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Five things to ask yourself before
opening a franchise

Written by Jim Judy, Forbes Council Member


Every day, thousands of hopeful entrepreneurs consider whether or not they should fulfill their dreams of small-business ownership by investing in a franchise. Many will look to franchising because they like the idea of joining an established brand. Some will want the security of the unparalleled support that franchise businesses offer. Lots of people get excited about opening multiple units or developing an area as they create a franchising empire using a proven system of success.

These are just a few of the reasons why becoming a franchise business owner makes sense. But unfortunately, the biggest reason why people consider investing in a particular franchise is also the wrong reason. It’s not because they understand the system, the support or even the corporate culture, it’s because they like the product or service that franchise has to offer.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s important to feel good about the good or service you are choosing to sell in your community, but with more than 3,000 brands currently franchising today, it’s not going to be terribly difficult to find one with a product you like.

Just because you really like the pizza at your neighborhood franchise doesn’t mean you’re right to spend your days working in the restaurant industry. You may love the way your yard looks after your lawn care provider takes care of it, but that doesn’t necessarily make you well-suited to own and operate a mobile franchise. And while you may consider your local gym your second home, that doesn’t mean you’re the person to launch your area’s next great fitness center.

Rather than consider a franchise business because you’re their number one customer, here are five things you should pay attention to when considering franchise ownership.

How do my skills line up with the system?

Franchise systems already know who the optimal candidates are. How much the candidate likes their product has nothing to do with success in running one or more of their units. It has everything to do with a candidate’s skill set, and how those can be applied to winning as one of their franchisees.

For some systems, a strong background in sales makes the most sense. For others, it’s a keen ability when it comes to customer service. Some franchise systems are looking for people with terrific management skills, and some may want people who thrive in a hands-on business. Having a deep understanding of the skills you have to offer a franchise system is one of the most important steps to determining which ones will be a good fit.

How do I want the franchise to help me build the life I want?

When people decide to say goodbye to life as an employee, it’s often because their employment wasn’t offering them the lifestyle design they wanted. Whether it was too many hours on the road, too many missed family events or too little time doing desirable tasks, the job wasn’t fulfilling to their life.

Franchising not only offers solutions to that problem, but franchisors thrive on being able to answer a candidate’s life goals and dreams. Some candidates may choose franchises that only require their attention during normal business hours, Monday thru Friday, others may look for flexible hours that work around their family priorities. Many enjoy the semi-absentee franchise model, requiring only 10 to 20 hours per week of the owner’s time in order to succeed. Before looking at specific franchise systems, it’s critical that candidates take some time to think about what type of lifestyle they want the system to support.

What does the leadership team look like?

Getting to know the leadership team in a franchise system is one of the most important steps a franchise candidate can take. That’s because buying a franchise means buying into a proven model of success, and that model was built or furthered by the company’s leadership.

Candidates need to understand who the leaders are, what role they play in the company, and what type of skills and experience they contribute to the company’s success. It’s important to not only know who the people on the support team are but also to have some meaningful conversations, to make sure they are comfortable speaking frankly with them.

What do other franchise owners in the system have to say about the business?

Through a process called “validation,” franchise candidates have the opportunity to speak with current franchise owners about their firsthand experiences in the franchise system. It’s important to listen to what they have to say, but even more important to know what to ask. Remember, they’ve already been where you’re thinking of going and can offer meaningful guidance through your franchising journey.

What type of support will I need as I launch this franchise?

Once you know what type of skills you can offer a franchise, you’ll also have a good idea of what kind of help you’ll need from them.

Candidates with a strong marketing background may appreciate a system that encourages owners to take a greater role in promoting their individual franchises. That same candidate may not feel as confident in their ability to select strong managers, so they will want a franchise system that helps them determine what to look for when building their management team. Some owners may want a robust online business hub, allowing them access support on their own schedule; others may feel more comfortable knowing they can get someone on the phone to help them 24 hours per day.

Most franchise systems will appreciate hearing that you like the product or service they have to offer. However, they’ll be even more appreciative to know you did your due diligence in the aforementioned areas of franchise research. So will you.