Excerpt From Article
When Jim Cavale, partner and COO at Iron Tribe Fitness, a 30-unit gym based in Birmingham, Ala., was ready to open a new location in 2011, he and his team made a point of reexamining their technology. Why?
They were tired of jumping between five or six incompatible programs.
“All of our systems were in silos,” he says. “Our billing program was in a silo. Our support desk was its own program. Our collaboration system was [in a] silo. We had to input new data for each one, and they couldn’t communicate with each other. We asked, How can we get all this information and have it in one system we own and control?”
The solution was a custom-built application program interface (API) hub that integrates all of those programs. Now Iron Tribe can track potential customers from first contact to when they enroll, how much and how often they work out, how they’re billed and how many extra services and products they buy–all on one system. Iron Tribe has also developed apps for clients that allow them to schedule training appointments and buy supplements and meals.
“Building something like this is not as expensive as you might think,” explains Cavale, whose API was created by a team of developers he met at one of his gyms. Moreover, he says, it’s going to be unavoidable. “Franchisors have to realize, whether they want to or not, that they’re soon going to be at the mercy of generation Y and Z on their work force. They speak a different language and use a different set of mediums. They are not going to work for a company that doesn’t make them more efficient.”
Farid at Edible Arrangements agrees. He points out that since most people communicate and essentially manage their lives through their mobile devices, it makes sense to run their businesses from them, too. His tech company, Netsolace, which he founded before Edible, has kept the franchise as forward-looking as possible, developing mobile apps such as FranSupport Mobile, which lets Edible communicate and deliver training modules to franchisees; Franview, which lets field managers audit stores with the home office and franchisees in real time; and Pulse, a real-time communications system that lets franchisees and corporate stay in touch. Netsolace is also promoting Nextstep, which broadcasts training tips, best practices, efficiencies and company news.
“When I was a kid and worked at McDonald’s, they’d sit you down in front of a TV and play a tape showing you how to make the food,” Farid notes. “Now we do that in real time. Before, we used to laminate training cards, and by the time we sent them they were out of date and cost $25,000 to $30,000. Now we can update our videos or slides instantly, so it’s fresh. When a new employee goes through our training modules, they’re completely up to date.”