For the past five years, Shelton Jefferson has been running things as the top gun in his computer networking firm. In the early stages, the company was based on his concept, marketing plan, intuition, experience, and capital. Entrepreneurship enabled him to create reasonable equity and value in his own business rather than in someone else’s company, and that was an accomplishment.
On the other hand, Jefferson’s independence proved to be a limitation when it came time for him to expand his business. About two years ago, his company began providing computer training. “We were mainly hardware and software people,” he admits, “and many of our customers wanted training. But we just thought we weren’t as good as we could be.” As a solution, in March 1999, Jefferson used $20,000 of his personal savings to purchase a franchise from The Fourth R. The computer education firm provided Jefferson with the assistance and training he needed to expand into a new area. Jefferson, whose New York-based Fourth R franchise employs five people, says the franchisor’s support system and access to strategies for running a company helped him build a successful business. He expects his franchise to net about $500,000 this year.
Franchising may be for you as well. Buying a franchise gives an entrepreneur the right to use the franchise’s name, trademark, and product. Franchises also offer tried-and-true business and marketing formulas, as well as a support system for new franchisees. “When you join a franchise system, you join a system that has already perfected the business model,” says Don DeBolt, president of the International Franchising Association (IFA). “By the time you get to the system, and you acquire the rights to operate that franchise, you not only have a very sophisticated training system and ongoing support for your franchise business, you also have a wealth of information and support from your peers, who are already operating franchises in that system.”
There are franchise opportunities in nearly 75 industries, according to IFA, which is based in Washington, D.C. Generating $1 trillion in retail sales in 1999, franchises employ more than 8 million Americans. Although most franchises are brick-and-mortar, storefront, or mobile operations, many enable entrepreneurs to work from home.
Some of the hottest industries in franchising-residential cleaning services, elder care, lawn care-reflect the trends of the marketplace overall. “Service-oriented franchises are popular because consumers lack the time to complete these activities themselves. There’s even a rent-a-husband franchise to help with chores around the house,” cites DeBolt. “On the other end of the spectrum, there is an increase among franchises dealing with industrial-type issues. For example, Metal Supermarkets makes industrial parts for companies that need replacement parts for older equipment.”
Franchisees like Willie T. Rollins are able to capitalize on filling a service-oriented niche. Although Rollins had already run his own financially lucrative landscape maintenance company for 14 years, six years ago he decided to purchase a franchise with $15,000 of his personal savings. Rollins credits his franchisor with helping him build every area of his company.