What to Look for in a Franchise

For budding entrepreneurs considering franchising as their route to success and self-employment, the temptation to leap straight into a franchise purchase can be overwhelming. And certainly franchising is a proven and structured way into rapidly owning your own business, with statistically far greater levels of success than if you were to start up independently. But a rash decision can easily be a wrong one, so float back down from the ceiling and prepare to put in some groundwork!

Firstly, anyone can be seduced by clever marketing. And a good franchise will certainly know how to market itself – to both prospective customers and potential investors. Your job, however, is to channel some super-sleuth tendencies and carry out a full review of your desired franchise or franchises.

When you've reviewed the options on offer, make a shortlist of your hot targets. Then systematically match them against your objectives – whether that's your budget, time availability (for example, if you're considering a part-time franchise), areas of professional expertise and your long-term goals. This will give you an initial ranking of prospects.

From this point, get serious with your research and focus on the top three prospective franchises that interest you. Apply for franchisee packs and read everything in them twice – especially the small print! Carry out research on the franchise brand in the marketplace, approach it as a customer and decide whether you think the proposition has the right appeal and viability for you to feel passionate about selling it yourself. Look at the wider industry or sector that the franchise sits in and ask if it's a growth sector, stable sector or declining sector. Most potential franchisees won't plan to invest in a sector that's in decline unless the franchise price reflects that, they're just looking to work within the franchise industry for a short time or if they're buying a resale franchise for the right price or with other franchisee incentives in place.

There are many franchises in growth areas such as the environmental, cost-management, leisure, adult social care, pet services and myriad other service sectors – and these offer great opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs.

Take the opportunity to go and meet the people behind the franchise brand and attend an expo where you can speak to them in person. You'll get a sense of the culture very quickly. If the franchise representatives are open, honest and willing to provide information to help you make the right decision, then this is an excellent sign. Another is a franchise that has a team in place specifically to help its franchisor network and which organises plenty of training, networking, support routes and other benefits to its franchisees.

Your fact-finding mission will help you build up a strong picture about your target franchises and you may find that your top picks change as you learn more about the franchises themselves, your drivers and the wider marketplace. Also allow yourself a little gut feeling about the franchise that seems right once you have your final list. As long as you have carried out proper research and covered all the bases during your investigation, you'll know that your decision will be a sound one.