From the April 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

The job's not finished until the paperwork's done--just ask any beleaguered business owner who toils away at the huge number of reports, returns, addenda and whatever else regulatory authorities have decided is required.

I spend at least 15 percent of my productive hours dealing with accounting, payroll, taxes, benefits, insurance, billing and check writing. I've often considered outsourcing these functions so I could spend my time earning a living.

Meeting this need is the specific intention of Century Small Business Solutions, the No. 1 accounting and tax services franchise in Entrepreneur's 1999 Franchise 500®. This franchisor is part of a much larger organization, Century Business Services Inc., that has merged, mutated and coalesced to now include more than 160 different companies, which, combined, offer a market basket of business services.

The most noteable additions were three separate franchise systems--namely Comprehensive Accounting Corp., General Business Services Inc. and Edwin K. Williams and Co. These acquisitions, finalized last summer, put more than 700 additional franchisees under the Century Business Services umbrella. Although existing franchisees from the acquired systems retain their names, all new franchises will be called Century Small Business Solutions.

The addition of these resources allows franchisees to utilize the best components of each former franchise system, making it possible for them to provide complicated services to customers that would have otherwise been turned away.


Todd Maddocks is a franchise attorney and small-business consultant. You canreach him at TMaddocks@aol.com

At Your Service

Because franchisees in this system must deal with the finer points of paperwork, they're required to be accountants or have commensurate business experience. The franchisor doesn't teach accounting--instead, training at the company's facility in Mission Viejo, California, covers processing clients, practice management, product knowledge, human resources and marketing.

Franchisees are required to open an office during the first six months of their initial 10-year contract. Item 7 of the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular estimates that your initial investment, including $35,000 in initial fees, will range as high as $62,925, but that assumes only $1,000 per month for office space. If you have an existing accounting, bookkeeping, tax or consulting firm, the cost will be about $15,000 less, and you won't have to pay royalties on business from your existing clients.

The royalty structure is quite innovative--it fluctuates depending on your sales volume and tenure with the organization. For example, every five years that a franchisee remains in the system, the royalty drops one percentage point. The percentage (from a minimum monthly dollar amount to as high as 8 percent of gross sales) also decreases as sales volume increases.

Although it may seem to burden the franchisees who can least afford to pay the higher royalties, the scheme actually makes sense, as under-performing franchisees usually require more assistance. This royalty structure also motivates franchisees to meet the various volume benchmarks offered in the franchise agreement.

Being able to offer a bundle of services from a 600-square-foot office makes sense. A final bonus: Providing business services to growing companies can open the door to a lot of other business opportunities. For more information, contact Bob Whissler, president, at (800)323-9000.