Inside Franklin Covey

by Reads (15,419)

You may not realize it but Franklin Covey, the Salt Lake City, Utah-based company best known for its daily planners and Seven Habits books and training, has been involved in handheld computers since the inception of the PalmPilot.

In fact, Franklin Covey’s Vice President and General Manager of e-Handheld and Wireless Products, Todd Simons, was part of a meeting in April, 1996, when former Palm co-founder, now Handspring CEO, Donna Dubinsky convinced the paper planner company–then called Franklin Quest–that it should extend into the new world of electronic organizers. Since then the company has become one of Palm’s strategy partners, repackaging and selling Palm handhelds along with Franklin Covey’s well-known organizational methodology software.

Not only that, Franklin Covey has also opened more than 150 stores and, in August 2000, launched the website, which offers free, Web-based personal and professional calendaring and planning that works in tandem with the existing Franklin Planning System.

Recently, Brighthand’s Palm OS Editor Jen Edwards had the opportunity to talk about handhelds with Franklin Covey’s Todd Simons. We hope you enjoy this unique interview.

Brighthand: Franklin Covey has made a strong move from strictly paper-based personal information management systems to include electronic planners in its range of products. Tell us a little about the impetus for that decision and how Franklin Covey envisions the future of personal information management.

Todd Simons: We saw the handheld devices, such as the Palm Handhelds, several years ago as a great solution for Franklin Planner™ users that wanted to move to an electronic tool. The fact that the Palm Handheld was simple to use and would synchronize information between the device and the PC we saw as a tremendous benefit to our customers.

We have and will continue to offer what we believe are the "best of the best" in electronic products. And we’ll do all we can to tie these products to the Franklin Covey Planning System and Methodology to help our customers better utilize new e-Tools.

Brighthand: What percentages of the population currently, and what percentage will ultimately, use paper-based systems vs. electronic systems?

Simons: According to the Freedonia Group’s office paper industry study, which include planners and organizers, in 1999 there were approximately 21 million paper "organizer" users in the U.S. who were 18 years old or older. Now, on a larger scale, according to Gartner and IDC analysts, one of the fastest growing productivity tool categories is the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) market. Specifically, worldwide PDA shipments in 2000 nearly doubled to 9.4 million compared with 5.1 million the previous year. Palm was the leader with 4.4 million units in 2000. The total PDA unit number includes all Pocket PC, Handspring, Blackberry, RIM and other PDA devices. Gartner and IDC expect the annual worldwide PDA shipments to be approximately 30 million by 2004. Franklin Covey has 24 million Franklin Planning System users, which include paper, handheld device, desktop software and online users. We have many customers who are using paper and electronic planning together in one system. The electronic planner industry is growing at a rapid pace, and we will continue to develop both paper and electronic system product lines, thus providing our customers with multiple options.

Brighthand: Where do combination paper-based and electronic systems, like the Technotes Franklin Planner, fit in?

Simons: We actually sell more "tech binders" as we call them, than handheld devices. This means that people who purchase handheld devices outside of Franklin Covey are coming to us to purchase this type of tool. It is a great tool and one that I use myself. I see at every meeting I attend today with various companies, including Palm, people that use a Palm and a pad of paper. Why not use a Franklin Planner Tech Binder for your note pad together with your Palm or other handheld device? We see this as a great opportunity for Franklin Covey. The paper-handheld combo planner also makes it easier for a customer to transition from paper to a handheld device, and most people want to keep their Franklin Planner and their Palm together. We also sell thousands of binder attachments for handheld devices. These are very popular and allow a customer to attach their device into their existing Franklin Planner.

Brighthand: Your Franklin Planner software for both Windows and Outlook, is a remarkable suite of applications that truly brings the Franklin Planner experience to the handheld user. What advantage does it offer over the built-in Palm applications such as the DateBook and To Do list?

Simons: Our unique Franklin Planner software gives Franklin Covey customers a similar experience on the desktop or device as it does in the Franklin Planner. All the same functions in the paper-based Franklin Planner are in the software such as the Prioritized Daily Task List, Mission Statement and Weekly Compass™. We have developed about a dozen great applications for the desktop and the device that provide customers with the Franklin Planner experience in electronic form. The Franklin Planner Software Suite for Palm Handhelds and Pocket PCs gives our customers all of the basic Franklin Planner applications and we have also partnered with a number of top technology corporations that offer popular third-party applications like AvantGo, Propay, Album to Go, and many others.


Brighthand: Speaking of your Franklin Planner Software Suite, you have included electronic versions of some very popular books such as "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", "First Things First" and "Principle-Centered Leadership" along with a reader program that is more advanced than anything else we’ve seen for the Palm handheld. Do you have any plans to offer additional time management and leadership e-Book titles in the future?

Simons: We plan to develop additional software suites that customers can purchase to augment their planning experience. These applications will include additional Franklin Covey content like books, articles, and other applications. We see this as another way to add value and distinction to what we offer.


