales support material, as well as Yellow Pages ads and retail newspaper ad slicks are often available for your use. Innovative groups offer ready-made websites and even sponsor water advice websites to help you meet new customers and keep your existing ones. Some groups will provide matching finds or in-kind compensation to help you with your advertising and promotion efforts.

 

Financing

Today’s consumers expect affordable financing to available for large ticket purchases and many businesses prefer to lease their processing equipment instead of pur

chasing outright. Profitable sales can be lost if you don’t have financing available to help your customers to afford the outstanding products that you offer. Some groups even help you to finance the inventory you need to streamline your operation.

 

 

Proprietary Products and Services

Good franchise and dealer groups invest significant amounts of money and time into the research, engineering, procurement, and refinement of technologies that make it easier for you to solve water quality problems, maintain existing equipment, and retain your customers. In addition to innovative water products, they should provide you with methods and procedures to perform preventative maintenance, disinfect systems, replace filters, augment media, and even update the operating software on compatible systems.

 

 

 

Technical Support

How your vendors support you will dramatically affect your ability to help your customers. Good franchise and independent dealer groups will not only provide good literature and manuals, but also facilitate ways to educate you on how to solve equipment, chemistry, environmental and political issues that you will encounter as you rebuild your business.

 

 

Reputation

By joining a trade group or purchasing a franchise, you now share reputation and credibility with the other members and the governing group/franchisor. Carefully research what reputation the franchise or dealer network opportunity currently has and whether you’d actually like your name associated with it. The actions of a bad dealer in your organization can easily collective damage to reputation, and it is crucial to know how quickly the franchise or dealer network will act to mitigate these problems.

 

Take your time, put your p
ride in your pocket and research what style of operation will help you the best. Don’t be shy to discuss your concerns with other dealers that you trust and sometime spending the money to hire an independent business consultant will be well worth it, to help understand why your business isn’t as successful as you’d like it to be. Neither one is inherently “better” than the other, they merely suit different personalities and business styles. You’ve worked hard, you’ve had your fun. It’s time to get serious and make your business successful!

 

Helpful Internet Resources

www.aafd.org – The American Association of Franchisees and Dealers

http://www.ftc.gov/os/fedreg/2007/march/070330franchiserulefrnotice.pdf#page=102 – FTC Disclosure Rules