• How to Find and Analyze the Right Franchise Opportunity

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    A Franchise System can be a very effective way to open and operate a small business, especially for those without a lot of experience in operating and owning their own business. There are many advantages in using a Franchise System, such as, turn-key operations, marketing and business planning; large corporate support; lower learning curve; established accounting, cost control and management systems; brand identification; training programs; national and regional advertising; customer service programs; market trend responsiveness; supplier and vendor discounts; among others. However successful Franchise Systems are expensive. The fees / costs consist of a franchise fee, royalty fees and start-up costs. So it is very important to have a solid due diligence process in place to determine if a particular Franchise Opportunity is right for you, and whether the costs to establish and run the franchise match the effectiveness of the Franchiser’s Package Offering.

    TYPES OF FRANCHISING SYSTEMS

    Product / Service and Trademark Franchising

    This is an arrangement which the franchisee is granted the right to sell a well recognized brand. Most franchisees concentrate on one franchiser’s product/ service line, identifying their business with the franchise. Examples include: Automobile Dealerships, Gas Stations, Soft Drink Bottlers, etc. The franchiser exercises little control over the franchisee’s business, with the product/ service integrity being the biggest concern of the franchiser.

    – Structure and Responsibilities

    — Franchiser provides a Standardized Product

    — Franchisee Pays Franchise Fees and Responsibilities include:

    * Marketing
    * Training
    * Control System
    * Operating System
    * Accounting System
    * Building, Equipment, Signage

    Business Format Franchising

    Franchisee is granted the right to use a turn-key marketing system, with substantial assistance and guidance from the franchiser. Types of franchises include Restaurants, Retail, Hotels, Business Services; Automotive Products, Parts and Services; Convenience Stores; Entertainment Centers and so on.

    – Structure and Responsibilities

    — Franchiser provides:

    * Building Plans
    * Equipment & Signage
    * Marketing System
    * Business Plan
    * Operating System
    * Training Personnel
    * Accounting System
    * Control Systems

    — Franchisee provides:

    * Fees
    * Compliance
    * Reporting

    HOW TO DETERMINE IF A FRANCHISE IS RIGHT FOR YOU

    Follow a Franchise Analysis Checklist

    — About The Franchise

    – Has your attorney approved the franchise contract?

    – What legal grey areas have been identified?

    – Will you have exclusive territory?

    – Does the franchiser work with any other franchise handling similar products and services?

    – What are the Franchise Contract termination penalties?

    – If you sell your franchise, will you be compensated for goodwill?

    — The Franchiser

    – What is the franchiser’s number one focus?

    – How have franchisees in the past run into trouble? Difficulties?

    – What skills franchisees need most?

    – How are conflicts resolved?

    – Request the bios of Top Management. Do they have entrepreneurial backgrounds?

    – Do the franchiser’s earnings claims differ from their Franchiser Disclosure (FDD)?

    – Has the Franchiser executed detailed due diligence on your qualifications?

    – How many years has the Franchiser been operating?

    – Does the franchiser have a reputation among the franchisees, competitors and business world for honesty, integrity, accountability and fair dealing?

    – Has the franchiser shown you certified and audited financials on franchisees in your region and area which you can validate?

    – Does the franchiser provide Executive Management and Personnel Training Programs?

    – Does the franchiser provide any Capital or Credit?

    – What merchandising Programs and Training does the franchise offer?

    – Will the franchiser assist with site location?

    – Does the franchiser have adequate financing to implement its Franchisee Plan?

    – Does the Franchiser have a highly trained and experienced management team?

    – What can the Franchiser bring to the table which you can’t adeptly do yourself?

    – Has the franchiser complied with State Laws in the past? What State Laws are in place regarding Franchise Sales?

    — The Franchisee

    – How much Equity Capital will you need to:

    – Purchase the Franchise?

    – Operate until Break-Even?

    -Where will you get the Equity Capital?

    – Are you prepared to give up some independence for the advantages offered by the Franchiser?

    – Do you believe you have the qualifications to succeed as a franchisee? What other Personnel resources can you provide?

    – Are you prepared to spend a majority of your business life with this franchiser?

    — The Market

    – Does an adequate market exist in your area?

    – Will the market support the price level of the franchiser’s products and services?

