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A guide to working with franchise consultants

Group Business PortraitBy Jeff Young
Finding a franchise opportunity that matches your skills, talents, goals, lifestyle, finances and earning expectations can be challenging. Fortunately, there are individuals with years of franchise knowledge and experience whose sole task is to help you navigate this difficult process—franchise consultants.

Technically, a franchise consultant is a broker who represents a franchisor or group of franchisors, just as a realtor acts as an agent for a homeowner or buyer. Originating more than 30 years ago in the U.S., the service is now offered amongst several broker networks. Many consultants have franchise industry experience or are former franchisees themselves. They have been down the road before and can offer advice to help you avoid making the same mistakes they may have previously made as a business owner.

Franchise consultants make it easier to navigate the thousands of franchised concepts and hundreds of franchise portals available on the market. However, with so many consultants competing for your attention, where do you begin?

Why use a consultant?
While using a franchise consultant is a growing trend with prospective franchisees, many individuals do not take advantage of these services; in fact, most people are simply unaware the service is even available. Among those who do, many feel they’ve already decided what concept is best suited for them. However, one of the primary advantages of a franchise consultant is his or her ability to direct you to systems you might never have considered.

A common mistake made by franchise seekers is to focus on the product or service of the franchise instead of the business model and its characteristics. For example, you might think your neighbourhood would be well served by a deli serving great panini sandwiches. While that may be true, it matters little if the investment is beyond your reach or you are not comfortable working the long hours often demanded of a food-service franchisee.

Personal likes and dislikes can also be misleading. For example, just because you like kids, it doesn’t mean a child-care franchise is the right choice for you. A good franchise consultant will look not only for the best or most lucrative opportunity available, but the one that best suits you and your experience.

Also, prospective franchisees typically say they want a franchise with a recognizable brand; we are attracted to the brands we know because we are familiar with their products or services. However, many of the most identifiable brands are full- or quick-service restaurant (FSR or QSR) franchises, many of which are beyond the financial reach of most people. In reality, there are thousands of reputable franchises available and most are not top of mind. This is an important factor to keep in mind when doing your research. A good consultant knows that a franchise system does not have to be a household name in order to fulfill your entrepreneurial dreams.

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