If you’ve been thinking about starting a business, chances are that you’ve also considered becoming part of a franchise. If you thrive on entrepreneurship and love the idea of owning your own business, but want to work with a tested concept that offers vetted systems and support, franchising can be a great option that generally has lower risk than opening your own company from scratch.
However, shopping for the right fit in a franchise has become a lot more difficult in the last decade because there are so many options. Today, franchises have broken out of the old molds that used to just include gyms, fast food joints and retail stores. Tons of companies have hopped on the franchising wagon, which opens the market to a million possibilities, but can clog and complicate the shopping and decision process. If you’re on the hunt for a franchise that fits you, these tips will take some of the stress out of the process.
What catches your eye -- and keeps it?
Sometimes potential franchisees hyper-focus on the dollars and cents of owning a franchise and table a crucial element in their potential success -- their actual interest in the business. The dollars and cents are obviously important, but your interest in and passion for the business is equally important. If you’re lactose intolerant, don’t open an ice cream shop, even if the numbers look good. If you haven’t been to the gym in three years, don’t open a gym. If you’re obsessed with the perfect burger, though, and find a franchise that has phenomenal fries and a shake to boot, then you’re on the right track. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re selling and serving, then you are in for one long haul.
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Does this business make sense in your market?
Continuing on the idea of the perfect burger, let’s say you find a few franchises that line up with what you want. It’s not time to pull the trigger yet as there are still other factors to consider. Are there similar restaurants in your area already? Are you the only meat lover in a town composed exclusively of vegetarians? Look at your market, and ask yourself if there is room for this particular franchise. What’s the competition like, and can you anticipate a high demand?
Study the brand’s sales and marketing procedures, and ask yourself if they would they work in your particular town. Loving a franchise that has strong numbers is great, but it also needs to be a match for the area you want to run it in.
What are the details that will make or break your experience?
Opening any new business is an involved process, and that doesn’t change when you open a franchise. For example, you still have to work with real estate issues such as location, zoning and rent negotiation. As you examine various franchises, pay attention to what level of support each one offers, and weigh that against your personal experience and comfort level. If you have no real estate experience and some of your prospective franchise matches don’t offer help with securing a unit space, then that might be a factor to consider.
It’s important to play out the benefits and costs of all those technicalities because they will end up affecting your experience. You want to work with a company that delivers the right amount of support for you.
Should you go with an established brand, or bet on the new kid on the block?
Sometimes people shopping for franchises assume opening a new unit within a major brand is a guarantee of success. Although those brands have a lot of power and recognition, joining forces with them isn’t an ironclad way to earn.
Every business, whether it’s a major player like Taco Bell, or a total newcomer, like Taco Hut, involves risk. There is no foolproof, bulletproof way to be an entrepreneur, so don’t eliminate a smaller or newer franchise just because going with the big guy has the illusion of being a safer bet. It’s more important to choose a franchise you’re passionate about that will deliver the right level of support for your comfort level than it is to select based on size alone.
What did you feel when you met face to face?
Once you’ve done all your homework -- watched the videos, read the brochures, studied the Franchisor Disclosure Document -- it’s time to do some reconnaissance on your finalists in person. Visit or contact as many individual franchise locations as you can and see how the customer experience feels. Talk to current franchisees on the phone and in person to get a sense of whether they’re happy with the brand. Finally, visit with the franchise executive team. Get a good look at how things really run in the hub. Make sure you are at home with the people who will make the big choices for the brand as a whole.
Is the franchise choosing you, too?
When you’re looking for your next business partner, don’t forget that your next business partner should also be looking for you. A good franchise will be choosy about who they want to welcome into the family, so pay attention to what kinds of questions they ask you. You don’t want to work with a brand that just wants to make their unit goals and isn’t there for you later on. If the conversations always lead back to dollars, you might not be talking to a company that really cares about whether every franchisee is a great fit. The final relationship coming together should be a two-way street, where both the entrepreneur and the franchise actively choose each other equally.