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Advice From Franchisees Who Have Been There

Many of the franchisees we talked with had to make a decision first on whether they would open an independent business or a franchised one. A few of their stories follow.

Before a New Jersey man decided to buy a fast-food franchise, he asked himself this question: "How comfortable do I feel about going into the unknown?" He answered, "Not very." Although he was familiar with engi­neering, manufacturing and construction work, he knew very little about the food business. Even so, he purchased a snack foods business. Now, after nearly ten years of operation, he is ready to give up on the franchise. His current goal is to open and operate five independent stores that carry similar products. Not only has the ownership of the franchise system changed several times, but he believes that "the franchise system squashes the creativeness of the individual. You can be prohibited from bringing anything new into the system."

Barry Pasarew is a Voice-Tel franchisee in the high-tech voice message business. The business utilizes sophisticated equipment and elaborate service networks. Pasarew says, "It would be close to impossible to do this business on your own because of the necessity of a network. The fran­chise system allows you to get started immediately. It saves dollars and time so you can focus on selling and developing."

Jim Gendreau owns an independent distribution company, but he was still drawn to franchising. He owns multiple units of the Cost Cutters franchise in the hair salon business. When asked why he didn't start the business independently, especially since he was an experienced businessperson, he said, "The big difference between an independent and a franchise is the marketing and advertising clout and expertise the franchise brings. Sec­ondly, all the bugs are out of the system by the time you buy it."

Linda Moore, a Ledger Plus franchisee, considered both an independent and a franchise business after leaving a position in a large corporation. She says, "Unless you have a very unique business idea, it's almost foolish not to buy a franchise. Success rates are not as good for independents. Most people have skills in one or two areas, but with a franchise, you can get help in areas outside your expertise."

Ken Wisotzky had an independent ice cream store prior to owning a Gloria Jean's and a My Favorite Muffin. The ice cream business was going well, so why didn't he continue? Wisotzky says, "The mall developer wouldn't renew the lease on my store. They wanted a 'name-brand' tenant." Accord­ing to him, many developers, realtors and landlords consider franchises stronger tenants, and so the franchisee can get better space.

Bernie Wolff ran an independent photography studio in Florida before he took on two franchised units with Glamour Shots. Even though his day-to-day responsibilities have only changed slightly, he's happy he made the change. He says his old business had monthly sales from $16,000 to $18,000. When he switched to the Glamour Shots franchise in 1992, his monthly average for the first four months was $38,000 to $40,000. He attributes the increase to the impact of the franchise name.

When faced with making a decision on buying a mobile laundry and dry-cleaning franchise, Patrick McClune's wife and friends advised him to "do it himself." They told him, "You're smart and resourceful and you shouldn't pay for a logo that's not very well known." McClune asked the franchise system what he was getting that was proprietary. They said that he would receive training, the system for doing business and the logo. So, McClune went with the franchise and now concludes that the franchise did give him a "jump-start" and a good system for conducting business.

Choosing Between a Product and a Service Franchise

There are basically two types of businesses that can be offered by an individual. They can offer Products to their customers which are tangible goods meant for the customer's consumption or they can offer them Services which are intangible and work to make the life of the consumer easier and more convenient. With technologies advancing rapidly and the global demands of consumers changing there is a very thin line dividing the service and product segment of the consumers demands. An example of this can be the purchase of a car from an auto dealer. The dealer not only offers the vehicle at a competitive rate but now has to offer different services as well, such as financing options, after-sales services, ready documentation and other non- tangible services. This kind of merging has made it very difficult to draw a clear line as to the service and product industry but for the sake of argument we will consider a theoretical perspective where you have to choose a traditional product franchise or a service franchise.

What Does a Franchise Search Look Like

People often start off their search for franchises and aren't really sure what they want. They might know a facet of what they want, but they're not certain about everything they need to look into or think about. I thought it might be helpful for anyone interested in opening a franchise to get an idea of what everyone else is looking for. How the typical search goes before they connect with a franchise. What type of franchises people are typically looking for. And the most common reasons why people want to open a franchise.

Where to Find Financing for Your Franchise

If you decide that you do want to obtain financing for your franchise business from external sources, you should: