Franchise Country

We hit the road and went in search of the hottest trends in franchising, from the mountains to the prairies.

I'm in danger. My car is rocketing south through the heart of Texas, on I-35, one of the busiest highways in the country. This ugly, congested slab is a huge distribution channel connecting Mexico to the heart of the United States. It's a place where countless pickup trucks blast past hardworking drug dogs, amid a sea of looming 100-foot-pole signs, screaming for business. My orders from Entrepreneur were succinct: Go forth into the countryside, perform reconnaissance on "hot trends," and file a scouting report about my firsthand look at the franchise landscape.

The fuel light is blinking, and my stomach growls. I'm on a road trip from Dallas to San Antonio, Texas, to attend the International Franchise Association's 43rd annual convention. My own road rules have put me in danger--namely, that during my travel odyssey, I would not patronize any franchise brand that I had previously patronized. That's why I'm hungry and running out of gas, just four hours into my quest. It is both a tremendous privilege and an incredible burden to report on franchise trends. The IFA says franchises exist in no less than 75 different

How can you tell if the franchise of your dreams is in it for the long haul? Read "The Test of Time" for five tips.

industry categories, and, if I wrote about a different concept each day of the year, it would take me about 13 years to cover the industry. So while it is a little precocious of anyone to tell you the best gamble of your nest egg for a franchised business, the IFA's annual convention is a great place to start getting some ideas. This year, approximately 1,600 franchise professionals attended the convention. It's a great place to attend seminars and listen to compelling speeches, but the real gold is dispersed in the quiet conversations of the inner circle that take place during the breaks.

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This article was originally published in the June 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Franchise Country.

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