When researching franchise opportunities, it’s important to look for the right answers from the right sources. Be careful not to bark up the wrong tree, as it could cost you dearly. Here are eight questions to ask and who to seek answers from…
In any situation where you are presenting yourself to others, most people will seek out the opinions of friends and family members and hope for honest answers. However, just as important as getting those answers is knowing who the right people are to ask for such feedback. After all, we all have our own skillsets and our own perspectives to offer, and these attributes should be taken into consideration whenever you seek advice on a certain subject.In business, your livelihood is on the line, so asking for an honest opinion takes on a whole extra layer of importance. I wouldn’t have a problem asking my mother for advice on how to manage meal planning for a large family over the course of a month, but I wouldn’t ask her how best to invest my money in a franchising opportunity. I would be best served telling her that I’ve been laid off due to corporate downsizing, let her join me for a meal and then seek the honest opinions I need about my intent to charter my future in business from experts within the industry that excites me.
A good sleuth knows honest opinions from the wrong source can lead to problems – and as an entrepreneur, those problems can be costly.
Monica Moody, co-owner (along with her husband, Graham) of Minuteman Press in Coventry, United Kingdom, strongly advises looking for a franchisor with a proud, long-lasting tradition that provides its franchise owners with a proven system as well as a track record that illustrates the system in successful action. Of course, every single successful franchisee got there by taking that system and adding a lot of their own hard work, but the system is essential and the franchisor needs to demonstrate a history that convinces you their system is one that stands the test of time.
Monica advises, “I think the first thing is to establish whether the franchisors have been doing it for a while and have a good opening and closing record. It is not said the new franchisors are bad, but if a more experienced franchisor has done it a 1,000 times already before you, then you know they are doing it right. A successful franchisor with a rich history will have an established model they work with along with a strong background presence both at home office level and on the ground. This reassures us that things should be working fine and if not, they should have resources to help you.”
Monica adds, “A franchise exhibition is a good place to look for franchise opportunities and the person manning the stand is always a good start to ask for information, but don’t be afraid to ask to speak directly to existing franchisees or a higher person in the company.”
Corporate culture counts!
The franchise you select is going to receive your greatest resources, your time and your money. They must align with your lifestyle and professional goals, your management style and your personality. Corporate culture, therefore, is a major consideration because the culture that has been established by the franchisor will absolutely extend itself through the myriad ways that a franchisee needs support. The highest-ranking corporate executives should be more than figureheads and they should be accessible. Technical and marketing support (and more) need to start at corporate and continue right down to unmatched support on the local level – and those local support representatives need to know their stuff. They need to be experts and they need to respond to your needs when you need them. If you sign an agreement with a franchisor headed by distant, out of touch executives, how can you expect your local support team to develop a healthy working relationship with you?
The entire system needs to be well-rounded in terms of culture and for that, you need to sit down with the officers of the corporation to get a good feel for how invested they will be in creating the greatest atmosphere for you to build your own success, right down to the local level, where support is frequently neglected by many franchisors. You should only consider franchisors who have franchisees demonstrating success today as well as an established track record of such stories on which you can see a pattern that proves their system is something you can build upon. Pay attention to how franchisees talk about their corporation. They should have a high opinion of corporate as well as the feeling that they are well-attended to on the local level.
The voice of an experienced, gratified franchisee is a great find
Michael Levy, owner of Minuteman Press in Levittown, NY, can speak from experience when it comes to the fact that while there are many franchisors out there, only the best among them are worthy of your investment. Numerous franchise opportunities, once you ask honest questions and dig deeply, will leave you “high and dry” and not too long after they smile, shake your hand and take your money. Michael reflects upon how delighted he was to know that his franchisor not only was there for him beyond what the masses provide, but they went beyond his expectations, especially in terms of that priceless local support.
Michael shares, “I would suggest asking what type of support you get from the franchisor. When I researched buying a franchise I saw there were plenty of franchises that basically gave you two weeks of training and then they said “good luck”. Minuteman offers much more and now that I am more than two years into the business, Minuteman did everything they said they would and MUCH more – to my surprise. They have helped me in so many ways; not just when I call and look for help. They have a local field rep come by and spend some time with me going over anything I have questions on and help me go out and market my business. So make sure you ask what type of support you will receive from your franchise.”
Since not all franchisors are created equal, and some, frankly, have no problem “playing with the numbers” to get you to sign with them and carry their brand, be sure to “read the fine print”. Pay attention to certain details that are at risk of unethical manipulation in the disclaimer, such as how many centers make up the average (with attention to what percentage of the whole system is used for the average), to whether there are other stipulations such as “years in business”, “franchise or company owned” or “certain number of employees”. In these details, it is vital that you get the facts, so do not be afraid to bring these points up directly so that there is little room for the officers of the different corporations you investigate to provide deceitful information. You need the truth about figures that will ultimately help you decide how and with whom to invest so you can begin what should be a fantastic journey into business ownership.
Mark Jones, Minuteman Press International Area Manager for the UK South region, believes in going to the heart of franchising you are investigating franchise opportunities. What is the heart of franchising, you ask? The current franchisees. Mark states, “The prospective franchise owner should talk to the people running the business, the owners, as they have been in their shoes once upon a time investigating the opportunity.”
Mark Jones offers 8 questions to ask current franchise owners for the truth about the franchisor:
1. How did you go from not having a background in this industry and having not owned your own business before to running the operation you have today?
2. Where do you get your customers from?
3. How much repeat business do you get?
4. What makes Minuteman Press different from the rest?
5. How is the support from Minuteman Press and how influential is it in helping you to develop and continue to run a successful business?
6. How long did it take you to hit your break even?
7. How does the business model break down financially?
8. Are you happy with the decision to buy your Minuteman Press franchise?
At the end of the day, you need honest answers if you are going to put your time and money on the line as a franchise owner, whether it is an exciting new opportunity or a great existing franchise opportunity. Check out places like Google News for stories about franchisees that have built exciting and rewarding careers for themselves within their communities. Don’t expect business brokers or well-meaning professionals without franchise experience to be the source of reliable information as you make such a crucial decision.
Now it is time to go out and aggressively seek your honest answers from active franchise owners, while the desire to do so burns deeply within you. Along the way, you will uncover that the truth is that so many franchisors look good on paper, but provide only superficial support. Then, if you are persistent, you will find the winning franchise model with a healthy corporate culture, satisfied franchisees and the kind of support that goes above and beyond what you anticipated. At that point, the pursuit of “honest” answers comes full circle for you and pays off with the greatest chance at launching something potentially fantastic that is all yours.
Looking to research franchise opportunities? Get started at http://www.minutemanpressfranchise.com