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Burning Questions

We asked everything you'd ever want to ask, and these franchisees had the answers.
January 1, 2002
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/47468

Finding the right franchise to fit your needs is hard work-there are so many issues to consider, choices to make, questions to ask. How can you be sure you haven't missed a step? Here, we ask five franchisees the questions you might or should be asking about selecting and running a franchise.

QUESTION: How did you know this franchise was the right one for you?

ANSWER: I took an opportunity to work for my friend who owned a Fastsigns just to see if I would like it. I immediately enjoyed servicing customers, designing signs and the overall management operations of the franchise.
-Barbara Ellifritis, 36, Fastsigns franchisee in National City, California

ANSWER: We explored several franchises before choosing Visiting Angels. The fact that they were a start-up appealed to us, because we felt they had the energy and the vision to do something different. While their marketing materials weren't as glossy or fancy as other franchisors', their message was clear and fit our business goals. -Nate Murray, 49, Visiting Angels franchisee in Marshfield, Massachusetts

QUESTION: Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?

ANSWER: I am a pretty independent person and enjoy being in control of my own destiny, so from that perspective, I fit the most widely accepted definition. However, I don't take big risks without closely analyzing the challenges. In that regard, I'm not a daring type of entrepreneur. I'd say I'm more a cautious, thoughtful type. -Ken Higgins, 43, Heavenly Ham franchisee in the Baltimore area

ANSWER: I didn't at first. As soon as I started setting up my business, though, those feelings changed. I guess it was largely due to necessity. It's sink or swim. I was still in my 20s and was instantly thrust into a position of having to make decisions every week that would test every aspect of my personality: tenacity, intelligence, creativity, resourcefulness, common sense, salesmanship and physical endurance. Since my business has survived and ultimately thrived for 14 years, I would consider myself an entrepreneur.
-Tedd Wein, 43, Mail Boxes Etc. franchisee in Pittsburgh

QUESTION: What's the best part about being a franchisee?

ANSWER: My relationship with corporate leadership. I have opportunities to relay vital information and opinions to the president and the vice president of the corporation, and am assured I can have an important part in directing the future of the business. -Matt Turner, 32, Metal Supermarkets franchisee in Tallahassee, Florida

The Worst Part of Franchising, Smart Questions to Ask and More

QUESTION: What's the worst part about being a franchisee?

ANSWER: Most business owners are, by nature, independent people-they don't like to be told what to do. As a franchisee, I'm required to follow certain procedures. It can be difficult, because the franchisor and the franchisee have their own needs, and at times these needs seem to be in conflict. While we clearly understand we need each other, it's sometimes challenging to address issues such as reinvestment and new store development. -Higgins

ANSWER: Properly staffing the franchise, finding and training the right people to service the customers and keep the business running smoothly. Also, being the boss, having the "buck stop here," can be both frustrating and lonely. -Wein

QUESTION: Should you have started your own business instead of joining a franchise?

ANSWER: No. The franchise allowed us to be up and running faster and more effectively earlier than if we had gone on our own. The beauty of any franchise is that others have made mistakes and have learned from them; in turn, you have the benefit of their lessons. -Murray

ANSWER: No. I started my own independent business seven years before. Even though that business was a success, I like having a structure I can call on for advice and expertise. -Turner

QUESTION: What's the one question someone should ask when looking for a franchise?

ANSWER: What relationship do the franchisees have with the franchisor?
-Higgins

ANSWER: How well does this business fit my personality? -Wein

ANSWER: Is the way this company does business consistent with my values, work ethic and business approach? -Murray

ANSWER: What's my competition? -Turner

QUESTION: What's the one question you didn't ask but wish you had?

ANSWER: How important is location and visibility to my success? I ended up relocating my store after four years in business to the opposite end of my shopping center-a costly but very worthwhile move. -Wein

ANSWER: How do I deal with buying an existing location from another franchisee? I wish I would have been able to anticipate how the customers would feel about the transition, how to handle the staff and how to incorporate new policies. -Ellifritis

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