They’ve been through the process, know the ins and outs of running their franchise, and can tell you all kinds of information from the point of view of the franchisee.
Franchisees have been through training, signed Franchise Agreements, and are running their franchise, for better or worse. They know what mistakes they made and what they would go back and change, if they had the opportunity. If you get a chance to talk with a franchisee as part of your decision-making process, you can learn from their mistakes, and from their successes.
Of course, if they see you as a competitor – or possible future competitor – they may not be willing to talk, or they may try to discourage you. Approach franchisees who are outside your area instead of people who might find you threatening. The franchisor may have a list of franchisees who are willing to talk with people considering the franchise, or you may be able to set up a meeting with someone you find through an online search.
If you have the opportunity, make the most of it by being well prepared, so you don’t end wishing you had asked questions that you didn’t think of.
Here’s our list of the questions you should ask:
1. Why did you buy the franchise? What were your expectations for your franchise?
2. How long have you been operating?
3. Was the training, if available, helpful? Do you feel it prepared you for all aspects of operating the franchise?
4. What support have you received since you signed the Franchise Agreement? Do you feel it was helpful and satisfactory?
5. Do you feel the staff of the franchisor is qualified and knowledgeable?
6. Does the franchisor help support your growth through continuing development and training?
7. What has been the most difficult part of running your franchise? The easiest?
8. What are competitor franchises and how do you feel about them?
9. Is your income what you expected? Would you be making more if you’d stayed as an employee instead of buying a franchise?
10. How long was it before you saw a return on your investment? Did the franchisor predict the start-up costs well or did it turn out to be higher than you expected?
11. How do you feel the franchisor’s advertising benefits you? Does it do enough?
12. When you encounter a problem, is the franchisor there to help? How quickly did they help you resolve the problem?
13. Have you had problems with the franchisor? Do you feel they have restrictions in place that limit your growth?
14. Would you do it again? What would you change?
Make sure to gauge the responses based on what their expectations for the franchise were before starting out. If you can see they had unrealistic expectations, put their possible dissatisfaction into perspective.
Don’t ignore anything they say, but do compare it to other sources of information. Take into account differences between them and yourself – perhaps you have a stronger background, or maybe they had much more in the way of financial resources. This kind of factor can make an enormous difference in any businessperson’s chances of success.