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No Contest Don't just reduce competition -- eliminate it.

By Jesse Hertstein

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Looking for a way to speed up the franchise growth curve? In anaggressive move toward expansion, Cleveland-based ProForma Inc. isencouraging its franchisees to consider mergers and acquisitionsthrough a research database that connects its franchisees withcompetitors who are looking to sell or who may be enticed to phaseout their businesses over a short time. A distributor of document,multimedia and promotional products, ProForma has added a mergersand acquisitions department to keep up with the leads.

"We don't have any company-owned [units], so wearen't buying anyone out ourselves," says Al Miano, chiefmarketing communications officer. "We're playingmatchmaker." ProForma encourages franchisees by doing theresearch for them, training them on handling acquisitions, andproviding the capital needed to buy other businesses.

The company has facilitated 16 acquisitions since 1997 and islooking to complete at least 80 more in 1998.

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