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When the Little Guy Goes Big Turning a small business into a franchise can look like a good idea in this economy. Here's how to figure out if it actually is.

By Gwen Moran Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Like a lot of small-business owners today, Nathan Smith was nervous. For 18 years, he'd built Sure Signs, his Idaho Falls, Idaho, sign shop, and he was sick of running hard for 60 hours a week. Instead of putting his energy into building new business--critical in this economy--he was drained by being the only person who could solve day-to-day problems. And one worry loomed over all the rest:

"If anything happened to me," says Smith, who is 43, "my wife would have had a nightmare taking over the business."

So, last year, he began looking for franchise opportunities and found Fastsigns, a national sign and graphics chain. He met with franchisors and liked their way of doing business as well as the promise of a marketing department and other professionals to help brainstorm ideas and manage his operation. Plus, with the added support, Smith was sure his wife could run the shop should anything happen to him.

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