Franchising Consulting
Cheri Carroll - Franchise Consultant

Cheri Carroll
4404 Caminito Fuente
San Diego, CA 92116
Building Successful Franchises

What Good is a LIST?

Have you ever wondered why everyone seems to want to make life more difficult for you? They're always telling you to slow down, and to check things carefully�or wait until you know more�or make a plan you know you can make work�or something that slows you down and stops you from realizing your dreams.

Like many others, you may say to yourself, "What's wrong with spontaneity? Why must everyone be so methodical? Isn't variety still the spice of life? Isn't it still fun to go into a restaurant and instruct the waiter to "surprise you with whatever they think is best?"

Of course it is! Doing things intuitively has a place in all of our lives. When we make a decision to enter any business we certainly have to trust our own instincts to some degree.

However, when it comes to making a good decision for ourselves we have to avoid putting too much faith into something that may not be best for us.

Lists of franchised business opportunities that are available for acquisition are one of the places where "blind faith" can hurt us more than it helps us.

As franchise consultants we are often asked by prospective clients to "just send us a list of the franchisors you work with". We work with many franchisors that we think are excellent choices for the right buyer, yet we strongly resist such requests whenever we can!

Why? Because we've learned that merely sending lists to a buyer doesn't really help that buyer find what he/she wants. In fact, more often than not, the lists tend to be more confusing than enlightening.

When most people get a list, their eyes slide down the rows and rows of franchise names, and then they may say, "Nope, nothing there that I like!" Or, perhaps they'll stop at a business that looks interesting to them, and tell us "This is one I might consider".

Typically prospective buyers scan a list looking for something familiar, or something that strikes their fancy. What's wrong with that? Plenty! In so doing, they very often pass over some of the finest franchises in the world – the tried and true – simply because they don't have enough information about the business and themselves to best understand and recognize what they're really looking for.

Once you realize this, you become compelled to ask: "How can any buyer be expected to properly evaluate whether a name that they see on a list is one that they should be interested in learning more about?" Often times, its just not enough.

You'd be smart to assume that you can't pick a great business merely by looking at a list of names! If you haven't worked with a company yourself, or you haven't by some means acquired a detailed knowledge of how it operates, you simply can't expect to know whether a business is right for you simply by looking at a list. It's impossible!

Let's take fast food as an example. You probably think you know how fast food works, right? Seems like a great business to you, doesn't it?

Step back for a moment, and consider this example. We know of a fast food giant that started franchising many years ago. This company had excellent success in attracting experienced business people as franchisees.

After a couple of years in the business some of these franchisees, although they were making good money, were unhappy with their choice of business.

They were making money, so why were they unhappy? Because this particular fast food business is more than JUST a food business.

1. It is a kid business. It took 50 people or more (mostly young) to run such a large enterprise, and because most kids are somewhat transient, the franchisees found they were hiring and firing up to 150 people a year. Some of these franchisees didn't like lots of employees, so for them they didn't enjoy what they were doing.

2. It is a cash business. Owners usually have to be around when cash is a big part of the business – you can't expect to have thousands of dollars in currency floating around your store without attracting employee theft. Many franchisees that come from corporate America find this to be very discouraging.

3. It is a hands-on business. Managing one unit is not the same as managing 20! On that first unit you need to learn the business, hands-on, day-in and day-out. The workday can be very long, and can often include nights and weekends. Some franchisees simply didn't want to work that hard or that long.

The point here is: There is much more involved in making a good decision about which business to buy, than simply picking a business that makes money. In fact, the likelihood is that unless you like the business you select, you will not be as committed to it, and can easily make much less than you otherwise would!

So what good is a list of franchises? At the right time it can be very helpful by giving you a chance to see a large group of possible choices. However, before you look at a list of franchised possibilities, you would be better off to start with a different list altogether!

What kind of list am I referring to? A list that includes your goals, styles, preferences, needs, wants and desires.

Matching your personality and goals to the right choice of business is vital to your success as a franchisee as well as to the franchiser's entire system. For example, ask yourself if a corporate manager who wants to simplify his/her life would want a business that would ultimately need 50 or 100 employees? Probably not.

Look for the match.

