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50 QUESTIONS TO ASK FRANCHISEES

by Simon Lord,
last updated 21/11/2011

Want to know what a franchise is really like? Ask the people who know

One of the best sources of information about any opportunity you may be considering is the existing franchisees in the same system. After all, they have already made that choice and are living the life. By talking to them either in person or on the phone, you can learn what that life is really like. Here are some tips to help you get the best out of your researches.

- Get a list of all franchisees from the franchisor and choose which franchisees you interview. You want to talk to a mix of established people who understand how the franchise works and its potential, as well as more recent franchisees who have been through the latest training.

- Don't let the franchisor pick who you talk to - of course they will choose the best and happiest franchisees. Make your own choice, bearing in mind your own situation, location or background. The franchisor may want to know who you plan to call so he can let them know in advance that it is OK to talk to you. This is a reasonable precaution - after all, you might be a competitor!

- If possible, talk to four or five franchisees. They will all have different experiences and the more you talk to the more realistic an impression you will get. There's always a risk of catching someone on an exceptionally good or bad day so you need to be able to put that feedback into perspective.

- Do prepare for interviews - whether in person or over the phone - in advance. Keep them as brief as possible. If you're serious, franchisees will usually be happy to answer questions but it's not their job to sell you the franchise. They have their own business to run.

To help you prepare, here are some questions you might like to think about. Don't ask every franchisee every question - pick the areas that are of most concern to you and focus on those.

How does it suit?

- What was your previous experience before buying this franchise? What did you know about the industry? What skills do you consider essential for success?

- What do you enjoy about the business? What do you dislike?

- What hours are you open? How much time do you spend doing preparation, organisation or paperwork after hours? How much of this do you do at work and how much at home?

- What was the impact of running the business upon your family and social life initially? What is it now?

- How has your experience matched up to what the franchisor told you?

Preparation

- How good was the training? How far did it prepare you for running your own business? How well did it cover day-to-day operations? How well did it cover business development, sales and other subjects? Has the training programme changed since you went through it? Do you think it has improved?

- What sort of support did you receive when you first opened? How helpful was it? Did you receive enough support?

- What sort of marketing support did you receive? Was it effective? How did you make the best use of the opportunities it created?

Ongoing

- How good is the support you receive from the franchisor? What form does it take? How responsive is the franchisor to requests?

- What marketing and promotional campaigns are provided? On the whole, are they effective? What additional activities do you have to carry out yourself?

- Are supplier relationships good? Are there restrictions on what suppliers you can use? Do the preferred suppliers generally provide good value for money?

- If there is any specialist software provided, how good is it? Is it easy-to-use? Is it reliable? Do all franchisees use the same system?

- If there is an exclusive territory, is it of a size to allow you a reasonable return? Have there been any disputes over territories with the franchisor or other franchisees?

- What level of competition have you experienced? Does the franchise offer real competitive advantages? What are they?

- Has the franchisor met its obligations under the franchise agreement? Have there been any areas of dispute? How were these resolved?

Financial

- Were the franchisor's projections correct about the amount of capital and/or borrowing you would initially require? Have you had to increase your investment since?

- Were there any hidden fees or unexpected costs?

- How long were you trading before you achieved break-even? Before you started generating income from the business?

- Has the return been in line with your expectations?

Relationship

- How would you describe your relationship with the franchisor and other franchisees?

- Is there good two-way communication with the franchisor? How does this happen? How often?

- How often do you meet or chat to other franchisees?

- If you were starting again (without the operational knowledge you have now) would you buy the same franchise again?

For a list of questions to ask franchisors, click here .

This article was first published in Franchise New Zealand magazine Volume 18 Issue 4

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