What is Business Process Syndication (BPS)?
    Helping other businesses re-create the success of a proven business model.
How is BPS different from a franchise?
    BPS is less structured, more flexible than franchising.

Basic Ideas
Business Process Syndication generally involves two roles: the successful business who wants to make its processes and expertise available to others, and those who wish to learn the business. Borrowing from traditional syndication terms, we'll call these two roles the publisher and the subscriber. One publisher will probably have many subscribers.

On a continuum of 'help offered' BPS plays between a simple 'How-To' Book and a formal franchise.

BPS is less restrictive and all-encompassing than franchising, but more help than a self-help how-to book.

In other words: how-to books, tapes, websites and other resources are for those who don't need much help, and who like a lot of freedom in how they implement ideas. Franchises are for those who want a lot of help, and are fine with having a limited amount of freedom in how they run their business.

Business Process Syndication tries to achieve an optimum balance between the amount of help offered and the freedom to run one's own business. But notice that the BPS part of the above graph covers a lot of ground in the middle. What may be the best trade-off of help vs. freedom for one subscriber business may not be right for another. A key factor in the success of the BPS model is the ability to provide different levels of help to different subscribers.

Financial note: in the above discussion, we could just have well substituted 'amount of money it costs' for 'amount of help'. How-to resources tend to be inexpensive, whereas full-fledged franchises tend to be costly.

Some things that a BPS publishers can provide are:

  • spreadsheets
  • worksheets
  • sample contracts
  • supplies
  • ad templates
  • forms
  • private-label materials (ads, posters, signs, etc)
  • branded web tools
  • on-line forum/social network for support
  • phone consultation
  • conferences/symposiums

These can be packaged or offered a la cart.

The more successful Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) organizations are actually providing a degree of BPS. They provide training, products and mentoring. They tend to be almost franchises, though, because of their restrictions. We know of one MLM who had a 10-page document on how the resellers could and could not use the company's trademarks, logos, how they could and could not sell or recruit over the internet, etc. I'd say that level of control puts them squarely in the 'franchise' category. Imagine a more flexible structure and you'll come close to BPS.

What type of business does it make sense to offer BPS services for?
Ones whose subscribers won't become competitors of the publisher. In general the publisher and subscriber should have separate target audiences and products.

Geographically-localized businesses, such as caterer, landscaper, wedding photographer, etc. work well because even though they have similar products, they will have distinct, geographically separated target audiences. e.g. A customer in North Carolina will never hire a caterer from Nevada.

Internet-based businesses are trickier. How to sell products on Amazon or Ebay are probably alright, since the products one person is selling won't be what someone else is. On the other hand, a 'virtual assistant staffing company' probably isn't a good case for being a BPS publisher, as just about every virtual assistant staffing company directly competes with each other. The products (virtual assistants) are the same and the target audiences would be very similar. Likewise, selling hand-crafted handbags on Etsy probably is not suited to BPS because both publisher and subscriber would have the same target audience and similar, competing products.

One successful example of an Internet-only BPS publisher is the stock option trading education company: compoundstockearnings.com. They offer books, radio programs, weekly webinars, a variety of online forums and support, live seminars, software, etc. These are all tailored to help the individual become a successful option trader using their method. The global stock market is so vast that even with their thousands or subscribers, all the equity they can muster would never come close to even one successful mutual fund's so they effectively never compete for (change the price of) stock options.

My Business is doing fine. Why should I publish my processes?

If you're like most service businesses, your income is limited by the number of hours in a day: either yours or the people working for you. Syndicating your business processes creates a new revenue stream, one that isn't dependent on how many hours you work in a day, but dependent on how many people subscribe to you. The publication revenue stream works for you 24/7.

The Process is what's being syndicated.
Small businesses may succeed because they have dedicated, creative, motivated individuals working there. They may also succeed because the business owners have created a process that enables the organization to thrive despite the weaknesses of the individual team members. In his E-Myth books, Michael Gerber argues that for any small business to survive and thrive, it must be built on process, not personality. This is critical to BPS. Only those businesses that are built around repeatable, proven processes can be candidates for syndication. It's been said the the prototype of successful fast-food establishments, McDonald's, is built on a process that is "designed by geniuses that can be run by idiots." BPS doesn't take quite that dim a view of the subscribers, nonetheless, the process must be solid, proven, documented and reproducible.

Typical Elements of BPS

Initial Training
  •     Book
  •     Webinar
  •     Website
  •     e-book
  •     Seminar
Ongoing Mentoring
  •     Real-Time Conference Calls
  •     Real-Time Webinars
  •     Live Meetings/Seminars
  •     Newsletter
  •     regular email
Peer Support
  •     Forum
  •     email list
  •     social network
Support Sales
  •     encapsulated business process in website, spreadsheet or such
  •     generic marketing materials
  •     tools
  •     material
The Website is the Hub
    Since there is generally no reason for the subscribers to be physically close to the publisher, most of the interaction takes place through the publisher's website. There are several aspects to the site:
    Separate public and member access: the public can see a portion of the site, enough to get a flavor of the licensed content.

    The Public Side
  • sampling of material
  • sales pitch: text, audio, video
  • testimonials
    The Gateway:
  • entering personal and contact information
  • choosing subscription level
  • payment via credit card
  • gaining access
    The Private Side:
  • download of initial material
  • discussion forum
  • edit personal information
  • check on subscription
  • download/read ongoing material
  • structured courseware, tests and assignments: a Learning Management System (LMS)
Pre-Internet Analogies
    The Master Craftsman / Apprentice / Journeyman model
    More recently: Religious Education of major denominations. See for instance a Vacation Bible School curriculum. A typical package would include teacher training, student materials, list of craft supplies, promotional posters, music, etc. Example. In a larger sense, the denomination will publish student and teacher materials, sponsor conferences for the teachers, have periodic pastors' conferences to compare notes, share concerns and catch up on latest trends and techniques.

Process Improvement
    Although the flow of information initially is from publisher to subscriber, eventually a significant amount of information flows between subscribers. This takes the form of 'Has anybody ever had xyz problem?', hopefully generating several responses with possible solutions. The publisher may never have encountered this problem before, but it becomes part of the body of knowledge embodied in the website/systems.

Partnering is Key
    Once you have a successful business, and exhaustively document how you succeed, the key to success in BPS is finding the proper BPS partner. Why do you need a partner organization? Because once you start down the BPS road, you're no longer in the plumbing, catering, home security or florist business. You're now in the education business. Just because you're built a good catering practice doesn't mean that you're a good mentor. You might be, and you probably could gain the requisite educational and web knowledge. But time is money and most people find that joining with an experienced web-savvy educational partner is more than worthwhile.

This isn't a Franchise
Once the publisher exerts any control over how the subscriber actually runs their business, you run into rocky legal ground. If you're exerting any control over somebody else's business, you're in the legal territory of a franchise. There are strict controls and rules about how one franchises a business. For BPS to work, the website must have a clear disclaimer like "The contents of this website are for informational and instructional purposes only, and is not to be construed as exerting any control over the subscriber's business operations." Exact verbage will vary.