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Researching a Franchise

Don’t Choose A Franchise Until You’ve Talked To People Who Already Own It

Some lessons you shouldn’t learn the hard way, like how a company treats the owners of its franchises.

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Incorrect expectation is the chief reason for disappointment in life… and business. With so many franchise concepts in so many industries, searching for a franchise can be a daunting task.

Aside from finding something that is a good fit for you, your skills, your future and the community in which you will operate, how do you even know if the company itself is worthy of your time, effort and money? What should you expect from your investment?

The good news is that investigating a franchise is great because it’s an investment vehicle that allows you to actually talk with people who have made the investment already. This way you are not just reading spread sheets, brochures or listening to testimonials from people who may be paid actors.

Once you engage in conversations with the franchise representative of the company you’re considering, you will receive a plethora of information boasting about the greatness of the company.

Related: The Perils Of The Franchise Agreement

They’ll probably also say why they happen to be the best in their industry and why this is the perfect time to get involved with them. They will probably even throw in a comment about being recession resistant, too.

Full(ish) disclosure

The voluminous, detailed manuscript about the franchise you’re considering is called the franchise disclosure document (FDD). If you have not heard of this item yet, you certainly will as you plunge into your franchise search.

Although the FDD looks like an overbearing prospectus from a public company, it is really a document that makes the company transparent for the prospective buyer. It is your best friend during the due-diligence process.

You must understand the information given in the FDD. The best thing about the document is that is provides the contact information for every franchise owner in the company at the time of printing, including a list of units that have closed their doors or sold.

However, after distilling and digesting all the information disseminated by the franchise company, the very best way to gain clarity on the franchise and correctly set your expectations, is by talking to their franchisees.

This process of validating the franchise is the single most important thing you can do in your franchise search and it may save you from franchise failure.

Moreover, you’re permitted and encouraged to contact existing franchisees. Great franchise companies want franchise owners to come in educated and with eyes wide open, so there are no surprises.

I have some tips to help with making these calls and face-to-face visits. You need to plan on calling and, when possible, visiting a number of the existing franchisees. Talk with a sufficient number of the existing franchisees to ensure you have a sense of the prevailing attitudes of the group.

You should begin making these calls after the sales person from the company gives the go ahead. (Remember the franchise company is evaluating you on how you follow systems so please follow their process for investigation.)

Related: 3 Of The Biggest Misconceptions Of Entering Into A Franchise Agreement

Find unhappy people

unhappy-franchisees

Though you want to find the overwhelming majority of franchisees to be happy and supportive of the franchisor, it is important to try to find an unhappy franchisee during your investigation. When you do, not only listen to the complaints but also try to determine what makes this franchisee different from the rest.

If you find that you identify with the positive ones, and feel the negative franchisees are not at all like you — that’s a good sign.

Remember, evaluating franchise owners is similar to assessing a sports team. The players span a bell curve, meaning that 20% of the players will be the top of the heap, superstars. Next, 60% will be average and doing just fine. Then the other 20% will be under par and sitting on the bench.

You want to emulate the superstars but also know why the under-par performers are not pulling their weight. This will help you define if the franchise is right for you or not.

When you make the call, introduce yourself as a potential franchisee. State the name of the sales person you are working with so that they know you are not the competition spying on the company.

Also, franchisees with businesses very close to your area of interest might have future plans to expand into your area, so often they will attempt to taint the success of the franchise.

I suggest to first talk to franchisees who are far away from where you plan on opening, in order to get a real sense of the company, then talk to local franchisees to see what’s happening in your local market.

If the local owner has some negative things to say, you can hold that up against the other information that you’ve gathered to understand the real, average situation within that franchise company.

A good way to approach this is to begin by calling franchisees with as much history as possible. We want to know early if your financial goals can be achieved. Then call owners with one to two year’s history and focus on break-even expectations. Finally, call a few owners who have just started, as they’ve received the most recent training, and have had recent interactions with the corporate office.

Related: How Do You Know That You’ve Found The Right Franchise?

Please note, franchisees from systems that are undergoing significant growth may get inundated with calls from potential owners. It may take a while to connect with these owners. This is a good sign — it means they are out building their businesses and not sitting at home watching daytime TV soaps. Don’t get discouraged, be persistent.

