Let's Get It Started

Part 3: Narrowing the Playing Field

The further we go in this process, the more time-consuming it becomes, so we want to be as efficient as possible in further narrowing down the list. We're now going to try to identify representative companies in each remaining segment to decide whether to go further with the entire segment.

Step 24: Pick a representative company to examine. Let's say one of your remaining segments is fitness businesses, and you had identified from your source data that there were at least 25 different franchise companies in the segment. What you need to do now is pick a company you think should be representative of the segment. Here are two good criteria for selection: 1) Assuming the list you're working off of has company growth data, pick a company with strong growth compared to its peers, and 2) if there is an 800-pound gorilla in the segment--a company that's way bigger than the others--don't pick that one; it may not be a realistic sample of the current growth potential possible for you.

Step 25: This is your initial company target list. Go to the website of each of the representative companies you've selected and take the time to carefully review their information. Remember, what you're looking for at this point is anything that turns you off about the segment, so it can be eliminated. Assuming you don't find any such negative information, fill out their request-for-information form, because it's finally time to start talking to franchisors.

Jeff Elgin has almost 20 years of experience franchising, both as a franchisee and a senior franchise company executive. He's currently the CEO of FranChoice Inc., a company that provides free consulting to consumers looking for a franchise that best meets their needs.

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This article was originally published in the May 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Let's Get It Started.

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