Every day I spend significant time on the phone, exchanging e-mails or speaking in person with contractors and other interested business people advising them as they explore their options about investing in a franchise. This is a core foundation of my livelihood — I recruit, and help grow, franchisees for a living.
And not to give in to clichés, but my best advice consistently is “if the shoe fits — and it feels good, and it will add value to your life — then buy it.”
But make sure that it’s the right shoe for you. And equally important, that you are the right fit for the “shoe.” Entering into a franchise agreement is like a marriage — if the fit is right, it is wonderful. However the opposite can also be true for both parties so careful consideration by both the franchisor and prospective franchisee is crucial.
There are a number of key benefits to franchising to consider:
- A tried and tested business format (someone else paid the “tuition” to find out what works);
- Established brand recognition;
- Management assistance, advice and training;
- “Being in business for yourself, but not by yourself.”
In comparison to other ways of getting into business, franchising improves your chances of success significantly — even so, the shoe must fit.
As you may expect, contractors are a logical choice for our franchise brands because of their familiarity, experience and comfort in the home improvement industry. So, as you explore and evaluate your franchise options, first and foremost, make sure the essence of the business is something that you are likely to truly enjoy while also having the necessary skills to excel.
Make sure the business is something that will excite and motivate you, because without a passion for what you do, your time spent in the business could be joyless. And that’s just no fun — for you, those who work for you and for your family. However, balance your passion with the realization that you are making a significant investment. After all, it is a business first, not a hobby.
Some valuable questions to ask yourself to determine if you will be happy and successful in a franchise system are: Are you self-motivated? Are will willing to follow a system of best practices? Are you a calculated risk taker? How prepared are you to balance the mental and physical stress of starting a business? Are you flexible to adapt to change? Are you a team player? How supportive is your family for your dream of starting a franchise?
Be honest with yourself as you conduct the franchise discovery process, and don’t rush through it. Expect a cycle of at least 45 to 90 days from the start of your investigation and discovery process to writing the check in conjunction with the execution of a franchise license agreement. Don’t make an overnight decision.
Know what you’re looking for, both for your personal career path and from a lifestyle perspective, and then be able to come to the conclusion on whether or not you are likely to find it in a franchise business model, system and culture.
As most people are looking for a fresh, brand-new start through investing in a franchise business, here are some key questions to protect yourself, and be fair to the franchisor you are exploring:
What skill set will I need for success in the business model? Do I need to be strong in strategy and planning? Will I need strong sales skills to interact with prospective clients, or will I delegate that responsibility to someone else?
Do I need to be focused on systems and processes? How extensively will I have to use technology?
How strong is the franchisor leadership team? What people, and what experiences, is the team comprised of? Do they have a compelling vision for the future of the business and brand? Can you envision them helping to add value to your franchise? Do you trust them?
What is the culture of the franchise system? What are the corporate values of the franchisor and the franchise system? Are these values that you can comfortably embrace? Is a service culture evident at the franchisor? Do the franchisees in the system work together for the betterment of the brand and system?
How will operating this franchise impact my personal life? Will my time be devoted to a seasonal business model? Will I have to work nights — and weekends? How will I effectively manage spending quality time with my spouse, family and friends and the demand of the business? Am I truly willing to invest the energy and capital necessary to launch the business?
How will I spend my days as a franchisee? Ask what a typical day would be like. What time should my day start? What’s the first thing I should do each day? How can I add value to my business even during my leisure hours, like by networking with potential trade alliance referral partners?
What is the franchise training system like? What do I need to do before I come for training? How long will it last? How is training delivered — classroom, e-learning, in the field? Avoid unexpected surprises by knowing the expectations of the training program.
Does the franchisor champion best practices? Make sure that the company you are investigating learns from its successes as well as its mistakes. Does the franchisor solicit the ideas of the franchise system in advisory councils and planning committees? Do they share best practices and key knowledge with the franchisees? And how do they do that? Is it a daily, weekly, monthly or annual communication?
How will the franchisor support me in my new business? What people are available to help me? What tools will I be provided with? Does the franchise system have a proven marketing system, and if so, does it provide you with an in-house marketing team for strategic and executional lead generation support?
What is the sales process and methodology? Is it turnkey, with a scripted dialogue and tools? Or am I encouraged to develop my own unique voice following recommended guidelines and procedures? Which type of sales system best suits me?
How much financial investment will be required to properly capitalize the business? How much money will I need to invest and for what? When will the investments need to be made? What are the franchise royalty payments and the frequency? Will I have to contribute to a national ad fund? Will I have to contribute to a national technology fund?
What do the current franchise owners think about the business they invested in? This is probably one of the most critical questions of all. Talk to people who are currently operating the franchise model. Find out their reasons why. What where they looking for? Why did they decide to join the franchise system? Are they glad they invested? How do they describe the culture? Ask them if they would have done anything differently and how they overcame the challenges in the business.
Franchising can offer a path to success to aspiring, new business owners with much lower risk. There are a tremendous number of franchise choices — over 2,900 franchise businesses with over 900,000 franchise establishments. So how to choose? Be honest with yourself on what you are looking for, your skills, where your passions lie, your availability of capital to invest, and your confidence in the franchise business model and leadership team. Carefully working through these questions will help you to make the best decision possible for your future career and life.