I highly encourage you to make the most of these phone calls. This process may save you lots of time, money and heartache in the long run. I have a list of 39 questions to ask existing franchise owners. Email me for a free copy or go to my website to download the questions.

Enthusiastically following the system I’ve outlined in this article will save you from incorrect business expectations and disappointment in the long run — you’ll thank me later.

Tom Scarda consulted with FranChoice in 2000 and purchased a Maui Wowi Fresh Hawaiian Blends franchise and quickly expanded his operation to three locations. In 2003, Tom took on the role of director of regional support for the greater New York area. He sold his Maui franchise in 2004 and now shares his knowledge and expertise of franchising with people like you who are in search of making a lifestyle change and taking back control of their lives. Tom is Amazon bestselling author of Franchise Savvy and can be reached at 866-545-6191 or Tom@TomScarda.com.

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Researching a Franchise

Maximise Your Social Media Reach This Holiday Season

Quick and cost-effective, social media is your best tool to reach target markets when it matters most – during the holidays.

Diana Albertyn

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It’s not just the end of the year that can be lucrative for businesses. School holidays and other major breaks during the year present consumers with more time to spend shopping. Why not ensure money is spent at your franchise by capitalising on the minimal cost and maximum exposure of social media?

You don’t have to create entirely new deals or promotions from what you may already have running on your store, but find a way to make it special for your social media followers, suggests Kelly Mason, marketer at Customer Paradigm.

Holiday campaigns on Twitter, benefitting from popular hashtags, streaming live content, and receiving information instead of just distributing it via social media are just some of the ways to stay ahead of the competition.

Related: Why Your Business’ Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Probably Wrong

Know your customers well

The first step to attracting customers and getting them to complete a sale is understanding their customer journey.

“Being able to document where they spend their time online, which social channels they use most, and what they’re reading or watching on those channels is a huge plus. Finding that crucial information is fairly easy to do, thanks to modern-day marketing tools and resources,” advises Paul Herman, ‎VP: Product and Solutions Enablement Group, at Sprinklr, a unified customer experience management platform for enterprises.

The better you understand your customers, the easier it is to reach them through a campaign optimised for their interests.

Master social listening

You could be using social media all wrong in the run up to all your holiday campaigns. Perhaps it’s time you used this platform to listen to your customers?

“Through social listening, marketers can identify major trends and product keywords in their industries,” says Herman. “For instance, knowing those keywords can help marketers identify which social platforms are more popular for a target audience. With that information, they can make smarter decisions about where to spend their money and which products or services to promote on each platform.”

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Use the information gathered to determine what customers like about your product, what they dislike about it, and how you can improve upon it so they can buy more of it. The more of this data you collect, the better and more effective your interactions with customers will be.

Try something new

50% of consumers look for a video of the product they want to buy before going to an ecommerce store to buy it, according to a 2016 Google survey. “Video can be an extremely effective way to get your customers to take action – in this case, to make a purchase with your store,” adds Mason.

Video adverts are often used as an experimental tool in social marketing and switching it up on platforms such as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, or Snapchat – depending on your brand’s activity and your audiences’ interests – can help attract customers during seasonal periods.

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Researching a Franchise

Selling Your First Franchise? Consider These Key Pointers

You’re ready to franchise your business, but who do you sell to and how? Your first few franchisees may be the hardest to acquire, but the process will be smoother if you get some basics right.

Diana Albertyn

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Business experience gained running your independent brand will come in handy, but looking for franchisees is a different ballgame. “We have to attract the right people in enough numbers to make the difference; and, the key to more leads is to have a multi-prong strategy to marketing,” says franchise strategist and expansion expert Lizette Pirtle.

Using media (social, or otherwise), trained experts in franchise sales, and keeping in mind that whoever you sell to will become an extension of your brand, are important considerations before selling your to first franchisee:

1. Use (all) media wisely

Website marketing, print advertising and social media are just some of the many different ways to attract potential owners to your franchise. But the most cost-effect of the three may be a ‘tweet’ or ‘post’ away, says former Director of Marketing at the International Franchise Association and owner of Burris Branding and Marketing, Jack Burris.

