True Confessions

What it's really like to be a franchisee?

You've been talking about buying a franchise for years. Your spouse, family and friends have heard it all-from last year's plans to purchase a sandwich shop to your latest interest in mobile auto detailing. But this year you're really serious-whether it's because your boss is getting on your nerves or because you're just feeling the urge to be your own boss.

Whatever your reason, if you're considering becoming a franchisee, chances are you're wondering, Will owning a franchise be all it's cracked up to be?

"It was scary," says Dick Shea, describing his first few nerve-racking months of franchise ownership. After 23 unfulfilling years in real estate sales, a recent divorce, and the realization that he was quickly nearing age 50, Shea decided to purchase a franchise from McLean, Virginia-based Chesapeake Bagel Bakery. "It was a major undertaking," he acknowledges, "but I finally decided I was going to do something that made me happy."

It's this yearning to take control and head toward the future with something you've built that's yours-all yours-that leads many entrepreneurs into franchise ownership. When Shea and his 46-year-old partner, Tim Parker, opened the doors to their Richmond, Virginia, bagel store on March 17, 1994, they joined a long history of entrepreneurs who, just like them, decided being a franchisee was exactly what they wanted. But what actually happens after you buy a franchise?

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This article was originally published in the January 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: True Confessions.

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