Even though Dry Cleaning To-Your-Door founder Margo Sloan was computer illiterate, she knew technology could provide a better alternative for creating route sheets than what she typically did: typing the sheets by hand and using correcting fluid when changes needed to be made.

To create a solution, Sloan enlisted the help of program developer Merritt Lauber, who tagged along with Sloan on one of her routes, picking up bags of clothes from clients' homes, taking them to the dry cleaner and returning the clean clothing to clients the next day. After spending time with her, Lauber signed on to create the program Sloan needed-and was eager to buy one of the franchises himself.

The result: DryRun, a program Lauber created in early 1995. DryRun helps franchisees create route sheets and delivery sheets, do invoicing and run reports, and it integrates with an automated program that calls customers to remind them of the next day's pick-up.

"Having your pick-up, routing and delivery sheets in one place saves innumerable hours," Sloan says. "Our average franchise owner probably spends less than an hour a day doing paperwork."

Sloan is enthusiastic about the program, which not only saves franchisees time, but also boosts their pick-up rate. "One of my franchise owners was getting some new phone equipment installed, and the phone company [temporarily blew out] our program," Sloan says. "The next day, his pick-ups were down 29 percent.

"When people don't get their calls, they don't know for sure you're coming and forget to put their bag out," Sloan explains. "Without the calling program, we'd be a lot less effective."

Franchisees are hooked on the DryRun program, which is updated every three months to meet their changing needs. In fact, some believe they couldn't run their franchises without it. Sloan knows she couldn't. "[Before the program,] it was pretty hard to run the business when you had to sit there, whiting things out and typing in corrections," she says.

Although franchisees might not relate to the frustration Sloan experienced in those early days, they do understand the value DryRun adds to their businesses. "Prospects have actually told me they bought our franchise because of this program," says Sloan. "It was one of the things that helped them decide."