By Shawn Saraga
Knowledge is the most powerful tool you have when making the decision to invest in a franchise business. Verifying that a franchisor’s outside image matches reality can help you manage your expectations prior to purchasing.
Gaining this information takes work, patience and an ability to ‘read between the lines.’ When you meet with a prospective franchisor, these five questions can be a big help in accomplishing this goal.
- What are you looking for in a franchisee?
Most franchisors will have you come into the head office to meet the entire team prior to joining the franchise. Look at it from the perspective of a marriage—the franchisor wants to make sure you are a fit with the ‘family.’ This is your opportunity to do the same type of evaluation. If the franchisor replies by listing qualities and traits you feel you can demonstrate, you are likely on the right track.
- What can kind of support can you offer me?
When meeting with a prospective franchisor, take the time to get an understanding of the different roles within the support system and exactly what they will provide to make your life as a franchisee easier. For example, if you are meeting with the head of marketing, ask him or her how the franchisor’s team comes up with innovative marketing programs that set them apart from competitors. If you are meeting with the corporate trainer, ask about the type of training you’ll be put through and what the franchisor expects from you.
Make sure you feel comfortable with the people you are speaking with; be on the lookout for any personality conflicts you feel might arise between yourself and the members of the support team. Also, ask about their philosophies and approaches to work. Understanding this will be helpful when determining if a franchise is the right fit for you.
- Where can I find information about your franchise online?
In this day and age, the easiest and most accessible place to find franchise information is online. When asked this question, most franchisors will direct you to their website. When visiting, take note of what the franchisor does (and does not) say about itself. Look for a website that is engaging, user-friendly and accessible. Read the content thoroughly and print off any relevant sections for your future records.
However, your efforts don’t have to end there. After reviewing the corporate website, try entering the franchise’s name into a search engine and see what comes up on first glance. Try different combinations of search criteria. Combine the company name with keywords such as ‘franchisee,’ ‘franchisor,’ ‘feedback,’ ‘positive,’ ‘negative’ and ‘lawsuit.’
Also check out social networking sites, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare or Twitter, to see if your franchisor has a presence there. Review any feedback about the brand on chat boards and the customer experience, so you can bring up any concerns about anything you uncover.