Consistency from location to location requires that franchisees follow the rules provided by the franchisor. In making a decision about whether you are franchisee material, ask yourself these simple questions:
Do you have the need to experiment with your products and services? If you happen to like well-done hamburgers, will you be satisfied if the franchisor's recipe requires them to be medium rare? Do you have a burning desire to buy a truck and make deliveries to customer's homes, even if the franchisor's concept is restricted to customers coming to your location?
Do you think of yourself as an advertising genius? If the franchisor provides you with advertising material, will you be tempted to change it? Do you think your market is different from everyone else's, and will you expect the franchisor to modify their brand message just to suit your wishes?
Do you play well on a team? Other franchisees are relying on you to offer consumers a consistent level of service, product quality and brand message. You have to work with others in the system in making decisions. All these decisions will have some impact on your business, and you'll often be required to follow the majority's determinations, even when you personally don't agree with them. Can you do this?
Are you willing to share confidential information about your business? Franchisors want you to provide information about your business, including reports and maybe even copies of your tax returns. You may consider some of the information they request personal. Field staff will make periodic visits to your location, asking you questions and wanting to look at some of your records. Even knowing the reason they need the information is to help you operate your business better, are you prepared to provide them the information and listen to their advice?
If you can't honestly answer yes to each question, you should reconsider becoming a franchisee.
Of course, some franchise systems have fewer standards and less control systems in place and let their franchisees operate like true entrepreneurs, basically doing whatever they like. If you couldn't answer yes to the questions above, franchises like these may seem like the perfect solution. The catch-22, however, is those aren't classic franchise systems-they're more like businesses sharing a common name. In the not-too-distant future, the price you'll pay for lack of consistency from location to location is extremely expensive, as the power of the brand will vanish in consumer confusion.
Should you become a franchisee? We can't answer that question for you. Your answer will come from an honest assessment of yourself. The advantages of franchising are numerous, but the type of entrepreneur you are has a lot to do with whether owning a franchise will make you happy in the long run.
Michael H. Seid, founder and managing director of franchise advisory firm Michael H. Seid & Associates, has more than 20 years' experience as a senior operations and financial executive and a consultant for franchise, retail, restaurant and service companies. He is co-author of the bookFranchising for Dummiesand a former member of the International Franchise Association's Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
Kay Marie Ainsley, managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates, consults with companies on the appropriateness of franchising; assists franchisors with systems, manuals and training programs; and is a frequent speaker and author of numerous articles on franchising.