Easy Does It

As the number of two-income families and stressed-out singles multiplies, businesses that make life simpler are set to skyrocket.

The stronger the economy, the more powerful the word "convenience." In our best economy in more than two decades, Americans are working longer hours to enjoy prosperity's perks. As a result, there's a scarcity of time to shop, cook, pick up dry cleaning or get much-needed oil changes for our cars.

It's no wonder, then, that smart franchisors are jumping on society's obsession with convenience by offering critical services to busy career-builders, senior citizens and anyone else who gets by with a little help from their service providers.

You may want to make a living by making consumers' lives easier, but is this actually an easy market for entrepreneurs to break into? To answer this question, you must understand the economics of the specific business in which you're interested. What's the ratio of the value of the convenience vs. your cost of delivering the convenience? "If you're delivering dinners, for example, how much extra will people pay to have dinners delivered, or how much of a discount can a restaurant afford to give you?" asks Erik Gordon, director of the Center for Retailing Education and Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville's Warrington College of Business Administration. "Some businesses have better scale economies than others, and mobile businesses sometimes are difficult to scale."

Equally important is knowing whether you have the skills to pull it off, says Jack Armstrong, president of the Franchise Network of New Jersey in Linden. Without question, plenty of opportunities exist in the service industry, but you have to do a little self-evaluating to figure out whether you possess the personal or business skills necessary to make it happen. "If it's a retail or food business, you have to be prepared to work seven days a week, plus long hours, during the start-up phase," says Armstrong. "You also have to enjoy working with people and be a good salesperson to boot. No matter how attractive the opportunity, you must first decide whether it's a business you'll really enjoy building."

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Easy Does It.

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