Goddard Systems Inc. is the franchisor of The Goddard School, consistently named as one of the top childcare franchises in the United States by Entrepreneur magazine as well as one of the top 200 franchise systems by Franchise Times. Headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, the school was established in 1988 and has steadily grown to more than 470 franchised schools with more than 65,000 students in 37 states.
With the franchise model, prospective franchisees must apply to become a location of The Goddard School, providing financial information as well as details for background checks. Until recently, that framework was manual, with The Goddard School’s sales, finance and real estate groups working through the process with potential franchisees by mailing paper documents back and forth.
The approval process was time consuming, with multiple days lost while documents were in transit and written documents were transcribed into Excel. Paper files had to be manually delivered to multiple offices for review. In addition, with several manual steps, The Goddard School had difficulty storing and maintaining accurate information on potential franchisees.
“At that time, we had data everywhere,” said Eric Graham, The Goddard School’s director of the corporate project management office and business processes. “We had some in Excel, some in our customer relationship management system and some in Word, and it was hard to determine what some applicants’ net worth actually was. It was not a good experience for us internally, and it was even worse for the prospects who were working with us.”
In 2018, The Goddard School began a comprehensive business continuity initiative, evaluating each department to document processes and identify areas to improve turnover times. The approval process was identified as a good candidate for increased automation, as making the function more user-friendly internally and externally could be a significant value add.
The company envisioned a formulaic process that would make drastic improvements in the time spent on existing approval steps.
The Goddard School initially attempted to develop a franchise development portal internally, built on processes the company built within its Dynamics CRM system. However, the company did not have the internal experience to extend that functionality so its customers could directly input information and interact with data within the system. RSM had initially implemented The Goddard School’s CRM system and the two companies had worked together on several technology projects afterward, so collaborating on the new portal was a natural fit.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” said Graham. “RSM had both the CRM knowledge for the functions we were performing, as well as the web development experience to streamline our prospect process.”
For greater efficiency, RSM managed the portal development process remotely for The Goddard School. The team initially met with The Goddard School’s key stakeholders and reviewed a technical document to understand the needs for the portal. The company had existing mockups and RSM advisors suggested a potential framework. The organization agreed, and RSM then met with its internal developer and the technical build began.
The new portal has transformed The Goddard School’s franchise approval process. From an internal perspective, employees do not have to spend excess time sending mail back and forth to candidates. In addition, the company has more visibility into background information, and can approve applications more efficiently, or conversely, disqualify applicants earlier in the process. The portal takes the burden off of the business and eliminates the need to foster relationships that may not be a good fit.
“We have seen a lot of improvements internally,” commented Graham. “It frees our sales reps up to spend more time talking to prospects rather than chasing paper around the office. They can concentrate on more value-added activities instead of administrative processes.”
Furthermore, the franchise development portal keeps candidates much more engaged than the previous manual framework. Prospective franchisees now clearly know which step is next in the process, and they can now see each of their necessary steps all at once.
“Now we are not asking them to fax or email a written application,” said Graham. “It is a much better experience from day one, from the time they fill out a lead form. We are starting out on a much better foot than we were before.”
With all of the data in Dynamics CRM, The Goddard School representatives do not have to be coders to create workflows in the portal. For example, if a candidate’s income and assets are not at a minimum value, the application can be automatically rejected. Users within the company can establish these workflows internally without assistance from RSM.
While the sales process still takes a similar amount of time to complete as it did with the previous manual structure, the portal has directly contributed to The Goddard School’s rapid growth.
“It still takes us about 90 days to close a sale,” said Graham. “But the reality is that we are now closing more deals.”
RSM’s development experience and industry knowledge helped The Goddard School implement a comprehensive franchise development portal that increased efficiency and visibility in key growth processes. The new application saves a significant amount of time by eliminating several manual functions and eliminating gaps in the franchisee selection process. The framework has created a more modern application framework, and a better overall experience for internal employees and potential franchisees.
“With RSM’s agile approach, we had deliverables on time, every time,” said Graham. “It was clean and it was everything we asked for.”
Key benefits of RSM’s application development for The Goddard School included:
- Enabling sales personnel to focus on strategic processes rather than administrative tasks
- Creating a more effective screening process, with improved turnover times
- Gaining consistency in data by reducing the number of people that need to handle and manage applicant information
- Keeping potential franchisees more engaged with a less time-consuming and more intuitive structure
- Generating more sales and closing a greater percentage of opportunities