Let's Get It Started

Part 5: The Short Strokes

Once you get to the point with any franchise company where you've completed all these research steps and you're still interested, you're just about done finding a company to help you accomplish your goals and dreams of business ownership. Although we're almost done, there are still some key issues we have yet to address.

Step 39: Get out the narrative you created way back at Step 8 and make darn sure that everything about this company matches up with what you decided you need to have. Don't let yourself be talked into something that isn't going to get you where you want to be!

Step 40: Make sure you've covered everything with your spouse, if you have one, and that he or she is completely onboard.

Step 41: Try to call at least a couple more employees of the franchisor (other than the sales staff) to get a feel for their attitude. The operations or marketing staff working with new franchisees or the CEO would be best.

Step 42: Take a look around the territory you're interested in. Are there competitors, and if so, how do they seem to be doing? This will give you a final confirmation about the viability of the territory you're considering.

Step 43: Recognize that any anxiety you might be feeling is a completely normal part of this process. If you're like most people, you're leaving your comfort zone by purchasing a business, so you're going to feel fear about making the decision. Once it's made, the anxiety will turn into exhilaration!

Step 44: Examine the actual franchise agreement. Carefully read it and make sure any questions you have are completely answered. The FTC requires that these agreements be written in understandable English rather than "legalese," but you should still make sure you understand each of the provisions that govern your contractual relationship with the franchisor.

Step 45: Ask the franchisor if the franchise agreement is negotiable. Most good franchise companies will not negotiate their agreements, but if it is negotiable, hire a good franchise attorney to assist you.

Step 46: Consult with outside advisors, including accountants and attorneys, who can provide information you need to make this important decision.

Step 47: Visit the franchisor in person. Meet the officers and the people who will be directly responsible for supporting your efforts, and make sure you feel completely comfortable with each one of them. Take your spouse or an advisor along to get a second opinion if you have any doubts at all.

Step 48: Review all your notes and make sure all your final questions are answered and that no outstanding matters need to be addressed before you're ready to make a decision.

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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