The most recent Qualified Remodeler Top 500 list showcases some of the top earning franchise networks. Among them is Re-Bath, a brand that has deployed a unique CRM and operations platform built for national networks serving homeowners. In an interview, Brad Hillier, CEO of Re-Bath, notes why a platform like improveit 360’s One-Org is necessary but has its implementation challenges:
“If we’re going to be a true franchise brand that measures the customer experience, then we need one centralized system so that we can share benchmark data. While that seems relatively simple, the fact is most of our franchisees had to learn a new CRM program as part of the transition. That [requires] a lot of effort. It’s a huge change to how they run their business, but it can have a huge payoff.”
We’ve talked to numerous national networks chasing that same huge payoff, but they also struggle with that same herculean task: getting all locations and their employees to adopt one centralized system for their marketing, sales and production needs. Here is a list of considerations for any large home pro enterprise with multiple locations looking to streamline operations and systematize best practices:
1) Do we want to be in the software business?
We’ve spoken to a number of franchisors, manufacturers, and specialty contractors that have gone down the road of building a custom system. Some were multiple years in with up to seven figures invested but ended up with very little, if anything, to show for it. The idea of partnering with a custom software developer to build technology from scratch for your specific needs is attractive, but there are common issues.
One is that your company ends up funding someone else to “reinvent the wheel”, spending time building functionality that already exists in many out-of-box systems.
Another is underestimating the internal time and effort defining project requirements for how the system will work. Many companies start such development projects thinking that the software developer will be taking on much of that responsibility, but often they won’t. Why? Because they can’t! No one knows your business requirements like you do. Missteps happen, scope creep is inevitable, and the blame game begins.
As you start to weigh sunk costs against what it will take to reach even a portion of your original goals, you can find yourself stuck in a corner.
If you can identify an existing solution that will accommodate 80-90% of your needs and is flexible enough to further be customized or integrate with other technology, we highly recommend giving those systems a look before you take the plunge.
Should you already have a custom system in place that works well enough for your needs today, you may consider what happens once your internal or external system expert or developer moves on and their knowledge of your unique system moves on with them. Who will be able to regain a deep enough understanding of that legacy knowledge to accommodate your ongoing maintenance needs, let alone further develop the platform? It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and we’ve seen it occur all too often.
2) How do we systematize our current best practices?
Once a business reaches a certain size, it lives or dies by process: not just how well the processes work, but whether they are followed consistently. What you should be seeking is a platform that requires your best practices be followed every time. Not only does this ensure consistency, but in a tight labor market with retention issues this system can also serve to expedite new employees’ velocity to productivity per company standards. These are some of the “huge payoffs”.
Consistent processes also allow clean and accurate reporting at a corporate level. The more accurate the numbers, the more effective you can be in further refining your processes or coaching to those processes when necessary. It’s through this iterative refinement that will allow an already great network to meet and exceed growth or profitability goals.
This whole concept sounds great, but it’s a pipe dream if staff are not held accountable to using a system a) in the first place; and b) in the correct way. That’s why data should be structured into business intelligence, business intelligence should be monitored, and management must take action to ensure the systemization doesn’t break down. A system is only as good as its individual parts, and ultimately software can’t sit sales reps down and explain it’s a requirement of their job to result sales appointments in their mobile app.
3) How do we ensure our system meets all our locations’ and users’ needs?
Selecting a few key locations and personnel during a pilot phase can help identify unforeseen areas that must be considered prior to rolling out the platform to everyone. This ensures the best possible workflow is defined prior to launching. Even if a pilot is done well, keep in mind there will always be further improvements or items that were missed during a pilot phase, and the necessity of continuing to address these after the initial go-live date should be anticipated.
Having a pilot phase also creates a great opportunity to showcase the feedback and success of the pilot group to everyone else. This helps reinforce the positive message of company-wide change and why it’s already a proven path to success.
