This is the fun part. Attend a franchise trade show and begin to make contacts and gather information. No trade show coming through your town in the near future, you say? Flip through a recent issue of Entrepreneur or, after the 1st of October, go to Entrepreneur.com and click on the "Franchise Zone," then contact franchise companies directly for information. Your task is to locate businesses that meet your fundamental goals and play to your strengths.
Attending a franchise trade show can be the most efficient way to immerse yourself quickly in the franchise marketplace. Franchise trade shows can attract hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees, so brace yourself. Impose a method to the show's madness. Grab the show directory and find a place to sit down with a cup of coffee before you walk the aisles. Read the directory with pen in hand, and mark all the businesses you recognize or have even a passing interest in.
Have two or three good questions ready to go. For instance: "What are your expansion plans for my town?" "What separates your franchise from all these others?" "What are you looking for in a franchisee?" You get the idea. You need a good opener that gets the representative talking about his or her franchise.
Many retail franchises qualify applicants by their liquidity, their net worths and/or their business experience. They want to know whether you're serious about making a business investment or just dreaming. At the trade show, dress to communicate that you're serious about business. Leave your version of weekend ripped-T-shirt casual at home, take some personal business cards and prepare to take notes. This will set you apart from the crowd.
You'll come away from the trade show with a bag of company literature, your notes and some free food. All in all, not a bad afternoon. Now go over your notes, jot down your impressions and organize your thoughts. Keep the real possibilities, discard the junk and plan to contact the companies on your short list for additional discussion, maybe via one-on-one visits.