You did it – you took the plunge and decided to run a franchise.
Maybe you’re building it from the ground up, or taking over and updating an existing location. Either way, there is a long checklist of items that need to be crossed off before even opening the doors, and another list needed to keep those doors open. Top priority tasks such as securing permits and setting up electricity stand out on the checklist as items that require additional time (and in some cases, budget) to finalize. It’s important to not focus too much on those and miss other important pieces of the checklist.
One of the tasks that is often overlooked is setting up communications systems within your franchise. From outfitting the building with phone lines and wireless infrastructure to providing phones and devices to employees, it’s an imperative yet oft overlooked aspect of the success of a business. Without these systems in place, orders can’t be confirmed, customers can’t call and payments can’t be made – meaning your business can’t run.
With close to 30 years in the telecom industry, and having helped many franchise clients, here are the three top considerations for setting up your franchise’s communications systems.
1. Determine where your current network infrastructure stands.
No matter what industry you are entering, your franchise location needs two things: a connection to the outside world and adequate internal wiring. If you are building a franchise from the ground up, you’re in good shape – this means that the most up-to-date communications systems can be integrated into your location from the start. If you’re taking over an existing structure, it has the potential to get a little tricky. Some current systems (such as fiber optic cables) require complete replacement of old phone lines, which could entail tearing down walls and even ripping up a parking lot or lawn to modify underground systems. If you are updating an existing structure, ask upfront what current communications infrastructure is installed to manage your expectations on the degree (and associated cost) of upgrades.
2. Research what service and equipment works best for you and how you will manage it.
With multiple carriers to choose from, it isn’t always obvious which will be the best for you. Perhaps one has a better deal in your area, but the service isn’t as great as a different carrier. It can even be as tricky as dealing with one carrier for one of your franchises, but a different carrier in a different location. This can make it difficult to manage not only the limitations (such as minutes and data usage) for each carrier agreement, but also the billing. Be sure that you are considering wireless networks as well as telephone networks in these decisions.
Outfitting your franchise and its employees with devices is also a major part of a proper communications system. A mistake or oversight in these decisions can be costly, as overage fees and equipment replacements are expensive on their own, but losing communication capabilities within your franchise (both internally and externally) can have an even greater impact on your bottom line.
Fortunately, there are resources available that allow franchises to keep their communications costs to a minimum while still receiving the best phone and wireless service for each specific location. Look for an all-encompassing solution that can combine multiple plans for different carriers into one holistic overview of your communications accounts, from data usage to billing, for seamless account management.
3. Don’t forget the details.
Every industry has specific details that may be small, but play a much larger role in the success of the franchise. For example, home caregivers are mobile employees and must have capability to bring their work with them, no matter where they are. They must have constant communication (both internal and external) to ensure that when patient data is shared, the transmissions are HIPAA compliant and transmit immediately, no matter if they are in a city or rural location.
When reviewing the best telecommunications carriers for your business, don’t forget to look for service bundles that include wireless packages. Keep in mind the speed and capacity your franchise will need to support its customers, and pick an option that meets or exceeds those requirements. Wireless should be integrated into your franchise’s communications system from the start, as it requires upfront installation infrastructure and planning just as phone lines do. And an added bonus to offering free wireless – these systems can often gather data on your customers, allowing you to target specific advertisements to users while they are in your location.
No matter what industry you are in or where your franchise is located, these considerations will help set you up for communications success. As you work your way through the checklist of important items, don’t forget that the key to long term success is ensuring both internal and external communications systems are set up properly.
Eddie Fox is the vice president of Network Services at MetTel, where he is responsible for the planning, deployment and operations of MetTel’s broadband, data and VoIP network infrastructure. Eddie has over 20 years of telecommunications and network experience managing massive organization and customer growth at major telecommunications providers.