By Tom Ryan, Franchise Development Consultant
Think of choosing the right franchise like you think about love: first there is dating, then proposing, then marriage. These days, franchise discovery is a bit like online dating. The days of happily marrying your high school sweetheart for life or being successfully set up by your church-going grandmother seem to be coming to a close as many people leave their comfort zones for the wider world of online matching with strangers.
It’s a similar, often unnatural process to find a franchise. Franchise companies are located all around the country and there is more than one fish in the sea. Even if you know that you want to sell sandwiches, prepare taxes or give massages – there are dozens (if not hundreds) of franchise companies specializing in each. In my industry, in-home senior care, we are one of over 60 companies franchising today. Unless you’re confident that you want to get into the same franchise system that your neighbor’s brother-in-law just started, you’ll likely be looking online to help you find a good fit.
Personally, I like the old-fashioned way of partnering up. I’ve been in franchising for over a decade and I’ve seen great changes in how technology affects the franchise discovery process. I’m a “30-something” who has never worked in a world without cell phones and the World Wide Web. Yet even I miss the days of looking into someone’s eyes and shaking hands to make a deal. So, I figure it’s safe to assume this virtual process is unfamiliar if not downright intimidating for many franchise candidates.
To my point about franchising being a lot like online dating, franchise candidates and franchise companies need to be mutually careful about ensuring a compatible match. The most successful franchise companies will educate a potential owner about their industry and brand advantages rather than simply convincing you to pull out your checkbook. Ultimately, a franchisor/franchisee relationship is a lot like a marriage: finding your life partner can be incredibly rewarding and you want it to last because divorce can be real messy.
If you are looking for your franchise mate, here are a couple of helpful hints for finding the perfect match:
1.) Franchise company selection: How many dates do you want to go on? First choose your industry(s), and then choose the company(s). Most people find it difficult to vet more than 3 companies at a time. If you have more than 3, do a couple of different rounds rather spreading yourself (and everyone else) too thin.
2.) Commit to the process: Time to buy the ring? If you find a franchise that you are interested in owning after being educated about it, are you ready to sign franchise agreements and pay the franchise fee? There’s no wrong answer, but you need to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with the franchisor(s). Franchise discovery processes are designed for serious potential investors so expect to answer this question. Filling out a detailed financial application within the first week of working with a franchise company is a great demonstration of your commitment.
3.) Follow the process: Time to plan the wedding. Franchise companies are all different, but generally speaking, expect a 30-60 day process of information exchange. Expect to spend 1-3 hours per week with the franchise development personnel and plan your schedules so your conversations can occur during regular business hours. Perhaps most importantly, remember that this is a mutual evaluation. If you fight, resist or try to improve (however well intended and even deserved) the franchise company’s process, it’s fair to assume they can bet that’s how you’ll follow their franchise model if you’re an owner.
4.) It’s ok to say “no”, so it needs to be ok to hear “no”: Cold Feet? Great franchise companies award franchises to roughly 2% of those who inquire to be owners, or, about 20% of those who inquire and are “qualified” to be owners. Point being, franchise developers need to spend as much time as possible working with the best franchise candidates. The other point is that a large majority of those who inquire end up not being compatible for one reason or another (and there are MANY plausible reasons). If you find a franchise opportunity doesn’t fit with what you’re looking for, say something. Franchise companies should offer you the same courtesy.
5.) Partner up: The franchise company you partner with is about to become an extension of your family. It’s very important that, at the very least, your spouse has had a chance to speak with the franchise development personnel and raise any questions, concerns or confirmations he or she might have. Your spouse is an influencer in your household, so it’s safe to expect he or she will be an influencer in your business.
Whether you are looking for a life partner or a franchise business, always be honest and open with the other party and yourself and things will turn out well in the end.
**Original Tom Ryan is responsible for all franchise development for Homewatch CareGivers International throughout the Western and Central US as well as in Canada. Tom just entered his 12th year in franchising and has worked in various roles for two franchise companies including franchise location management and as a director of operations and franchise development.