Finding a consultant
There are many reputable franchise consulting networks operating today. A quick Internet search will identify the major networks operating in your city, province or country (most consultants can work with clients remotely). Be aware, however, that there are few regulations governing franchise consultants; as in most professions, quality and experience can vary greatly. While there are no tests or certifications that must be met to work as a franchise consultant, anyone representing a franchisor must comply with applicable disclosure laws and regulations.
When searching for a consultant, you may find candidates advertising their services on the same franchise portals on which franchise systems advertise new opportunities. However, don’t assume the opportunities listed on the portal are represented by the consultant. In fact, most franchise consultants will not provide you with a list of franchises they represent, as it is counterproductive to the way they match candidates to concepts. When analyzing a list of franchise companies, prospective franchisees tend to focus on the name of the company and its product or service, instead of analyzing the business model and results achieved by its franchisees. By keeping their list private, franchise consultants can help you avoid this pitfall.
There are several reasons for the emergence of franchise consultants and broker networks. For one, they help new franchisors increase their pipeline of prospects. Qualified franchise candidates are introduced to franchisors at no cost and pay the consultant and network as franchisees pay their initial franchise fee. Franchisors make their money from the ongoing revenue stream of royalties paid by the franchisee, so sharing the initial fee to grow faster in the early days provides a win-win situation.
The first steps
When you first contact a franchise consultant, see if you are able to forge some type of connection with the person and determine if you want to develop a professional relationship with him or her. Do you think you can benefit from their insight and advice? Ask the consultant about his or her franchise experience and assess the matching process to determine if you want to work with the individual.
Once you’ve found a consultant you like, work with them and only them. Franchisors are typically represented by several consulting networks, so there is no real advantage to working with more than one individual; you won’t, for example, double the number of franchises available to you by working with two consultants. The vetting process of franchise networks varies; some networks strive to represent as many franchises as possible, while others are more exclusive, choosing quality over quantity.
A common complaint about franchise consultants is that they only introduce franchisees to opportunities in their network. While this may be true, a benefit of working with a consultant is the pre-screening of franchise opportunities, meaning you will only be introduced to the best of the best. In addition, this does not prohibit you from looking at opportunities beyond the scope of their network. If you do want to research opportunities on your own, be candid with your consultant, to ensure you are not working at cross purposes.