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The Pros and Cons of Owning a Franchise Don't be fooled -- buying a franchise isn't for everyone.

By Joel Libava

This story originally appeared on The Franchise King

The decision to become the owner of a franchise is a big one. Franchise ownership can be very, very rewarding. It can also be very, very unrewarding.
The franchise business model is a powerful one, but it's not perfect. That's why I suggest you ignore some of these common sayings in franchising:
"You're buying a "business in a box' when you buy a franchise."
"Everything is all set-up for you. You just have to follow the system."
"Franchisors provide all the support you'll need to be successful."
"Buying a franchise is less riskier than starting your own business."
Please ignore these statements, especially the ones that have to do with franchise risk.
As good as it is, the business model of franchising is not for everybody. There are even some franchises that aren't for everybody -- e-cigarette franchises, for example.
If you're seriously considering franchise ownership in 2015, the pros must outweigh the cons. (Tip: Please remember that you are investing in someone else's system-someone else's ideas. The words you need to focus on here: "someone else's.")
Here's what you should consider:

The Pros

There are business systems in place for you to use. Lots of them. They include things like computer systems, marketing systems, operating systems and more. A franchisors' business system (s) is the heart and soul of their business. Respect it and use it. That's what you're paying for.
You'll be provided with a formal training program soon after you sign your franchise agreement. Some of your training may come in the form of online modules. Some franchisors have you jump onto their Extranet so you can start learning about the business before you attend a formal training class at franchise headquarters. Call it pre-training. It's a great way to get into the groove before you fly out to headquarters.
Technology budgets in franchising have grown over the years. As a franchisee, you'll benefit greatly from the technology that franchisors have in place these days. Some of this technology is designed to help you manage your customers. Some of it will help you with things like accounting and payroll. Would you like to know how good a franchisors technology is? Talk to the franchisees. They're using it every day. Believe me…they'll tell you if it's good-or not so good.
Franchisors have marketing plans and advertising templates all ready to go for you. Having those at your disposal can really help you get your name out quickly. Speaking of getting your name out…
Make the most of your grand opening. A lot of franchisors put a lot of energy toward your official grand opening; you should, too. You'll never have another grand opening of your franchise business. Take advantage of everything your franchisor has to offer.
Marketing your business is an everyday affair. Today's franchisors have access to companies and tools that can-and do help your franchise business stay top of mind in your local area. in addition, there's power in numbers when it comes to advertising. 150 franchisees can secure cheaper advertising rates than one single franchise owner…or independent business owner. That's huge!
For the most part, franchisors have terrific support systems in place. From in-house personnel that man the phones and the central computer systems, to field reps that make in-person support visits, franchise support-great franchise support-can't be beat when it comes to keeping your business up and running.
Tip: Don't be shy when you have an issue. Reach out for support. You're paying for it.
Real Estate Resources
Franchisors tend to have the resources…real estate-wise, needed to help you secure a great location for your franchise business. Some franchisors have formal in-house real estate departments. Others have connections with national commercial real estate companies. Either way, know this: The importance of getting a great location for your franchise business goes both ways. In other words, it's equally important for the franchisor and the franchisee to secure a great location. The more money a franchisee makes-the more money the franchisor makes in the form of royalties. It's a win-win.
A Franchisee Network
There are other franchise owners who, like you, invested in the opportunity. They have experienced things from the front line, and can help you out with problems that may arise. As a matter of fact, the franchisee network is so important, that if I was authoring the franchise operations manual, I would highlight the fact that there is a network of like-minded franchisees ready and willing (for the most) to assist you. They're the ones with the answers. They're the ones who have probably experienced the issues that you're just beginning to experience. Don't be shy. Reach out to fellow franchisees and ask them for help and ideas when needed.

The Cons

Franchise Fee
You'll be required to pay a franchise fee, up-front. This one-time investment (per franchise unit) is the cost of entry. It's the licensing fee. The franchise fee allows you to use all of the franchisors proprietary information-legally. The franchise fee is normally around $25,000-$35,000 on average. It could be a bit less, and it could be a bit more. But, it's there and it's a required payment. That's a lot of money.
As a franchisee, you'll be paying the franchisor a percentage of your gross sales each and every month you're a franchisee. Percentages vary. I've seen food franchise royalties that are 5% and I've seen royalties for consulting types of franchises at 12% of sales.
Example: Let's say your franchise sales are $25,000 per month. If the royalty is 5%, that means the franchisor will collect a check from you for $1250.00. That's $15,000 a year that goes to the franchisor. Now, double it. If your franchise is doing $50,000 a month in sales, you're sending in a $2,500 check in each month. That's $30,000 a year!
The Rules
You must follow the franchisors' rules. There's really no wiggle room here.
Franchise systems need rules. They need a lot of them. They're there to keep things uniform. Rules are not put in place to aggravate you.
Why do you think a Whopper Sandwich from Burger King tastes the same whether it's prepared in Dallas, Texas or Oxnard, California?
For the most part, you're required to purchase your products and supplies from your franchisor.
If you're a Dairy Queen franchisee, you'll be purchasing your ice cream from Dairy Queen headquarters-as it should be. In the past, some franchisees of some franchise systems have banded together to try to change that requirement in order to save some money. Some have even won out, and have been able to purchase things from non-franchisor suppliers. But, don't count on that happening in the franchise system you're a part of.
Marketing Fund
In most cases, you'll be paying a percentage of your gross sales (in addition to the royalties) to the franchisor. At 1 to 2 percent, it's a small number, but it does add up.
As a matter of fact, it really adds up-at least psychologically, if the franchisors' marketing is average at best. Case in point: My own experience.
When I was a franchisee, I had to pay around $300 a month into the marketing fund. (In my case, I paid a flat fee. It's not that uncommon.) But, here's the thing: The franchisors marketing efforts were way below par. Paying them $300 each and every month for pretty much nothing, was one of the straws that finally broke the camels back. Especially since I was doing a better job of franchise marketing than they were.
Tip: Find out ahead of time…way before you sign your franchise agreement and send in the franchise fee, just how good their marketing is. Talk to a dozen or so existing franchisees. Ask them straight-out if they're getting a good return on their marketing investment.
Selling Your Franchise
If and when you decide to sell your franchise business, you can't just sell it to anyone. The franchisor needs to approve the buyer. Can you blame them?
Now, you might not care all that much about who it is that ends up buying your business, but your franchisor will…trust me.

The choice is yours

You now have a good idea of some of the pros and cons of franchise ownership. It's important to look at both sides of the coin. Especially, with what could end being a sizable investment. An investment in a franchise business. Yours.

Joel Libava is a franchise ownership adviser best known as The Franchise King®. He is the author of Become A Franchise Owner! The Start-Up Guide To Lowering Risk, Making Money, And Owning What You Do (Wiley 2011).

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