At this stage we should also introduce the idea of a system champion. While a new vendor or software system provider will have plenty of expertise to offer, you’ll find you still need an internal system champion to own the implementation project across your locations. Having a single person on your team dedicated to owning this expertise ensures your company’s SOPs and expectations are accommodated. It should be someone who understands your current business processes and has a desire to implement changes to better the company. He or she will be the point of contact through which the company’s requirements and pilot feedback are funneled and assessed for system-wide applicability. We will talk more about the champion role later.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes a second person with project management experience can prove extremely valuable in undertakings as significant and complex as this. In other words, the person who knows the most about your processes and systems might not have the time management, follow-up, reporting and organizational skills necessary to get a project like this across the finish line. (We’ll continue to use the term “system champion” exclusively but as you read on, think about the skill set of your team and consider substituting or adding the words “project manager” where appropriate.)
4) How do we transfer all our data from our existing system?
This lies somewhere between a range of “challenging” to “pull out your hair”. There’s no easy way around it: make sure you have access to an ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) professional. If you find an ETL specialist that also knows one or both systems well, you’re all set on the path to just plain ol’ “challenging”.
If a software company offers you free data conversion… run away. Individuals skilled enough to perform this task in a way that addresses your stringent concerns and can anticipate issues you’re not even aware of yet are NOT inexpensive. A legitimate vendor has one or more ETL specialists on staff and obviously needs to charge for their services.
No two systems are alike, and that means there’s a good possibility that not every piece of data will transfer to your new system or exist within it in exactly the same way. It’s better to discover this and make adaptations up front than three months into heavy system use. You need that ETL specialist who has gone through this process dozens if not hundreds of times to show you the shortcuts, but you will also need to be prepared to spot check test data along the way.
One consideration to keep in mind is that this system migration is just as much about operational logistics and project planning as it is mapping data. Eventually after the hard work is done and tested, you’ll have to choose a date and time to perform a final data pull from your existing system (a snapshot at that point in time), load it into your new system, and go-live by having your employees start using the system from that point forward. This process should happen as fast as possible, but note it takes hours, not minutes. Here is where your system champion comes in again, coordinating on one side with your technology partner and on the other with your various department heads and locations to set timing well in advance, and to ensure your go-live date is met.
5) How do we support all our locations’ training?
There are several ways to implement a new program to an entire network, but not all are equal. Our recommendation is the two birds with one stone mentality: group training sessions where numerous locations get together to cover essential topics. Sessions can be divided by department or role, and everyone attends the sessions that apply to their role’s functionality needs. This helps kick start system use by creating a hard deadline that everyone is accountable to, and it clearly defines that EVERYONE in a given department/role will be going live together. It also allows real-world questions to be asked in a group setting so everyone gets to hear the answer, expediting clarification across the board.
These sessions can be held live in one location if logistics allow, or via an online webinar-style event. If you go the online route, we would recommend that each location still gets together in a meeting room to attend versus at their work stations to help improve accountability and interaction. These online sessions can also be recorded and made available to staff for future reference.
It’s also critical to not only explain the HOW during these training sessions, but also the WHY. Adoption issues can often stem from staff members’ reluctance to believe the system will be helpful to their goals versus a hindrance. If staff members understand how a new app on their phones will help them save time or make more commission, they are far more likely to stick with it until it becomes second nature.
While a new vendor or software system provider will have plenty of expertise and even training materials to offer, once again your system champion plays a major role here. This person has already built expertise around your business processes, your new system and how they work together. He or she has also been fielding questions, ideas and other considerations during the pilot phase. What better resource to ensure this knowledge and your expectations are communicated accurately with a consistent internal message. The champion should also be empowered to hold employees accountable for using the system.
So what’s next?
Like Brad said, it’s a big change to how you run your business, but it can have a huge payoff. That payoff is systemization of best practices, increased efficiencies, real-time business intelligence into every corner of your brand and a foundation for scalable growth.
If you would like to learn more about improveit 360’s One-Org platform used by many of the largest brands in the Top 500 List, we suggest you start here.