Custom software integrated with QuickBooks®
helps janitorial franchise become a market leader
Vanguard Cleaning Systems, a national franchisor of janitorial services based in Northern California, was rated a Top 10 Franchise Business for 2011 by Entrepreneur Magazine. Dynamic Ventures has provided custom software development since 2006, and was named Vanguard's 2010 National Service Vendor of the year.
Since entering the franchise business in 2003, Vanguard Cleaning Systems, based in San Mateo, California, has grown rapidly by providing quality janitorial services to corporate customers through a network of regional master franchisees managing thousands of independent work teams, or unit franchisees.
A full service approach focused on franchisees
Vanguard provides a comprehensive suite of services to its master franchisees - including business planning, training in sales and operations, conferences, marketing and more. "We are totally franchisee-focused," says Jim Foley, VP of Master Franchise Operations. "If our franchisees aren't successful, we're not successful."
A critical component of the company's franchise package is business automation software optimized for their master franchises - it is quick to set up, complete in meeting the start-up and operational needs of the franchises, and is easy to learn and use. "We provide all the software they need to participate in our system - standard small business applications for every aspect of their operation from sales to financial statements and cash management," Foley says.
Optimum route to cost-effective software
Foley advocates a highly focused business philosophy. "One of the keys to managing our business, as well as applications provided to our franchisees, is to keep a sharp focus on "must-have" capabilities versus "nice-to-haves." TeleMagic was chosen as a direct marketing/contact management solution, and QuickBooks for accounting, despite certain inabilities to handle some of the complexities of Vanguard's business model.
Shortcomings of QuickBooks included:
- Difficulties dealing with the concept of a 2-tiered, master and unit franchisee structure, with operations spanning multiple franchise regions as well as state and municipal boundaries
- Inadequate support for complex franchise transactions including fees, insurance, different state and local taxes, and processing principle and interest payments on franchise finance programs
- Scalability - QuickBooks didn't handle billing standard services to multiple clients well, and bogged down under high-volume monthly billing cycles
- Processing billing and fees in cases of mid-month work-team assignments
The simplest solution was to create a QuickBooks add-on to provide the missing functionality. Vanguard worked with several independent programmers to develop Vanguard Financial Solution (VFS) - a small, branded companion application providing the data entry and processing capabilities required to handle the company's unique business model.
Business success drives technology needs
Rapid growth in the number of Vanguard franchisees, users, and transactions revealed defects and performance issues with VFS - especially during month-end billing cycles. And the master franchises needed technical support.
Realizing how critical VFS was to their continued success, Vanguard chose Dynamic Ventures to address their software development and support needs. "We wanted to work with an experienced team, both for enhancing the software and to handle 2nd-level technical support," Foley says.
Dynamic Ventures global team provides cost-effective development and technical support
Dynamic Ventures engineers took responsibility for the existing VFS code, first attacking functional and performance defects, then re-architecting the software. File structures were redesigned to accommodate the 2-tiered business model and rapid expansion in the number of regions and customers. A separate VFS database was implemented (using Microsoft SQL) to boost processing and response time performance. Five years later, VFS remains a simple, stable, and highly visible application, processing billing for Vanguard master franchises in North America with annual sales in excess of $100 million.
Support issues escalated to Dynamic Ventures are tracked by an internal tool that alerts the entire team, including management. The company's global operations, headquartered in Silicon Valley with teams in Southeast Asia and Europe, combined with Internet-based communications facilities like Skype and GoToMeeting, enable the company to provide responsive support, resolving most issues within 24 hours, including during the busy month-end billing cycles.
"Working with Dynamic Ventures has been smooth sailing," Foley says. "They offer a team of experts - not just one developer -
and have provided responsive service that is world-class."
Vice President, Master Franchise Operations
QuickBooks - a smart choice for franchisers
Popular software applications like QuickBooks can meet most of the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, and are extremely cost-effective in distributed environments like franchise operations. Specialized needs can be met with custom add-on software systems like VFS, without investing in expensive enterprise-class software products or in-house IT staff.
Choosing the right IT partner
Choosing Dynamic Ventures for software development gives market innovators the ability to customize and deploy software applications that meet the needs of the business, while freeing resources and management time to focus on growing the business.
"Dynamic Ventures provides the expertise and responsive services we want in an IT partner," Foley says. "VFS has become a quality product, enabling us to leverage QuickBooks across the enterprise, we're known for providing excellent technical support, and our master franchises are happy."
Vanguard named Dynamic Ventures their 2010 National Service Vendor of the Year.