    – What are the population demographic trends for your territory over the next 5 years?

    – What will be the demand for your product and service in 5 years?

    – What is the non-franchise and related franchise competition in your territory and region?

    EXAMINE FRANCHISE OPPORTUNITIES CLOSELY

    – Determine which franchises are growing fastest.

    – Research market growth possibilities.

    – Consult Entrepreneur Magazine for its comprehensive Franchise 500 Listings.

    – Utilize the U.S. Commerce Department’s Franchise Opportunity Handbook, which is published annually.

    – Contact the International Franchise Association for assistance.
    Determine What the Franchise Can Do for You

    TYPICAL FRANCHISER SERVICES

    – Start-up help, to include market analysis, site location, financial advice; building and equipment design and purchase.

    – Successful Operational System.

    – Accounting and Cost Control System.

    – Monthly operating results support; performance standards; financial auditing; franchisee financial comparative analysis.

    – Financial Assistance: land, building, equipment, inventory and working capital.

    – Site purchase assistance.

    – Standardized Construction, Design and Signage.

    – Training Programs.

    – National and Regional Advertising Program.

    – Brand Recognition Promotion.

    – Customer Services Standards and Program.

    – Responsiveness to market changes.

    – Supplier discounting via large volume ordering.

    FRANCHISE DUE DILIGENCE

    Examine more than one franchise and compare / contrast through a standardized checklist (see previous section). Investigate franchises in the same line of business.

    SPEAK WITH EXISTING FRANCHISEES

    – Contact several franchise owners listed in the FDD, as well as, not referenced by the Franchiser to solicit their experiences.

    – Seek out franchisees that have been in the business over 5 years.

    – Talk with experienced franchisees about what to expect during the first year of operation- the typical success or failure period for a franchise.

    – Ask franchisees to share their Business Plan with you. This gives you an inside track on the operational and planning expectations for a typical franchise, along with keys to success.

    – Ask franchisees what the Franchiser does to justify all the fees charged.

    – Determine how well prepared franchisees were when opening the franchise. Surprises? Franchiser weaknesses?

    – How effective are the Marketing, Promotion, Branding and Advertising Programs? Do they bring the right customer to franchisees?

    – Determine the real financial numbers. How much to open a franchise? How quickly a franchise started making money? Get the real story and compare it to the Franchiser’s disclosure to determine credibility.

    – Do your research and homework prior to meeting with Franchisees so you don’t waste their time and you appear serious.

    – Make a good, professional impression on franchisees as they often will report their impressions to the Franchiser.

    -Understand where the franchisee is coming from: i.e. Someone close to your territory may give you faulty information if he feels competitively threatened. Or, a franchisee may overstate his/ her success.

    – If allowed by the FDD, consider a Joint Venture with an experienced Franchisee. An 80/20 relationship can make a lot of sense to both the new and experienced franchisees in a proximate region or area.

    – Try to spend an entire day with each Franchisee. This is the only way to get a true fell for the franchise and determine why the franchisee is successful (or conversely, why he/ she is blowing smoke). Build a relationship with franchisees, and you will be more apt to receive honest, diligent and detailed feedback.

    – Ask franchisees if the franchiser encourages the franchisee to share feedback, ideas, successes, failures and whether these experiences get incorporated in the field.

    – Is the franchisee happy with their life post franchise opening? Is the business enjoyable?
    – For more ways to get a franchisee to open up to you, visit Entrepreneur.com

    SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE

    – Franchise Attorney and Accountant
    – Franchising Consultant
    – Business Consultant
    – Finance Consultant

    UNDERSTAND YOUR LEGAL AND EHTICAL RESPONSIBILITIES

    – The International Franchise Association serves Franchisers in more than 50 countries and has a code of Franchisers’ Ethics and Obligations to Franchisees.

    – Franchiser members pledge to comply with all laws and make complete, accurate, non-misleading disclosure statements and documents.

    – Franchiser members pledge to only accept franchisees that meet prescribed qualifications.

    – Understand your rights if the Franchiser attempts to buy back the franchise.

    – Issues to explore:

    — Captive Supplier Pricing
    — Inadequate Service
    — Slashing Support Services
    — Fraud
    — City and State Laws & Regulations regarding Franchises