Interested in franchising? Make sure you do your research first.
May 7, 2018 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Most aspiring franchise owners developed their first interests in franchising by patronizing a local franchise business. They had a good experience with the goods or services they purchased, imagined how wonderful life would be if they were the owners of such a great place and decided to look into buying a franchise of their own.
That brings them to the big question, “So, now what?”
Doing your due diligence with a franchise brand is no small task. There are lots of key metrics to consider with the brand, the market and yourself. Franchise ownership is a life-changing endeavor, so candidates want to make sure they are doing their homework and soul searching to ensure they choose the right franchise for them and their families.
Here are five of the best ways to research franchise businesses.
This should be an obvious starting point for most candidates because there is so much information available online. Too much, if you consider that a simple Google search of “franchise business ownership” results in more than 376 million results.
However, most companies have created franchise development websites offering lots of good information about their brand, their successes and what they are looking for from franchise candidates. Bear in mind that while the internet is a perfectly good starting point, it shouldn’t be the last place a candidate visits before jumping into the franchising fray.
Franchise development sites are sales sites, meaning the information there is likely going to be biased in favor of the brand providing the information, so they can encourage you to get in touch with them. For a decision this important, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing some objective research as well.
Organizations like the International Franchise Association host regular events around the country, showcasing hundreds of franchise opportunities and offering candidates the chance to meet face-to-face with the franchisor. They also offer seminars to help aspiring franchise owners get on the path to ownership.
Franchise Expos are great ways for candidates to advance their pursuit of a franchise brand if they already know what they are looking for and are ready to start. They are also good opportunities to learn about what brands are looking to expand in your market, what type of resources are available from franchisors and others in the franchise industry for candidates to utilize and to get a sense of a company’s corporate culture.
Just bear in mind that franchise expos are held for one big reason: to help franchisors sell franchises. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are in a sales environment and will be meeting with people who want to bring you into their system, so you will likely be presented with lots of very positive information that will need further review.
Related: The 150 Fastest-Growing Franchises
Your chamber of commerce
The chamber of commerce is an often-overlooked resource for aspiring franchise owners. They exist to help local businesses prosper, so offer a wealth of information regarding what type of businesses already exist in the area, what businesses are coming online soon, information about the market and networking opportunities for you to meet other members of the local business community.
Annual memberships for individuals are inexpensive and many resources and events are even free. While you can certainly research your local chamber online, most are very welcoming to visitors and offer an opportunity to meet in person with the leaders who can provide answers.
Chambers aren’t likely to be franchise experts, nor are they generally able to provide you information about a particular franchise’s business model, but they are a valuable resource to learn about who is thriving in your market and where there could be opportunities to bring in a new business.
Local franchise owners
Franchise businesses are mistakenly thought to differ from local independent businesses in that they are owned by some faceless corporate entity completely out of touch with the local community.
In reality, the majority of franchise businesses have a local owner who works in their business full-time or at least makes regular appearances there. What better way to learn a bit about a brand you are interested in than to speak with someone who is where you want to be?
These people can tell you about their own experience with the brand, where there may be opportunities in your market and who you can speak with directly if your interest is that strong. Be considerate of their time by planning a visit when the business isn’t terribly busy and having some questions in mind.
Just remember that franchises look for people with certain skill sets and lifestyles in mind when they award someone a franchise. A franchise owner who loves his business may have widely different skills or life goals then you do. Someone who is unhappy with what they’re doing may not have been well-suited for the franchise in the first place.
Also, there is always a chance they don’t want to speak with someone interested in bringing a new franchise to town because they don’t want more competition in their backyard. That’s not a reason not to try speaking with other franchise owners, but a fair warning should you go this route.
Related: The Best Franchises for Any Budget
Franchise consultants work like realtors. Candidates interested in franchising can work with a consultant to figure out what they want from a franchise opportunity, which types of businesses are best suited to maximize their skills and what type of franchise they can afford. The franchise consultant will show them a handful of opportunities that match their criteria and guide them all the way through the franchising process.
Similar to a realtor, there is no charge to candidates to utilize their expertise. Franchise consultants receive a fee from a franchise brand when they bring them a qualified candidate that decides to purchase a franchise.
Whereas there is always a chance when using a consultant that their interest may lie solely in making a sale, franchise brands aren’t generally interested in working with consultants that don’t bring them candidates expected to thrive in their system. Awarding a franchise to an unqualified candidate will bring about headaches for all parties and likely result in a brand terminating their relationship with the consultant.
When selecting a franchise consultant, you want to make sure they have years of experience and education in the franchise industry. Also, pay attention to how interested they seem to be in you. How much time are they spending learning what you want from a franchise? Are they involving your family in the conversations? How do they go about determining which brands are right for you? What type of support do they offer you throughout your franchise journey? Can they refer you to other franchise owners they helped through the process?
Not all research opportunities will likely be needed for a candidate to decide on a franchise, but certainly using more than one of the methods discussed here will increase a franchise candidate’s chance at finding long-term success in the franchise industry.