If you are a successful business owner and entrepreneur, chances are that you have considered or, at least, thought about expanding your business through the establishment of a franchise system. That is, taking the trademark(s), services and business systems that you have created and licensing them to third parties (franchisees) who will then devote their own time and capital to expanding your business concept and, hopefully, benefit from the experience and success that you have achieved to date. No doubt, franchising is a popular and extraordinary vehicle (when done correctly) to achieve the multi-unit expansion of a business. However, the franchising is not right for every business or entrepreneur. Before “starting a franchise”, consider the following 4 questions to evaluate if franchising is right for your business:
- Franchise Question No. 1 – “Do you have Business Systems?”
Franchising is all about duplication, consistency and uniformity. That is, recreating, in each store / each franchisee’s business, the unique qualities and customer experience that has made your business a success. To recreate this success and franchise your business you cannot leave anything to chance and you must be able to identify, articulate, teach and recreate the “business systems” that “you” use to successfully operate your business. For example, the “business systems” that I am referring to will include your methods and procedures for (a) operating the business, (b) addressing and responding to customers/clients, (c) advertising, (d) preparing products or delivering services, (e) managing staff and (f) administration. There are more and these “systems” will vary from business to business. The good thing is that, as a successful business owner, deep down if you take an objective look at the things you do every day in operating your business, identifying your “systems” should be a straight forward task. But keep in mind that you must be able to quantify these systems (i.e., write them down), simplify them and teach them to your future franchisees.
- Franchise Question No. 2 – “Can your Systems be Taught to Franchisees?”
Once you have identified your “systems” (See, Franchise Question No. 1) the next question is whether or not your “systems” may be taught to franchisees and carried out by them consistently on a day-to-day basis. Consistency is key and to establish a successful franchise your “systems” must be capable of duplication by your franchisees – to do this, your systems cannot be complex and must be “boiled down” to a set formula. If your business “systems” are extremely complex (a) your business may not be an appropriate model for franchising or (b) your franchise may require extremely experienced franchisees with industry experience similar to yours.
- Franchise Question No. 3 – “Do you Have a Strong and Protectable Trademark?”
One of the primary and core elements of a franchise and franchise system is its trademark(s). As a “franchisor” one of the primary assets that you will be licensing to your “franchisee(s)” is the right to use your Trademark(s). So you need to make sure that your trademarks are unique to your business and be capable of obtaining legal protection – that is your trademark cannot be a generic term, cannot be a name that is currently used by others and must be capable of registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. For a more detailed discussion of the importance of trademarks to a franchise, check out “Trademarks Matter: Evaluate your Trademarks Often and Early Before Starting a Franchise.”
- Franchise Question No. 4 – “Will your Business be Profitable for Franchisees?”
Right now I am certain that you can pinpoint the profits of “your business” on a monthly, if not weekly or daily basis. To franchise your business you must first ensure that (a) your own business possesses a consistent track record of profitability and growth and (b) that your franchisees (if they follow your “systems”) will possess the opportunity for profitable growth. When making this “profitability analysis”, unlike your own business, you must take into account (i) the royalties that the franchisee will be paying to you on a weekly or monthly basis, (ii) the fact that the franchisee may have higher operating costs than your established business, and (iii) the franchisee may be servicing debt obligations used to establish its business.
For additional and insightful information on this topic check out Demir Barlas’ article “How to Franchise Your Small Business” and Joel Libava’s article “Does it Shout ‘Franchise Me!’?”. For a franchisees’ perspective as to what makes a good franchise system, Sean Kelly’s article “10 Criteria for Assessing a Franchise” provides some excellent insight.