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Road to Ambition What's it really like to buy a franchise? Read part one of our ongoing series following one couple's exciting trek to entrepreneurial success.

By Todd D. Maddocks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With all requisite apologies to songwriter John Mellencamp, thisis a little ditty about Jack and Diane--two American kidsgrowin' up in the Heartland. Jack wants to be a franchisestar--Diane will keep her job so he can change oil in cars. Yes,there are millions of franchise stories in the naked city. This isjust one. Reality TV has transcended its boundaries, and nowwe'll deliver the play-by-play of what it takes to investigate,purchase, open and run a franchised business. Step right up, folks,and feel their pain.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but thehopes and dreams of the franchisees we're following for thiscolumn, Jack and Diane, are no different from the hundreds of otherfranchisees I have worked with in my 14 years as a franchiseattorney/consultant. Believe me, they're just like you: chasingthe American dream of financial independence armed only withlimited resources and the gumption to persevere. Indulge yourselfas we unpeel the onion over the next few months and examine whathappens to Jack and Diane--in franchise land. We don't knowwhere this trip will go, but please put your chair in the full andupright position, because Jack and Diane are going to encounter alittle turbulence.

Paying TheirDues
Jack and Diane are both college grads in their early 40s who havespent years working for corporate America. Jack is a marketing andsales guy who is extremely outgoing and routinely calls on smallbusinesses to sell advertising media. Every day of his "realjob," Jack can see the prosperity that comes from owning abusiness, and like a burr in the saddle, it hurts him to work forsomeone else. Diane, on the other hand, is conservative by natureand prefers the solid foundation of her substantial duties insoftware and computer systems consulting for one of thenation's larger consulting firms. The couple is verywell-spoken, intelligent and hard-working. They've built whatit takes to be entrepreneurs, but it's Jack who's thedriving force in finding a franchise. "In the back of my mind,I have always wanted to be my own boss," he says. "I wantto be successful enough to be able to control my own destiny--I getfrustrated at work." Married for 15 years with no children,our couple has been able to salt away some cash. If only they couldfind a good business to spend it on.

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