Good Buy

Starting Point

If a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, your route to franchise business ownership starts with a rather introspective planning excercise. Spend a few minutes with a note pad, writing down your interests, strengths, resources and the areas of business that draw your attention. Focusing as much as possible now will save you time and cut down on distractions when you plunge into the franchise marketplace.

Jot down your financial resources. List ready cash, savings and assets like a house or a car. Then visit with a banker. If your Uncle Leroy once offered to back you in business, now is the time to get more specific.

Know Where You're Going
What information trip would be complete without a cruise on the Net? The Internet is a terrific source of surface information about franchise opportunities. It's weaker as a source of in-depth, detailed information. That makes it a great place to start, to get a feel for the programs available to you. Browse for ideas, bookmark what catches your eye and discount the hype surrounding the claims you see.

Start at the Web site of the Federal Trade Commissionfor some solid insight into franchise and business opportunity investing, your rights under federal franchise law, and a peek at some of the enforcement work the FTC has done.

Trade Show Truck Stop
One of the most significant stops on your route to franchise success will be a franchise trade show in your town. These gatherings give you a terrific opportunity to kick some tires and conduct a reality check. Trade shows can be fun, overwhelming events, some with hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of people cruising the aisles. It helps to get your thoughts organized before plunging in. Memorize a few key questions to ask exhibitors, like "What's the total investment required for one of your units?" (to self: "Can I afford it?") and "How many franchises have been established in this state, and what are your plans for new units in the coming year?" (to self: "Is there room for me?").

When you arrive at the show, head for a quiet corner with a cup of coffee and go through a directory with a pen or a highlighter. Flag the companies you recognize or that you've seen on the Net, or that fit the profile of the type of business you have in mind for yourself. As you work your way through the show floor, keep checking your directory, and make sure you see every company you highlighted. If you don't keep yourself on track, distractions may prevent you from covering your list during the show.

What to Bring
  • Common sense. Use your common sense when filtering through the hype. Not every franchise is gooing to be successful, and not every offering is a good fit for your needs.
  • Money. Yes, developing any business involves a substantial investment, but don't despair. Many programs can help. Talk to your franchisor for leads and ideas. Check available SBA programs.
  • An eye for detail. Move cautiously and ask questions at every stage of your journey.
  • A hunger for information. This trip is paper- and information-intensive. Gather what's offered to you and organize it well. There's no more potent tool in your suitcase.
  • Above all else, a knowledge of yourself. The truly exciting idea about owning a franchised business is you can search out a business that speaks to you, to your interests and passions. Take the time to think about your resources and what gets you excited about the idea of owning a business. Then keep looking until you've found it.
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