Brighthand: Brighthand recently reviewed one of your training products, the "Palm Handheld Basics" portion of your new Bite-Size Learning Library™. That library also includes "Powerful Time Management Skills for Palm Handheld" and you have a one-day "What Matters Most®" seminar specifically designed for those who use a handheld organizer. Just how important is training, when you consider that most people can pick up a Palm and start using it right away?

Simons: In order to receive the most value in using a tool, you must have training. This allows you to utilize the tool correctly and to its fullest capabilities. Our unique value proposition offers both the tool and the training for increased effectiveness and productivity through the full utilization of the tool. Wherever we go, people ask for more insight to the Palm. Customers come into our stores to ask our associates how to use their Palm better and to take more advantage of the investment they have made into the device. Our goal is to offer them basic training to help them get the most out of that investment. We offer that training live, computer-based, or online. The other concept is to offer it in "bite-sized" pieces like in two-hour increments, so they can take as much as they want and need. The Palm Basics training product is the number one seller of the bite-sized learning modules. Training is another key way we add value and differentiate our offering.

Brighthand: Franklin Covey currently sells Casio’s line of Pocket PCs in addition to Palm Handhelds. Will you offer Pocket PCs from other manufacturers, like Compaq and Hewlett Packard, or other Palm OS devices, such as those from Handspring and Sony in the future?

Simons: We have a unique opportunity because we plan to resell the best of the best. In other words, we plan to work with the market leaders. We do carry the iPAQ and the Cassiopeia, but we will not carry every Pocket PC product. We will do all we can to be the source for the best one or two products on the market. We have and will continue to talk with everyone in the handheld market. We have some great partners now and look to add some additional great partners for Franklin Covey. Many of these players have contacted us and would like to do business with us. You might want to watch for announcements we will make in the next few months.

Brighthand: What does Franklin Covey offer handheld consumers over typical retail computer stores?

Simons: Franklin Covey offers additional value beyond the typical retail computer store via our educated sales associates, convenient and varied channels-retail outlets, catalog, and Additionally, our exclusive, customizable software applications, multiple accessory products, learning tools, and a variety of products to combine in order to make the best planning tool possible for each user, give people the opportunity to come to one company for their handheld needs.

Brighthand: What role do your retail locations play as opposed to the Web site?

Simons: Our Franklin Covey retail stores offer educated and experienced associates that help and consult our customers to put tools and training together that is the most specific and appropriate for them. The retail stores also offer people the opportunity to see the products in action. is a great resource and a very convenient way to shop. It is also helpful for those who are not close to a Franklin Covey store. The Web site has a great deal of content and product information that help customers learn about products that are right for them.


Brighthand: How does the Web site integrate into your overall strategy? What benefits or advantages does it offer to someone who is already using a Palm or Pocket PC and syncing their handheld to their PC?

Simons: The real value of is to allow customers to put information in one time and view or utilize it from any tool including, desktop, Web browser, handheld device, phone, and even paper. In short, the Web site can tie it all together. It is a great tool for someone offsite like a spouse to see your schedule simply by using any browser. Regarding strategy and overall place in our product offering, I’ll defer to our Product Manager, Jeff Sharp.

Jeff Sharp: In conjunction with what Todd said, supports Franklin Covey’s strategy by making people’s information accessible to them anywhere in the world at any time of the day, all they need is access to the Internet. Whether they are at a trade show, in an airport terminal, or their study at home, their information is just a couple clicks away. is another productivity option for our customers. People can continue to use their handheld computers and if those are wireless, the connection to will offer some additional functionality to their planning options. Important appointments or contacts that are updated when people are away from the office, never have to be missed again because of this easy connection.

Additionally, the accounts feature of enables our users to bring all of their information into a single access point, this saves them time as they manage their information. Information, which can be pulled in through accounts, includes e-mail accounts, reward information like frequent flyer, credit card, bank and brokerage account information.

With the Group functionality we enable our users to schedule appointments, assign tasks, and share contacts with those who matter most to them, but don’t necessarily work in the same office with access to a common communication system or have a PDA. An Event Directory is also available on where users can select those events, which are most important to them such as upcoming trade shows, sporting or financial events, and national or religious holidays. These events can be easily added to our users’ schedule with a couple clicks instead of a lot of typing or writing, thus helping them to avoid scheduling conflicts while maintaining balance in their lives.

Brighthand: What new tech-oriented products can we expect from Franklin Covey in the near term and long term?

Simons: We have an aggressive product plan and will continue to move toward offering our customers new solutions. In the device space, you will see us promoting Palm, Pocket PC, and some new devices that I can’t announce yet. You will also see us moving into the phone space, which is a very big initiative. As phones begin to be data-enabled, they become a productivity tool in our space and we will take advantage of that. Today on a WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) phone, you can get your schedule, contacts, news, stock quotes, movies, restaurant information and much more. So the phone has become a planner, so to speak.

The real idea that we have is to put information into one system like the Franklin Planner of old, and then view and edit that information with any device or tool. I might put information into my desktop or Web planner and then browse it with my phone, or sync it to my device, or print it to use in my Franklin Planner with our Print-to-Fit software. We will continue to move in a direction that will offer our customers customizable tools to meet their planning and productivity needs.



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