they’re going to make to how hard they’re going to work to how the new business is going to affect their lives. One of the best ways to “get realistic,” says DeBolt, is to talk one-on-one with other franchisees in the system about their own experiences.
Call ex-franchisees too. Your referral calls shouldn’t stop at current franchisees. Every franchise’s UFOC includes a list of franchisees that have left the system in the past year, as well as those currently in it. Contact a few to find out why they left, whether or not they would come back, their franchise experience, and what their overall feelings are about this particular franchisor.
Visit the company to evaluate it. DeBolt advises all new franchisees to visit the franchisor’s headquarters to meet the people they will be interfacing with and to get a sense of the corporate culture. During that visit, get as much financial information as you can about the company (this information can also be obtained from the other franchisees that you speak with), and be sure to ask questions about the company’s commitment to diversity, recruitment initiatives, and track record with minorities and minority communities.
Get some legal advice. Too many small business owners wait until the last minute to get legal advice. Before signing on the dotted line, have a lawyer review the company’s UFOC and included contracts. “It’s a pretty thick document that should be understood,” says Seid. “That should be done by an attorney who is experienced in franchising.”
Think about the bigger picture. When selecting a franchise, look for one that will not only provide employment for you but also for your surrounding community. “That’s essential,” says Seid, “and [it’s] important to be able to give a kid a job and/or training and to have a business that can elevate people into management positions.”
Be ready for the long haul. According to DeBolt, franchising itself is not a “short attention span” success experience. It requires at least a year or two of concentrated, intense effort, during which time, he says, the business may come before your family and/or hobbies and other interests. “There really has to be a singular focus on what you’re trying to build,” says DeBolt, “which is a new, successful business that will hopefully take care of you for the rest of your life if run properly.”