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Franchise Basics

Written by : Expert Articles
2009-06-15
Are you thinking about buying a franchise? We've got all the information you need to help you decide whether franchising is right for you.


If buying an existing business doesn't sound right for you, but starting from scratch sounds a bit intimidating, you could be suited for franchise ownership. What is a franchise--and how do you know if you're right for one? Essentially, a franchisee pays an initial fee and ongoing royalties to a franchisor. In return, the franchisee gains the use of a trademark, ongoing support from the franchisor, and the right to use the franchisor's system of doing business and sell its products or services.

In addition to a well-known brand name, buying a franchise offers many other advantages that aren't available to the entrepreneur starting a business from scratch. Perhaps the most significant is that you get a proven system of operation and training in how to use it. New franchisees can avoid a lot of the mistakes start-up entrepreneurs typically make because the franchisor has already perfected daily operations through trial and error.

Reputable franchisors conduct market research before selling a new outlet, so you'll feel greater confidence that there is a demand for the product or service. Failing to do adequate market research is one of the biggest mistakes independent entrepreneurs typically make; as a franchisee, it's done for you. The franchisor also provides you a clear picture of the competition and how to differentiate yourself from them.

Finally, franchisees enjoy the benefit of strength in numbers. You'll gain from economics of scale in buying materials, supplies and services, such as advertising, as well as in negotiating for locations and lease terms. By comparison, independent operators have to negotiate on their own, usually getting less favorable terms. Some suppliers won't deal with new businesses or will reject your business because your account isn't big enough.


Business opportunities are less structured than franchises, so the definition of what constitutes a business opportunity isn't easy to pin down. In essence, a business opportunity is any package of goods or services that enables the purchaser to begin a business and in which the seller represents that it will provide a marketing or sales plan, that a market exists for the product or service, and that the venture will be profitable.

Here are other key factors:

  • A business opportunity doesn't generally feature the seller's trademark; buyers operate under his or her own name.
  • Business opportunities tend to be less expensive than franchises and generally don't charge ongoing royalty fees.
  • Business opportunities allow buyers to proceed with no restrictions as to geographic market and operations.
  • Most business opportunity ventures have no continuing supportive relationship between the seller and the buyer; after the initial package is sold, buyers are on their own.
The greatest strength of franchising is its ability to bring independent retailers together using a single trademark and business concept. The benefits of this affiliation are many: brand awareness, uniformity in meeting customer expectations, the power of pooled advertising and the efficiencies of group purchasing.

For the individual owner, there are several advantages to franchising. The ever-present risk of business failure is reduced when the business program has already proved to be successful in the marketplace; the use of an established trademark saves the business owner the cost of creating and advertising a name that customers will recognize; and the advantages of group advertising and purchasing make operations more profitable. In addition, ongoing training creates an instant operational expertise that would otherwise need to be acquired through trial and error. Also, with franchising, expansion seems to come more naturally. Operating a successful franchise may quickly lead to building a second and then a third business, and so on. Fortunes have been built this way.

The Benefits

  • Reduction of risk
  • Turnkey operation
  • Standardized products and systems
  • Standardized financial and accounting systems
  • Collective buying power
  • Supervision and consulting readily available
  • National and local advertising programs
  • Point-of-sale advertising
  • Uniform packaging
  • Ongoing research and development
  • Financial assistance
  • Site selection guidance
  • Operations manual provided
  • Sales and marketing assistance
Franchising, however, is not for everyone. Fiercely independent entrepreneurial types (you know who you are) may chafe under the strict operational requirements and specifications of a franchised business. If things have to be done your way, you may want to head in another direction.

Also know that some franchise systems are better than others. A weak franchise program will not train you well to handle the challenges of the business, will not do a good job of assisting you when problems arise, and will not make the best use of your advertising dollars.

The Downside

  • Loss of control
  • A binding contract
  • The franchisor's problems are also your problems
If you're considering buying a franchise, don't let wild expectations influence your decision. While franchising is designed to put people into business who have never owned a business before, the excitement of ownership can create an impulse to move forward without proper planning. If you rush headlong into buying a franchise expecting to boost your current working salary, but the earnings don't allow you to pull out more than half your former salary, you will be one unhappy camper. Work with a good CPA to prepare a cash-flow projection for the business before you take the plunge. Know how long it will take to break even and turn a profit, as well as the amount of salary you'll realistically be able to pay yourself.

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