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Franchisee Advice

Save on your Franchise Start-Up Costs

When starting your franchise, there are times when you should pay for convenience and efficiency, and times when you shouldn’t.

Jeff Elgin

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Most franchise owners will tell you that they could easily have saved quite a bit of money from the costs incurred while opening their first units. This begs the question:

If this is such a universal truth, then why didn’t the franchise companies show them how to save this money as part of their training?

The answer is that they probably did.

The biggest money waster in terms of start-up costs, by far, is impatience of the franchisee. Most new franchisees are thrilled and excited to get going, as they should be, and they can’t wait until their new franchise opens for business. If there are two ways to do something, and the faster one costs more money, most new franchisees opt for speed. Those kinds of choices can really add up to a lot of money and in many cases the time gained doesn’t really produce any long-term value to offset the increased costs.

The secret to reaching the best result in terms of start-up costs is balance. If you picture the cost vs. speed quandary as a continuum, you don’t want to be at either extreme. Trying so hard to save money that you never open the business isn’t going to be any better for you than spending too much to open a little sooner than you otherwise would.

 

Where to Find Savings

There are five common expense categories where most start-up cost savings are found. Some of these are quite easy to take advantage of while others require some extra work or expertise. The old adage that ‘time is money’ applies to virtually every category since you’re usually trading some of your time to get the financial savings. The key areas to focus on include:

1. Franchise Company Fees

Though most good franchise companies don’t negotiate their fees, occasionally you’ll find one that does. If this is the case, make sure you save as much in this area as possible. Contact existing franchisees to determine what kind of deal they received so you have a ballpark idea of what’s possible. If you’re not comfortable negotiating yourself, use an attorney or someone who can drive the best bargain.

2. Turnkey Packages

Many franchise companies offer a turnkey package where nearly all you need to start, is available in a package from the franchisor or a third party vendor. In either case, the package is often chosen because it’s so convenient. Keep in mind that convenience is what is being sold in these packages – not the best value or lowest price. It’s quite common to learn after the fact that the components of a turnkey package could have been acquired by the franchisee for a significantly lower overall cost. The tradeoff, of course, is that the franchisee has to invest the time and effort to source and purchase each component to get the savings.

3. Construction Costs

Most franchises have a physical location and that site needs to be prepared according to the specifications of the franchise. There are a few simple things that can produce significant savings in this area. First of all, get multiple bids for the work that needs to be done. You won’t believe the variances you’ll see in the bids from one contractor to another.

Second, give a little thought to what you might be willing to do yourself. As an example, if you’re renting a 1 200-square-foot bay in a strip centre and the construction bid says it’s going to cost you R10 000 to paint the walls a simple off white colour, you may want to consider painting it yourself.

4. Equipment, Signage and Fixtures

This is a substantial expense category for most franchises and there are two big secrets to saving money here. The first is, again, get multiple bids on everything. It takes a little more work but you’ll see price variances of as much as 100% on things as simple as a standard sign for your business. The same is true of the cabinets and other fixtures. In terms of your equipment, you may be able to realise big savings from buying used items. Some franchises don’t allow the choice but most will allow you to source and purchase used equipment as long as it meets guidelines.

If you’re opening a business with a commercial kitchen as an example, you can potentially save a ton of money. Used equipment is readily available for many businesses and your franchisor should know of good sources in this area.

5. Lease Terms

This can be a huge category in terms of potential savings and it’s an area where you want expert advice and assistance if you’re not experienced yourself. This expertise is found in a good commercial realtor but you’ll also want an experienced real estate attorney familiar with the local market. All leases are negotiable to some extent, but most leases don’t initially offer a number of concessions that may be obtained through negotiation.

Use both your realtor and your attorney to determine what’s standard in the current marketplace in terms of items like the square foot rental rate, the Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges, free rent periods, construction allowances and other economic terms. Then you have a baseline to use in determining if you’re getting a really good deal instead of just an average one. A good negotiator can sometimes get a landlord to include tens of thousands of rands in build-out costs into the lease that can be direct savings to you.

Learn From Others

As a final thought on this topic, remember that it’s easy to determine which areas will produce the most savings for you in whichever franchise you select.

All you need to do is ask the existing franchisees. Again, this will take some of your time but it will be an investment that can pay you big dividends in savings on your start-up costs if you’re willing to learn from their experience.

Jeff Elgin has developed a consulting system that matches pre-screened, high-quality prospective franchisees with the franchise opportunities that best fit their personal profile.

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Franchisee Advice

Types Of Funding Available For Franchisees

If you’re interested in investing in a franchise, there are a number of funding routes available to you.

Darlene Menzies

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In South Africa, a franchise is considered a separate, specialised field of business and from a financing perspective is viewed differently to an existing business. It’s typically easier to get funding for a franchise as franchises have a proven product and they vet potential franchisees and offer support to new business owners. This support can include extensive training on running the franchise, branding and marketing, operational policies and procedures and a highly-tuned supplier network.

