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You spent a weekend, or maybe just part of a weekend, at the franchise expo and you’re feeling like a new person because you’ve seen your future! Now all you’ve got to do is seize it, and you may be wondering what’s next?
If you found “the one,” as in the one franchise concept that you know you must acquire, you’re among the lucky few. Chances are you found more than just one concept and you’re torn between two or more. Or maybe you didn’t get all your questions answered, mostly because you thought of the questions on your way home from the expo, or you just didn’t have enough time to talk to everyone on your list at the expo.
What do you do now? First, take a breath. Next, follow the suggestions below to get to the next step in your franchise journey.
- That bag of literature that you brought home from the expo – the bag with brochures, CDs, booklets, pencils and other giveaways -- maybe even a left over pretzel – schedule an hour this week to sort through it all. Do not toss the bag into a closet – you won’t find it for a year! Keep only what interests you. As for the rest of it, give it to family and friends who you think might be interested in a franchise.
- Do your best to keep information about no more than six franchise brands. Okay, if you need to keep information about ten concepts, go ahead, but keep in mind that more concepts means more work, and it doesn’t necessarily mean a better choice of a franchise.
- Schedule time to think about your strengths as a franchisee. Now’s the time to review notes from any of the seminars you attended at the expo. Or if you’ve met with a franchise coach, or you’ve taken notes from books that you’ve read, or interviews you conducted with existing franchisees, look at that information and review why you want to be a franchise and what type of franchise you want to own for the next 5, 10 or 20-plus years.
- Look again at the information you collected about the franchise concepts, including information that you collected from franchise websites. Which concepts meet your expectations? Which concepts, when you think about representing them as a franchisee, send shivers up your back? You’ll know which one or two is right for you. Now concentrate on them. What more do you need to know about them?
- Who did you meet from these concepts at the expo? Or who has contacted you from these concepts? Make a phone call right now (so what if it’s 2 a.m., leave a voice mail) and introduce yourself. Explain that you have reviewed the company’s information and you want to take the next step to become a franchisee. Don’t get scared. You’re not committing to anything. You are not committed to buy a franchise until you sign the franchise agreement, so stay calm. You’re merely considering your options at this point. Ask if you can attend an upcoming Discovery Day, or even better, find out if someone from the company will meet you at one of their local franchises to help you get more information.
- If you haven’t completed the franchise company’s qualification form, or application for a franchise, do so now. There’s nothing to fear. This doesn’t cost you any money and it does not obligate you in any way. However, you’re not going to get additional information, including the disclosure document, or get a Discovery Day invitation until the franchisor knows more about you. If you’re not qualified to become a franchisee, the franchisor will quickly let you know and you’ll need to move on to the next concept, or convince the franchisor why you are qualified.
- Schedule a date to meet the franchisor, either at a franchisee’s location, or at the franchisor’s location. Before or during this meeting, the franchisor should give you the franchise disclosure document, as required by law. Ask for it! Take notes when you meet with the franchisor. Take a family member with you. Your mission is to learn all that you can about the opportunities the franchisor offers you, but to also assess the opportunities in terms of your expectations and qualifications. Furthermore, see if you can get comfortable with the franchisor. If not, keep looking!
- Complete your due diligence. Meet with existing franchisees and visit franchise locations to ask questions and observe. Go back through the notes you took when you read books about how to buy a franchise and when you sat through seminars where you were told the A to Zs of Buying a Franchise. Follow through on these important details, making certain that your franchise choice is compatible with your desires and qualifications as a franchisee.
- Set appointments with your advisors including a franchise attorney, an accountant, and moneylenders (unless you don’t need money to invest in a franchise – lucky you!). Talk to representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration – even if you don’t need money, SBA has seminars that may be helpful to you. If there’s a Small Business Development Center in your city, go there!
- Set your own Decision Day! You don’t need to feel intimidated by a franchise sales person. You are in control of buying your franchise. You’ll make the decision when you are ready. If they pressure you, i.e. “If you don’t make the decision this weekend you could lose this opportunity,” be willing to take that risk. Don’t say “Yes” until you are convinced that this is the right franchise opportunity for you. Once you’re convinced, the rest is easy. Call the franchisor, get the franchise agreement (it’s different from the disclosure document – it’s the only document that obligates you), sign it, and set your date to join the franchisor’s training program. Within a matter of weeks you’ll be a franchisee!
And now, kick back and celebrate for a while. Once the training begins, you may be in a daze for a while, trying to make sense of all the information. You may even ask yourself, “What did I do?” . . . but it’s merely a momentary reaction. What you did was buy a franchise business, and if you did your homework well, you’re at the beginning of what will hopefully become an amazing franchise journey with all the rewards you anticipated. And it all began at that franchise expo!