Whenever I commit myself to researching on the Internet, there comes a bleary-eyed moment when, after spending a good portion of my youth watching my processor choke down animated banner ads, I think, "If this is surfing, then why am I numb from the waist down?"
Yes, I've spent days reviewing hundreds of Web sites dealing with franchising. My quest: to use the power of the Internet to access four-star franchising information. After all, we know that the Internet has forever changed franchising and will continue to do so into the next century. But can it change a potential franchisee's attempt to find, buy and operate the perfect franchise?
At first, I was amazingly unsatisfied with the results of my quest.
Like drinking water from a firehose, AOL users who search the Web using "franchise" as the search term will be deluged with 79,969 hits. If AltaVista is your search engine of choice, you can expect 734,100 hits. With this level of requisite screen time, the Net quickly turns into a morass of tedious mouse clicking.
So the reality is a bit daunting. But when you really think about it, the potential is overwhelming. After all, this is the morphing of two of the hottest, fastest-growing and most incredibly hyped concepts the business world has ever witnessed--namely, the Web and franchising. The problem is, due to the many franchise sales consultants scrambling to add clients to their home pages, the bulk of the information is so scattered and basic that I doubt many of you will tolerate the endless search. Although I've never counted, popular estimates show more than 5,000 franchisors hawking their wares, and you'd have to go to several Web directories to find just a portion of these.
I agree that expanded commerce is the best boon for entrepreneurs since the Klondike Gold Rush, but my research indicates you're going to need a digital torpedo (or a really good chair) to blast your way into some good data. Frankly, I still prefer using the printed directories, like this issue of Entrepreneur--they make it easier to compare opportunities, and books, by their nature, cause you to pause and reflect. However, I didn't want my lower back pain to be in vain, so I've highlighted some of the more helpful spots on a Web site I created in conjunction with this feature. Go to http://www.ecounsel.net to find some Web surfing highlights.
Todd D. Maddocks is a franchise attorney, Entrepreneur's "Franchise Focus" columnist, and founder and president of http://www.ecounsel.net, an Internet-based, digital nervous system for business attorneys. You can reach him at TMaddocks@ecounsel.net