The reputation of the franchise will, to a large extent, dictate which finance options you choose and how easy it will be to raise the required funds.

It’s important to understand the cost of purchasing the business and the expected operating costs to work out how much finance you’ll need until the business starts to generate profits. Be clear about the upfront costs, including access to the brand, the market structure, start-up support and the set-up fee, which usually includes construction, equipment, stock and other necessary resources.

Related: 6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch

Consider the operating costs, which must include management service fees and franchise marketing and advertising levies. The franchisor will advise you on the time it should take for the franchise to start generating profits. Upfront costs plus operating costs are the total amount of finance required to purchase, set up and run the franchise.

What’s available for prospective franchisees?

Franchisor Funding

Many of the large franchisors have their own funding mechanisms. These can range from their own established finance arm to funding assistance through partnerships with external lenders. Franchisors seldom fund 100% of the purchase costs; the amount of funding varies according to the size and reputation of the franchise and usually ranges from 25% to 75% of the costs.

Once a franchisor approves you as a franchisee, your chances of being approved for funding are significantly stronger. Some franchisors go a step further and suggest a business partnership with another potential franchisee who has good financial resources but less experience. Pairing experience with finance can be a useful option, but needs to be explored properly as it is a long-term partnership that must work for both parties.

Tandem Funding and Specialised Franchise Funders

South Africa’s B-BBEE legislation has led to a new option for franchise funding. It’s a particularly innovative way of quickly upskilling inexperienced potential franchisees. The franchisor funds the new franchise and retains ownership of the majority of shares in the business.

The franchisee initially purchases a small number of shares and is then mentored by the franchisor to set up and run the franchise. Profits are used to buy more shares until the franchisee has purchased all the franchise’s shares.

Specialist franchise funders are also a useful option. They typically consider a wider variety of franchises than banks and have in-depth knowledge of the industry. However, like other funders, their primary concern is to be sure that the loan will be repaid within the required period.

Related: Expansion Funding Options For Your Growing Business

Franchise Funding from Banks

franchise-funding-from-banksAll of the large banks have specialised franchise funding departments. Their approval rate for funding franchises is generally higher than for independent businesses.

Banks will expect you to provide a sizable contribution toward the purchase of the franchise and funding is dependent on proof that the business will be able to repay the loan.

Other factors they consider are the location of the business and its proximity to competitors and catchment markets, your level of business experience, your credit record and the amount and type of support offered by the franchisor. The higher the level of support, the less the risk to the funder of the business under-performing.

If the franchisor is willing to enter into a joint venture with you to partially fund the purchase, the bank will consider this positively as it means the franchisor has a vested interest in helping you to succeed.

Government Franchise Funding

All of the government funding agencies offer franchise funding primarily to encourage black entrepreneurs to enter into the franchise business. For example, the National Empowerment Fund considers funding based on a minimum of 50,1% black shareholding, provided that the black shareholders are actively involved in managing the business.

They prefer to fund well-established franchises, fund up to R10 million and expect to exit within seven years, so you’ll need detailed projections to show that the loan can be repaid within that period. Ithala Bank considers funding for KZN-based approved franchisees who do not have collateral.

Related: Should You Purchase An Existing Franchise?

What funders expect from you

Lenders expect you to provide detailed information that will enable them to assess the risks of lending to the franchise. This means they require a detailed business plan, comprehensive and well- substantiated financial projections and full details of the franchise, its agreement terms and the levels of support they will provide. They will also need details of start-up costs; for example, construction, set-up costs, equipment and other resources required to establish the franchise.

Franchise lenders expect you to have concluded discussions with the franchisor and want to know that you have been approved. This pre-approval means that there is less risk to them. You’ll also be expected to provide feasibility studies from the franchisor.

The purchase of a franchise requires an injection of your own cash and if you are borrowing money, you’ll probably need to provide collateral. You’ll need a statement of personal assets and liabilities for each of the directors, a good credit record and detailed CVs of the owners to show the required business experience.

Choose wisely

The more well-known the franchise, the higher the price, so do your homework before applying for finance. Understand the full cost of starting and running the business to make sure you aren’t in for future surprises. In particular, work out your current liquidity status.

Keep a small contingency fund available for unexpected expenses, so don’t invest all available capital in the venture.

Shop around. Compare finance institutions’ offerings to make sure you get the best deal. In the case of less expensive franchises, consider working with a couple of lenders; for example, an asset funder to fund equipment needs and a franchise funder for the start-up and working capital costs.

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Franchisee Advice

Factors To Consider Before Signing Up As A Franchisee

Franchising is a brilliant way to get into business with not many entrepreneurial skills as it comes with a roadmap to follow for success.

Diana Albertyn

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You’ve been considering entrepreneurship for a while, and now that you’ve finally raised some money and been approved for a loan, you’re ready to quit your 9-5 job to run your own business. You may even already have your eye on a particular franchise, but while franchising is considered an easier and more low risk way to get into business, are you suited to being a franchisee?

