We’ve just launched a new website, FranchiseBlast.Com. Simply put, we’re spinning off all the content related to our franchise software from our main site onto this domain. We did this for a number of reasons, but one of them was that we decided to perform a minor segment pivot. We launched LavaBlast in 2007, focusing on an integrated solution for retail franchises. We built an awesome solution around this problem but, for a number of reasons – mainly scalability, we are pivoting to service-based franchises instead. We provide an equivalent feature set to both types of franchises; the main distinction is simply the deployment architecture. Our differentiators are still our focus on integration and our desire to build franchise-specific software solutions.
Since we’ve just pivoted, I don’t have any witty insights on the business aspects of the pivot. Sorry folks, you’ll have to tune in later to see if was a good idea or not! However, I do want to share a few lessons about the nitty-gritty details of the pivot.
1) Working with an outsider
Early on in the process, we got Ben Yoskovitz involved. In case you didn’t know, Ben is not only a co-founder of Year One Labs but also assists existing startups with product development via Flow Ventures.
- Working with A-Team individuals simplifies things. Even though our backgrounds are dissimilar, we share the same general philosophy about how to grow a business. Therefore, our debates were short and focused on key decisions to be made. Once decided, everyone could run with the idea and get things done.
- We didn’t want to look like fools. Explaining what you do to a respected outsider forces you to better articulate your thoughts. He didn’t need to point anything out; we preemptively realized inconsistencies or flaws in our own logic while explaining our business strategies.
- Get some different thoughts. A breath of fresh air… unrelated to the use of Binaca.
As time passes, the business context changes. Going through this exercise once in a while helps you refocus and re-orient when necessary.
2) Moving away from SubSonic CMS
The LavaBlast website is built using a tweaked version of the SubSonic CMS. We started using that CMS the first week it came out and slightly tweaked it for our needs. It is plain and simple and did what we needed it to in 2007. However, the open source project was never maintained and we keep getting burned by random issues. As an example, the rich text editor it includes doesn’t seem to work consistently on Google Chrome (which did not exist back then) and has issues with session timeouts.
The FranchiseBlast website is built on WordPress. Given our busy schedules, we didn’t waste any time with the revamp. Having never played with WordPress before, the main thing that struck us was the wide variety of plugins that are available.
- Install WordPress. [Yes, you can install it on IIS. ]
- Purchase a WordPress theme. [There are awesome ones for software-as-a-service type startups].
- Tweak the site structure/theme. Pump out some content.
- Install plug-ins as you go.
As an example, we installed one plugin for our contact forms. Time spent configuring: 5 minutes. This enabled us to focus on the message, not the form or infrastructure-related-time-wasters.
3) The social web has changed dramatically
I remember reaching out to franchisors and franchise bloggers back in 2007. There were a handful of blogs and that’s about it. Social media adoption has tremendously increased in the past years thanks to services such as Twitter. It is much easier to get in touch with someone now (using warm introductions) than it was back then. We’ve now reached an era where franchisors are overwhelmed by the number of social media services they need to feed information to.
Have you been in business for a few years? Do you have lessons learned to share?