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

“Three out of four people using the Internet are either on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or all of them. Take advantage of social media,” he says.

“There’s typically no cost to play in the space except for the time that you need to invest to build your brand with a social media presence.”

2. Seek out franchise coaches or brokers

While this is a more traditional method of making reliable franchise sales, it’s a great way to form lasting associations that will take you beyond your first few sales. “Using broker networks is a great way to supplement your own efforts. However, you must spend time developing relationships with these people if you want to get results,” advises Pirtle. “Don’t think that just listing your opportunity with them is sufficient.”

Franchise coaches and brokers have multiple options for potential franchisees, so to put yourself high on their list of consideration when prospects enquire, you have to form memorable relationships.

Related: 3 Factors To Focus On When Opening Your First Franchise

3. Always consider the bigger picture

Out of all the people your marketing efforts attract, always keep in mind that few will check all the boxes and compromising could cost you in the long run.

“The franchise relationship is a long-term one. If you’re going to be successful as a franchisor, you should start with the attitude that every franchisee will be someone who you’ll have to live with for years to come. And nowhere is this philosophy more important than when awarding your first franchise,” says Mark Siebert, CEO of the iFranchise Group, a franchise consulting organisation.

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Researching a Franchise

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

So you want to become an entrepreneur, but prefer support from an established brand? Franchising isn’t your only option, but is licensing right for you?

Diana Albertyn

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Opening a new business under a successful brand is a sure-fire way to success. Given that you’ve done your homework and the projections are looking good, you could be running a profitable operation in no time. However, the choice between buying into a franchise and purchasing a licence to operate under the brand, in exchange for a fee and portion of your profits can go one of two ways.

“It is essential to understand the difference between a franchising agreement and a licensing agreement, especially when seeking funding from a financial services provider,” says Morné Cronjé, head of franchising at FNB Business.

“Each business model is governed by a completely different agreement or contract and they operate in a unique way.”

Related: Should You Purchase An Existing Franchise?

When contemplating which option is right for you, consider how much independence you’d like to hold as a business owner, what kind of investment and share of the profits you’re willing to make and the type of relationship you’d like with your mother brand.

1Support vs autonomy

When toy industry behemoth Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in September 2017, Toys “R” Us South Africa distanced itself from its US affiliates saying that the SA business is performing so well, it’s embarking on an expansion drive. How can the mothership be suffering while its SA counterpart is thriving?

Toys “R” Us SA is a privately-owned independent company operating under a license agreement with Toys “R” Us Inc. While the local version of the toy giant has purchased the right to use licensed material and intellectual property, the licensor has no control over the operations of the licensee.

With franchising, however, the franchisor exerts more control over the franchisee, but where the franchise lacks in autonomy, it makes up for in support.  “While entering into a franchise requires more of an initial investment, the benefits of an entire organisation supporting you are powerful,” say the owners of US-based fitness studio Barre Forte.

2Financial implications

While both franchisees and licensees pay an upfront fee and ongoing royalty payments to the owner of the brand or intellectual property – the franchisor or licensor – as a licensee, you bear the developmental cost and the risk associated with launching foreign operations.

Cronjé explains a franchising agreement as a duplication of a specific business model, governed or controlled through a franchise agreement where the franchisor holds all rights, including the business model.

“While franchise and license agreements vary significantly, looking at the cost distinctions between the two, it is generally more affordable to pursue a license agreement than a franchise agreement,” he says.

Related: Owning A Franchise – Good Idea Or Bad Idea?

3Relationship matters

The initial investment may be higher for a franchise operation, but access to a proven concept, an established customer base and ongoing product and service innovation could end up wing worth the cost. Not to mention the support franchisees get in the form of ongoing training and assistance with the initial setup process.

“When it comes to training, the licensing model would only train staff on the product they are selling,” explains Cronjé. “This is very different to franchising, where comprehensive training is provided on how to operate the entire business.”

Licensing generally includes some components of franchising, however what the difference is that specific operational support systems aren’t dictated by the group, which could bode well for you if you’re looking for the benefits of a big brand without the red tape.

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