“The question is not ‘is franchising right for you’, but rather, are you right for franchising? Because if you don’t have the right attitude and skill set, it can be a very expensive mistake,” says small business expert and author Steve Strauss.

Franchising may seem like an easy way into entrepreneurship, but along with an established name and proven systems, come rules, regulations and little room for creativity. If you’re not ready to become a franchisee, but want to go into business for yourself, you may find yourself struggling to operate within the system’s blueprint.

Ask yourself these three questions before proceeding with the process of franchising:

1. Will you be able to follow the directions of the franchisor?

You’re buying into an existing and proven concept so it’s safe to assume that the franchisor knows best, and so you have to be open to learning and following guidelines for business success. If, for example, you have experience in advertising and think you have an improved technique of marketing the franchise, you may want to change the advertising material provided by the franchisor – don’t.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Innovate And Improve As A Franchisee

“Being a franchisee means following the directions of the franchisor, even when you think you know a better way,” advise experts from strategic and tactical advisory firm MSA Worldwide.

“In addition to initial training, you need to be prepared to accept coaching and advice from the franchisor on how you operate or market your location.”

2. Do you have the need to experiment?

Lou Groen may have had success in launching a new menu item that McDonald’s approved of in 1962, but not all franchisees are that lucky. Stick to the plan and limit deviations to the menu or anything that involves the customer experience.

If the franchisor’s concept doesn’t involve deliveries, offering them to your customers may cause issues for others within the franchise system. “If it’s not part of the franchisor’s concept, you’re deviating from the concept and therefore, no longer running your store as a franchise,” according to MSA. Franchising arguably limits innovation opportunities, so if you’re prone to implementing creative ideas and evolving business offerings based on said ideas, rather start your own independent business.

Related: 3 Pricing Tactics To Recession-Proof Your Franchise

3. Are you a team player?

These first two questions you address should already lead to the realisation that everything you do affects everyone in the franchise chain. One bad experience at your establishment and suddenly, all the stores are affected by bad press or unsavoury social media attention.

“Other franchisees are relying upon you to offer to the consumer a consistent level of service, product quality, and brand message. You are going to have to work with others in the system in making decisions,” advise experts.

Remember that as part of a chain of other business owners, you may have to accept that majority rules when it comes to decisions where franchises do have a say.

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Franchisee Advice

3 Ways You Can Innovate And Improve As A Franchisee

Although your role as a franchisee isn’t really to innovate, there’s room for creativity if you go about it the right way.

Diana Albertyn

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When you signed on the dotted line after reading and agreeing with the franchise agreement, you knew that you were buying into a proven system where everything has already been thought out for you, and all you have to do is follow the formula for success.

But you’re a franchisee longing to put your own imprint on your business, and it may be frustrating to feel boxed in by a formula, while you’re bursting with new ideas.

“Franchising, by its nature, discourages innovation on the part of franchisees, who are required by their franchisors to follow very specific policies and procedures on exactly what they will sell, how they will make or deliver it,” notes Randy Myers, contributing editor for CFO and Corporate Board Member magazines.

Related: Types Of Funding Available For Franchisees

This doesn’t mean your ideas will never see the light of day though. But before you approach your franchisor with your brilliant insight, consider the following steps that may well lead you down an innovative path:

1. Get the basics right first

Franchisors know that customers like consistency as it makes them comfortable and trust every location of their franchise they choose to visit. But, even the strictest franchisors get hungry for new ideas. It’s the timing that’s vital for your idea to even be considered.

“Most good systems don’t want new franchisees to even think about innovations until they learn the existing system inside out and prove that they can execute it like a star,” said Jeff Elgin, CEO of FranChoice, a network of franchise referral consultants. “At that point, they have become successful, their base is secure, and they have earned the right to consider innovations.”

It’s wise to ensure you’ve learned your franchisor’s existing business model before you suggest any improvements.

2. Do your homework

So, you’re doing well and you’re sure your idea will be welcomed as a crucial innovation to the franchise system – but research your proposal, suggests Kim Stevens, VP of Regional Development and Director of Franchise Awarding at Woodhouse Day Spas. “Especially if you’re suggesting something that would impact all franchisees, create a business plan before approaching your franchisor,’ she says.

Related: To Buy Into A Franchise Or Purchase A Licence? 3 Factors To Consider

It’s also good to have another look at the franchisor’s policy for accepting new ideas to ensure you’re prepared for tough questions before you propose your idea.

3. Speak to the right people

Elgin recommends you first identify the person at the franchisor’s head office who’s responsible for receiving new ideas. “Many of the ideas a franchisee comes up with will already have been proposed by another franchisee,” notes Elgin.

To avoid wasting your time, no matter how great you think the idea is, present it as early as possible before spending anything developing the idea.

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