When prospective franchisees begin to compare one franchise opportunity with another, one of the items they need to examine closely is the training the system will provide them. Running any business is a complex undertaking. Besides having to know how to prepare your products or deliver your services to your customers, you need to understand how to manage the business, hire and fire employees, advertise, do the books, make deposits plus a thousand other details. As a franchisee, you'll also have to do everything in compliance with the consistency standards of the franchisor. But not all franchisors provide the same level of training to their franchisees or prepare their franchisees for success.
This month, we'll examine how to tell the difference between franchisors committed to training and those who aren't. Then next month, we'll look at some techniques franchisors use to make certain you're prepared to operate your new business.
When it comes to training, many franchisors look alike. On average, they provide between one and five weeks of training, but what if those five weeks of training consist of no more than working in an existing operation? Who trains your management team and your line staff? What happens when new products are launched or some of your management team quits and you need to replace and train your other personnel? This is when the difference between a great training program and a not-so-great training program becomes critical.
You should always meet with your future franchisor and plan to spend considerable time with its training department before you sign the contract. If your franchisor is using a franchise broker, understand that it's the broker's job to close the sale quickly, and you may need to insist upon a face-to-face meeting with the franchisor. (This is one reason we recommend you avoid franchise systems that have outsourced their franchisee recruiting.) Some of the questions you should be concerned with are:
Where does the training take place? How long is the initial training program and what, if any, additional training costs must you pay in addition to your franchise fee?
Who is required to attend training? Are there criteria established for ensuring you're prepared to operate the business once training is completed? Simply spending time in the franchisor's training program may not be sufficient for everyone. The best person to tell you if you're ready for the challenge of operating the franchise is the franchisor.
Can you bring your managers and initial staff to training? If they aren't on board with you yet (which is fairly typical), can they attend training classes after they're hired? How much will this additional training cost you?
What's in the training curriculum? How much of your time will be spent in the franchisor's headquarters in classroom training and how much time will be spent in an operating location? What subjects are covered and in what depth? Will you only learn how to make the product or deliver the service, or is the program comprehensive enough to teach you the financial, marketing and operational aspects of the business? If you're preparing food, will you be trained in safe food handling and preparation? How much management training will you receive?
Who conducts the training? Are they line personnel brought in for the day or week, or have they been trained to be teachers? Remember, the goal of training is not for you to be impressed by the trainers; the goal is for the trainers to provide you with knowledge. To do this, they must know how to teach. Find out the background of the training team and their qualifications.
How comprehensive is the training material? If you'll be expected to train your own staff before your business opens, what tools and training techniques does the franchisor provide so you can accomplish this task?
These are just some of the questions you should focus on when evaluating a franchisor and comparing franchise training programs. Don't forget that the business will change over time. New products and services will be added or modified. Is your franchisor prepared to provide you and your team with additional training as the system changes? How will they do it and at what cost to you?
Remember, just because one franchisor has a longer training program than another doesn't mean its training is better. You need to understand what is provided to you in the initial training and what happens after your business is up and running.
Michael H. Seid, founder and managing director of franchise advisory firm Michael H. Seid & Associates, has more than 20 years' experience as a senior operations and financial executive and a consultant for franchise, retail, restaurant and service companies. He is co-author of the book Franchising for Dummies and a former member of the International Franchise Association's Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
Kay Marie Ainsley, managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates, consults with companies on the appropriateness of franchising; assists franchisors with systems, manuals and training programs; and is a frequent speaker and author of numerous articles on franchising.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.