Burning Questions

We asked everything you'd ever want to ask, and these franchisees had the answers.

By Devlin Smith • Jan 1, 2002

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

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

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

ANSWER: We explored severalfranchises before choosing Visiting Angels. The fact that they werea start-up appealed to us, because we felt they had the energy andthe vision to do something different. While their marketingmaterials weren't as glossy or fancy as other franchisors',their message was clear and fit our businessgoals. -Nate Murray, 49, Visiting Angelsfranchisee in Marshfield, Massachusetts

QUESTION: Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?

ANSWER: I am a prettyindependent person and enjoy being in control of my own destiny, sofrom that perspective, I fit the most widely accepted definition.However, I don't take big risks without closely analyzing thechallenges. In that regard, I'm not a daring type ofentrepreneur. I'd say I'm more a cautious, thoughtfultype. -Ken Higgins, 43, Heavenly Ham franchiseein the Baltimore area

ANSWER: I didn't atfirst. As soon as I started setting up my business, though, thosefeelings changed. I guess it was largely due to necessity. It'ssink or swim. I was still in my 20s and was instantly thrust into aposition of having to make decisions every week that would testevery 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 afranchisee?

ANSWER: My relationship withcorporate leadership. I have opportunities to relay vitalinformation and opinions to the president and the vice president ofthe corporation, and am assured I can have an important part indirecting the future of the business. -MattTurner, 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 afranchisee?

ANSWER: Most business ownersare, by nature, independent people-they don't like to be toldwhat to do. As a franchisee, I'm required to follow certainprocedures. It can be difficult, because the franchisor and thefranchisee have their own needs, and at times these needs seem tobe in conflict. While we clearly understand we need each other,it's sometimes challenging to address issues such asreinvestment and new storedevelopment. -Higgins

ANSWER: Properly staffingthe franchise, finding and training the right people to service thecustomers and keep the business running smoothly. Also, being theboss, having the "buck stop here," can be bothfrustrating and lonely. -Wein

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

ANSWER: No. The franchiseallowed us to be up and running faster and more effectively earlierthan if we had gone on our own. The beauty of any franchise is thatothers have made mistakes and have learned from them; in turn, youhave the benefit of theirlessons. -Murray

ANSWER: No. I started my ownindependent business seven years before. Even though that businesswas a success, I like having a structure I can call on for adviceand expertise. -Turner

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

ANSWER: What relationship dothe franchisees have with the franchisor?

ANSWER: How well does thisbusiness fit my personality? -Wein

ANSWER: Is the way thiscompany does business consistent with my values, work ethic andbusiness approach? -Murray

ANSWER: What's mycompetition? -Turner

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

ANSWER: How important islocation and visibility to my success? I ended up relocating mystore after four years in business to the opposite end of myshopping center-a costly but very worthwhilemove. -Wein

ANSWER: How do I deal withbuying an existing location from another franchisee? I wish I wouldhave been able to anticipate how the customers would feel about thetransition, how to handle the staff and how to incorporate newpolicies. -Ellifritis

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