Getting information about companies offering franchises has gotten much easier. Many business and consumer publications write stories about companies in franchising and some, like Entrepreneur, offer e-commerce versions. Entrepreneur's Franchise 500®contains a listing of franchise systems as well as the magazine's rating of the franchise systems and other information. Specialized directories, available at bookstores or sometimes free on the Net, contain information on franchisors. Even the U.S. Department of Commerce's bookstorehas publications that provide franchise information.
Most franchise systems have Web sites with abundant information, and many exhibit regularly at trade shows and expositions. If you're looking for a franchise location that's already up and running, you can visit Web sites like the Business Resale Networkto find out what's for sale. Trade associations and other organizations representing franchisors and franchisees have information available, but the best source may be a franchisee whose business you frequent as a consumer. Current franchisees can tell you whether the business is as good as its products or services. With the availability of details about companies on the Web, you can even do most of your research at 1 a.m. if you want to. The information is plentiful, easy to find and easy to use.
If you want to meet with a large number of franchisors, speak to their representatives, get literature about their companies and sample their products or services, you can attend one of the regional franchise expositions or trade shows. The International Franchise Association sponsors the largest exposition each year, the International Franchise Exposition (IFE). Contact the association for information at www.franchise.orgor (202) 628-8000. Besides having booths, the IFE also provides a wide-ranging educational program taught by some of the leading experts in franchising.
Other, smaller trade shows in various cities highlight franchises as well. You'll see these shows advertised in your local newspapers and on television and radio. Some of these shows also provide information on business opportunities. Because the support you get from a business opportunity isn't like the support you would expect from a franchise system, make sure you understand the difference between them.
Getting into business as a franchisee can be exciting and rewarding. However, not every franchisor offers the same level of service and not every franchisor will provide you with the same income and return on your investment. Do your research carefully . . . and do it yourself.
Michael H. Seid and Kay Marie Ainsley are managing directors of Michael H. Seid & Associates (www.msaworldwide.com), a West Hartford, Connecticut- and Troy, Michigan-based management consulting firm specializing in the franchise industry. Seid recently co-wrote Franchising for Dummies (IDG Books) with Wendy's founder Dave Thomas.