We all know many people who have very different personalities. Try to picture a person that you know who likes a fast paced business with lots of variety, the lone wolf type who loves to solve problems and go right on to the next challenge. Can you see this kind of person spending day after day in a business that makes sandwiches, or sorts and distributes mail?

On the other hand, try to picture someone in those same businesses who wants stability and simplicity, and likes being with the public For them, these may be ideal selections!

What is right for you?

If you haven't taken stock of yourself, and don't know yourself, your goals, and your skills, how can you hope to find the business that makes the most sense for you?

There are many sophisticated techniques that can help you to understand your own basic personality. Before you select a business, consider working with an organization that can help you to identify these for yourself.

However, by just sitting down and thinking about who you are, and what you are like, you can give yourself some important insights into the type of business that will make the most sense for you.

Start by identifying your short-term needs, and then identify your long-term goals. We call these your "entry strategy" and your� "long term strategy". Any business that you select must satisfy both of these strategies to be an ideal fit for you

Next, ask yourself some questions about your business style and preferences.

  1. Do you like working in an office, or would you prefer to be in a store, or out and about calling on customers at their home or place of business?
  2. Do you like lots of people around you or do you prefer to work more on your own?
  3. Is there a set amount of money that you need to make in order to be satisfied and content, or are you driven to higher and higher levels of success?
  4. Do you prefer the strong support typical of larger organizations (along with the rules that come with them), or do you prefer more flexibility and the freedom to make more of your own decisions with less support and intervention?
  5. Do you want a business that is very "hands-on", where you will be heavily involved, or do you want a business that you can back away from or run as an absentee owner?
  6. Are you prepared to work either nights or weekends on a regular basis, or do you prefer or require more traditional business hours?
  7. Do you like to be in a "suit and tie" environment, or do you prefer something more casual?
  8. Do you want to "cherry pick" locations for your business by being amongst the first in your community to open a franchised outlet for the business that you select, or would you prefer to wait until others are already in operation, and get the benefit of their experience?
  9. Are there certain categories of business that no matter how profitable they may be, just don't make sense to you?
  10. Would you prefer to have a business with multiple outlets, or if you can achieve the same success, would you prefer to have just one?

Compare businesses that you find to YOUR list.

At Franchise Network, we help buyers with questions like those above, as well as many others. We're often amazed at how quickly prospective franchisees change their search patterns once they develop their own personal list or "model". You can certainly see how to start to narrow the field of businesses that you are willing to consider by taking a moment and comparing them to your list.

Don't be surprised at the businesses you quickly eliminate, or by the ones you best match up with, once you've compared them to your personal criteria.

For example, do you feel nervous around cars? Great! Eliminate auto as a category. Need to have your weekends free? No problem. Eliminate most retail businesses. Do you hate making sales calls on clients? Easy�Eliminate most service businesses from your list, and so on.

Now you can start looking at businesses and industries that are still left on your list.

Here are some ways to begin your research.

  • Use technology to help you. Most franchisors have internet web pages, and they are kept more up-to-date than the library.
  • Use major sources of business information: magazines, newspapers, industry associations like the International Franchise Association (IFA), the internet, franchise experts, and local business service organizations. Each has advantages, so use as many of them as you are able to.
  • Broaden your perspectives. Read and learn about businesses you're not already familiar with. You may learn about some excellent businesses that you'd otherwise never have considered.
  • Find out about the cost of getting into a franchise, and also what a franchisor seeks in its franchisees. Eliminate businesses that are too expensive or require skills or attributes you don't feel are your strong suits.
  • Keep in mind that there is no automatic correlation between the cost of acquiring and starting a franchise, and how good a business it will ultimately be. Feel good in knowing that the best business for you, may also be the one that is the least expensive!
  • Use experts. Local franchise consultants and other business advisors can offer insights on the workings of many franchised businesses. Many consultants, as well as the SBDC, SCORE, and the SBA have free educational seminars.
  • Attend franchise expositions, and observe the choices that are available to you.

Don't compromise. Although, there's probably no such thing as a perfect business, many buyers think that if a business has only some of what they want it is the right choice. Don't get fooled! Keep up your search until you find a business that substantially conforms to the key ingredients on your list.

So now you know that the most important list of all, is your list of needs and goals. Write it down! Use it!

Written by Cheri Carroll
Copyright 2000