How to Search for a Franchise Concept

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By Paul Giggi

There are a few basic approaches you can take when you begin your search for a franchise concept;  I’d like to share with you some of the more widely used and effective ones…

1. Portals

The most typical approach to finding a franchise concept is where you sit back on a Saturday afternoon and begin to surf the internet. You can search for the type of concept you want to consider (say deli’s) and you will be sent to a portal. Portals are websites that match and send you to certain concepts based upon the information you input into the sites questionnaire. Some of the better-known portals are Franchise Gator, Franchise Help, Franchise Info… but there are many of them. In some instances, you may not know you are even on these sites as they act more as a pass thru, or portal, to concepts and function as a filter for your parameters.

You then choose the concept(s) and will be sent to set websites where you will be asked to fill out a brief fact sheet which will include contact info and probably ask about your background, why you are searching for a franchise, what areas you are looking to operate, timetables and your financial profile.

Portals can be effective in your search but understand that you will have to filter through some concepts that you may not be interested in, so I would suggest that you have a general idea of what type of concept you want to know about… such as QSR or Fast Casual Service… alcohol or not, type of food, etc.…Understand that with these sites the franchisor is paying to have directed to their website and submit your contact info so that they can follow-up with you.

2. Tradeshows

Can be local, regional or national… they cover all types of franchising so it could be food service, retail, personal services o rother types of franchised businesses. They will offer you the opportunity to walk around and visit the concept’s trade booths to see what is offered by the individual franchisor and speak directly to the concepts representative about the concept. These interfaces are more personal and will normally give you a good perspective of the concept.  The tradeshow platform allows you to speak to multiple franchisors in one day and offer you a good overview of multiple and varied concepts

Understand that this is a good way for a franchisor to get exposure for their concept and a way for them to reach interested franchisees face to face.  You will be submitting your personal information to the franchisees you visit through the tradeshow name badge you receive when you register.

These events are a good way to get a gut feel for a concept.  Be sure you understand that this is a franchisee sales event so the exhibitors will be selling their program to you.
My suggestion is to go ready with a list of questions to ask.  We have a franchise postcard we hand out at Tradeshows to people interested in franchise information that helps to focus your questions on 5 key questions to ask when you visit a tradeshow and speak to the concepts representatives.

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3. Personal Interest

I like this one for myself.  If you know of a concept or have heard of it go into the market place and find one that is currently operating.  Go in and experience the concept. Introduce yourself to the management and tell them you are interested in operating one and ask them to share their experience.  You will likely get very direct and straightforward answers to your questions, as most franchisees are proud of their business and can share their successes and challenges.  Ask about a day in the life of the concept… don’t hold back your questions.  I suggest you go when the location is at a slow business time of the day so not to interest the operator of the business.

4. Friends & Colleagues

You may have friends or acquaintances in the industry of your interest.  I suggest you reach out to them and ask for their experience with the business or for contacts that they may be willing to share that could give you insights to the business and your questions.

5. Business Networking

If you belong to or attend any business networking events, I would suggest you attend and ask other attendees for their experiences or contacts with different concepts
All in all, it is important to do your homework before you start searching. Be sure to have a focus on what you are interested in doing and how a franchise may fit with your experience and interests. I would consider 4 areas as I begin my search…

1.    What is your financial ability to fund a concept and how much financial risk are you willing to tolerate?

2.    What is the culture of the concept and does it match yours? Understand a day in the life of the operator and the culture of the Franchisor… are they good fits for you? You are going to spend a number of years in partnership with the Franchisor operating this concept so be sure it meets your needs.

3.    Is the concept a good fit for you emotionally? If you are someone who likes to sleep in, then a breakfast concept may not be for you.  If you like working 9 to 5 from Monday to Friday with the weekends off, then a restaurant concept may not be a good fit for you.

4.    What does your background best support?  If you have operated a business and know the dynamics of such then this experience may broaden your universe of choices.  If not, you may want to consider concepts that are much simpler to operate so to reduce your risk of failure due to the unknown

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