Q&A with Christopher Fountain, CEO of FranConnect
Christopher Fountain is CEO of Reston, Virginia-based FranConnect, a provider of franchise management systems, helping franchises manage all aspects of their operations including sales, marketing, financial data collection and analysis, and more. fountain joined the company this March, after previously serving as COO of a healthcare software provider.
We asked Fountain about his new job, where he's taking the company and why he's bullish on the American economy.
Franchise Times: If you could boil it down, what does FranConnect do?
CF: At the highest level, FranConnect serves the value chain from owner recruitment all the way through owner success. We help brands achieve greater success more quickly than they might otherwise achieve. Owner recruitment is everything from trying to identify good potential owners and work with those potential owners to bring them in house and get them, ultimately, to buy into a franchise and once they buy in get them successfully launched.
FT: How do you figure out what 'zors and 'zees want and need?
CF: We have over 600 brands using the products, representing 100,000+ locations, so we've provided solutions for a lot of the very big names in the industry. We have people that are on the phone with customers all the time, and we have systems that track all of the things they tell us they'd like to see in the product, enhancement requests.
FT: What makes the franchise market unique from others you've been a part of?
CF: A challenge in the franchise market is that brand identity is so critical, and you have many owners that are part of the value chain. It's really critical that the franchisor has the ability to exert some level of oversight and contribute to how this digital media domain is leveraged at a franchisee level.
FT: How do you intend to go about your new role as CEO?
CF: My very strong belief is that I need to spend more time outside the company than inside. I'm a big believer in being out in front of the market, which means talking to people like you, engaging with customers and engaging with prospective partners. I do very little work at my desk during an eight-hour business day. I spend the day interacting with employees and understanding what's going on in a more informal way. I wake up every morning excited. I'm still learning a lot, having been here less than two months, so every day is a new set of things that I'm learning, which is always more fun and certainly anything but boring or routine.
FT: How do you see the management system business being different five years from now?
CF: Everybody can see the power of mobile and what it's doing in the industry generally. For our customers, it's a huge opportunity around loyalty systems and rewards systems. We offer mobile today, and that will continue to be an area that we invest in more and more.
FT: Like so many others in the franchise world, you have ambitions to expand globally...
CF: The international market represents a huge opportunity ... as big or if not bigger than the North American opportunity. We have customers in Australia in Europe, but it's not an area of focus for us. We will pivot and do more proactive work in the international markets probably starting late next year.
FT: Why are you bullish on franchising in general, and the American economy in specific?
CF: I'm a big believer in the American entrepreneurial spirit. The United States is a great place to build businesses—it rewards entrepreneurship. There are some risks of something major geopolitical happening, but that's just the reality of the world we live in. I'm very bullish on the economy in general, and the fact that we're right in the middle of the crucible of entrepreneurship.