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A Long Way

Reflections on 25 years of franchising from Entrepreneur's Editorial Director Rieva Lesonsky
January 1, 2004
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65998

Do you remember what you were doing in 1980? Likely not, since based on the average age of Entrepreneur readers, most of you were teenagers. I, on the other hand, was a research assistant at Entrepreneur magazine. Most of what I remember from those days is fragmentary, but I do recall sitting on the floor surrounded by hundreds of forms, helping compile Entrepreneur's very first Franchise 500®, published in the 1980 March issue.

In those days, Entrepreneur was a little-known magazine helping people start businesses. Back in 1979 to '80, few Americans had entrepreneurial aspirations; most didn't even know what the word entrepreneur meant. The few advertisers we had at the time were pitching franchise and business opportunities (not nearly as popular then as they are today). Someone (I don't remember who) had the idea of ranking the franchises. And so, pre-PCs, we sat on the floor and compared the data.

Flash forward a few years to the mid-1980s. I had left Entrepreneur (been fired, actually) but was now back. Then editorial assistant, now executive editor Maria Anton and I were responsible for compiling the annual Franchise 500®, which had brought the magazine some positive attention. Over the years, we (yes, we're both still here) have fine-tuned the 500, updating the formula (which, like McDonald's sauce, remains a secret to most), adding new questions, requiring franchisor documentation and having a CPA review each franchise's financials.

Entrepreneurship has changed significantly since that first Franchise 500® was published. (For an insider's view, read David J. Kaufmann's "The Big Bang".) Everyone knows what an entrepreneur is, millions have become entrepreneurs and millions more aspire to that goal. Over the years, some have questioned whether a franchisee is really an entrepreneur. Well, here at Entrepreneur, we know franchisees are entrepreneurs. We know, despite what many mistakenly believe about franchising, that while someone else comes up with the concept, it is up to you to build on and add to that concept every day. We know you've worked hard, saving money to invest in a business you can call your own. And while there's a risk to any investment (that's why you're an entrepreneur), we've worked hard to mitigate the risk by giving you the information you need to make better decisions.

Franchising, too, has come a long way in 25 years. It's more than flipping burgers and cleaning houses. It accounts for 40 percent of all retail transactions in the United States. It's also helped millions of Americans make millions of dollars-some by starting a franchise, others by buying one. It's taken people who didn't think they could own a business and made them extraordinary entrepreneurs. It took a teenager and made him one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America (read "From Zero to Hero").

Entrepreneur is no longer a magazine about start-ups. But, the Franchise 500® still provides an objective view of the hundreds of franchise opportunities clamoring for your attention. And this, the 25th anniversary edition of the Franchise 500®, contains the most comprehensive assessment of franchise opportunities available anywhere. Use it wisely.

First Finishes
1980 McDonald's1993 Subway
1981 Dan Hanna Auto Wash1994 Subway
1982 McDonald's1995 Subway
1983 McDonald's1996 Subway
1984 McDonald's1997 McDonald's
1985 KFC1998 McDonald's
1986 Domino's Pizza1999 Yogen Fruz
1987 Domino's Pizza2000 McDonald's
1988 Subway2001 Subway
1989 Subway2002 Subway
1990 Subway2003 Subway
1991 Subway2004 Subway
1992 McDonald's