Stick to the Path

Now That You're an Owner...

You sign the franchise agreement and celebrate taking such a giant step in your business career. Then what? What can you expect of the franchisor and the business development process? Though there are too many variables to pinpoint a "typical" process, expect some common steps in your franchise's development.

A well-organized franchisor will have every step in the development of your new business mapped out in detail. You'll probably be assigned a lead person to help you push through the stages necessary to open on time.

  • Site location: Your first task is to find a site. You'll rely on the expertise and guidance of the franchisor for the business features of a strong site. What levels of automotive and pedestrian traffic should you look for? What neighborhood demographics make an ideal site for your business?

    Finding a location takes time, and you should jump into it with enthusiasm. Locate a commercial real estate broker. Many franchisors will visit your market to discuss possibilities.

  • Orientation: Most franchisors schedule a visit to company headquarters soon after you sign the franchise agreement. Expect to spend the better part of a week meeting with franchise representatives and receiving the complete introduction to the company, top to bottom.
  • Team-building: One of the most critical steps in preparing for business is to find a solid team of managers and line employees. Expect to tackle this yourself, taking out newspaper ads and interviewing candidates. The franchisor can tell you how many people you need to hire before you begin the business.
  • Training: You and your managers will probably attend a full training program at the franchisor's training center, covering everything from opening the front doors in the morning to cleanup procedures at the end of the day. Great training is the hallmark of the best franchise organizations.
  • Build-out: The franchisor usually provides a set of standard architectural drawings, which you and your contractor can adapt to your specific location. At this point, you tap into the financing you have lined up for the business. With money flowing, you buy operating equipment, small wares, signs, fixtures and build-ins for installation. The contractor and his or her team will pull it together into a complete business. Remember that the franchisor will have to approve all aspects of the build-out, so make sure you touch base at all critical stages with your franchisor company representative. Now the business starts to take shape, leaping out of your imagination into a real commercial space.
  • Opening: Ah, the unparalleled excitement of opening day! Many franchisors send out an entire training team that does nothing but train new employee groups for store openings. The opening team arrives about 10 days before opening day and trains all your employees in the various parts of operation.
  • Field support: Your franchisor will visit your operation regularly to discuss what's going right and what needs to be improved. Some franchise programs have adopted elaborate evaluation points systems, but the thrust of the concept is the same: giving you an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the business, and an expert assessment of where and how you can make improvements.

Andrew A. Caffey is a franchise attorney in the Washington, DC, area and a former general counsel for the International Franchise Association. He is also the author of Franchises and Business Opportunities.

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This article was originally published in the January 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Stick to the Path.

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