It has been fascinating to watch the ever-increasing numbers and varieties of industries that have begun using franchising as a growth strategy over the past 25 years. One of the most interesting of these is the "business consulting" services segment.

These types of franchises come in many forms, but the common denominator is the delivery of services by the franchisee to businesses and/or entrepreneurs. While some may wonder why you'd need to buy a franchise to deliver such services, many of these franchises have proven that a great system, a strong brand and effective marketing can create a much more successful consulting business than you'd get going it on your own.

Business consulting franchises offer a number of different services. Some of the most common include:

  • General Business Consulting. These franchises follow a standardized approach to identifying either problem areas or opportunities in any business operation and then recommending strategies and tactics to address the challenges or to take advantage of the opportunities. The franchisee is typically someone with extensive experience in different aspects of business growth who can apply this knowledge in the context of the franchise system.
  • CEO Support Groups. These franchises facilitate interaction, learning and support between business leaders. The franchisee recruits a number of CEOs to form a group of typically about a dozen leaders who meet in a group format monthly to compare notes, discuss issues and listen to speakers address topics of common interest. The franchisee is usually someone with extensive senior executive leadership experience in the corporate world. You may also find comparable support group opportunities that are focused on CFOs or other specialties.
  • Specific Cost Savings Consulting. These franchises consult businesses on saving costs, typically in one specific area. The only cost to the business is a percentage of the money saved, so it's a risk-free benefit for the client. The area of focus can be anything from a company's telephone or utility bills to the pouring cost of liquor in a bar or restaurant.
  • IT Focused Consulting. These franchises provide tech advice to business owners. This can be as basic as advising the business on what kinds of computers, servers and other hardware it needs to finding innovative solutions to solve technology related problems. The franchise can also analyze the cost structure of a company's current technology platforms to determine if it can save more using other options. The franchisee usually has business experience, but not necessarily in the technology field. Since he or she can hire the technical expertise needed, a franchisee's main role is usually associated with sales and communication skills.
  • Internet Marketing Focused Consulting. These franchises are much like the IT focused ones, except they stress the soft side of technology, such as website designs and other programming needs. As in IT consulting, the franchisee skills needed for success are typically much more focused on sales and communication rather than any specific programming expertise. The actual service expertise is usually provided by either employees or by a central service organization run by the franchisor.
  • Business Staffing Consulting. These types of franchises represent one of the earliest and largest examples of business consulting franchises. The role of these companies is to assist businesses in filling their needs for employees, either because the need is temporary or because the business is unable to fulfill the need through their own efforts. As the marketplace has turned more and more to outsourcing, many large companies use such services on a regular basis. The primary role of the franchisee is selling the services to other businesses and managing their own employee operation effectively.
  • Focused Business Component Consulting. These types of franchises are much like general business consulting franchises, except they focus on only one discipline in the operation of the business. The most common areas of focus are sales systems and marketing programs. As in general business consulting, the franchisee typically uses a formal standardized system developed by the franchisor to deliver the service to the business customer.

These are some of the most common forms of business consulting franchises. They can be wonderful opportunities if you're attracted to the lifestyle and income potential of a personal services consulting business but also want the security of a proven operating system, marketing approach and brand.

The secret to success in these types of franchises, as in all others, is to carefully research the opportunity before deciding to buy. Call a lot of existing franchisees and spend the time necessary to really understand their working environment and role. In these types of franchises, it's also wise to "shadow" an existing franchise to find out exactly how a typical day in the life of the franchisee goes. Take the time to make sure you're comfortable with the role, and you should be in great shape for a positive and rewarding experience.