It’s a familiar story: you want to own your own business, but don’t want to risk everything by starting up a new business which may finish up as a costly mistake.
So instead, you’re looking at a franchise option where you’ll be running a proven business model and making profits virtually from day one. But once you have decided that this is the right path for you, how will you know which one is right?
Here are a few tips to help you arrive at that important decision.
First and foremost, which industry are you attracted to?
Many franchisors won’t require you to have previous industry experience and all franchises should include an element of training for the role. Nevertheless, think carefully about what industries match your skills, aptitudes and previous work experience.
Of course, you will need to find out everything you can about any franchises that are likely to get on your shortlist. And that research should not only cover what the work entails, but also issues such as how a career in that industry will impact upon your preferred lifestyle.
For example, if you like being out in the fresh air at all times of the year, how well will you cope with a predominantly indoor franchise?
Whatever you choose, remember that it’s a career which will define your working life for many years to come.
And in addition to that, any franchisor will want to be convinced you are enthusiastic and seriously committed to that franchise brand. So, take your time with this important part of the decision-making process, as a franchisor will be able to see through any kind of uncertainty you might have.
Making your first approach
Once you have decided on your field of interest, it’s then a matter of finding the right franchise in that field.
When you make your initial approach, expect due diligence to be a two-way process. Hopefully, you will have lots of questions about your future prospects as a would-be franchisee. But equally, the franchisor will want to find out everything about you in order to assess whether you have all the qualities they are seeking.
If your prior research has been thorough, you will be well-prepared for this encounter. You will also have given yourself the best possible chance of meeting your franchisor’s expectations.
Visiting existing franchisees
One of the most important parts of your research will be to contact existing franchisees.
This will also be more fruitful if you make contact after you have heard the franchisor’s own description of the franchise offer to compare and contrast.
Not only will such a visit give you a much better feel for the business and everyday working environment, it will also allow you to hear precisely what the franchise offer is like in practice – a first-hand account from the franchisee’s perspective.
It’s only natural that any franchisee you talk to will put things slightly differently – which, of course, is exactly what you want to hear. But if you hear anything of real concern, you will be much better placed to challenge any false promises which may have been made about the franchise model.
Possible red flags
Armed with your prior research and the provisional networking contacts you have made with current franchisees, you will be ready for a more in-depth discussion with the franchisor.
So, don’t be happy with vague descriptions, always make sure you understand exactly what you can expect from the moment your induction begins.
You should also be concerned if your franchisor prevents contact with existing franchisees, or wants to restrict your choice of locations to visit. Likewise, if you are being hustled to hand over large sums of money even before you sign up, that’s a sign you may be wise to look elsewhere.
In a similar vein, you would expect a tried-and-tested franchise to be running successfully and turning over profits. Alarm bells should ring if your research tells you there is a history of early reselling and/or territories closing down.
Once you have been accepted as a franchise candidate and provided what you have discovered gives your chosen franchise offer a clean bill of health, you can move on through the sign-up phase with confidence.
You will then be ready to take your first steps as a proud business owner representing a respected franchise brand.
Jo Thornley is head of brand and partnerships at Dynamis.
Further reading on franchises:
Q: Buying a franchise arm
What is a franchise? Advice for small businesses