Franchises are growing so much that you can probably find a franchise option for almost any kind of business you’re interested in these days. In fact, you can probably find multiple options. If you’ve made a spreadsheet and you’re still having trouble narrowing down the choices, maybe you need to get back to fundamentals.
Your involvement with a franchise business translates into a close relationship with the franchise company for 10 or 20 years. You need to like the company you’ll be working with.
Wait a minute. If you’re thinking about that friendly salesperson who seems to like you so much, you’re thinking about the wrong person. Salespeople may be sincerely kind and friendly, but they make the sale and move on to the next prospect. They’re not the people you’ll have that relationship with.
You need to get to know the owners of the business, the other franchisees you’ll meet at the annual convention, and the rank and file workers who will answer your questions and help solve your problems once you’re a franchisee.
Begin by visiting a franchise location for the company you’re considering. Just go in and order a drink or ask about their specials, like any regular visitor to the shop. Notice how the workers treat the customers, how they treat you… and also how they treat each other. Are managers brusque with the workers? Do the workers seem bored and unmotivated? Or do you see a happy team working together to create a great experience for customers?
Call or email the corporate office. Ask a simple question about their business model or request some product information. Try a customer service question. How fast do you get a response? How helpful is that response?
Talk with the owners of the company if you can and see how they treat you, and also how they treat the people around you. If they’re courteous to you and rude to the waitress, that tells you something. When you’re at events with people from the company, see whether you feel at home or not. Do a lot of listening and get a sense of the company culture, whether it’s ambitious, laid-back, purpose-driven, or innovative.
Google the company and see how they’ve handled controversies in the past. Nearly every large company has had a controversy, a complaint, or a bit of bad press. Did the company take care of things graciously, get vindictive, or ignore the concerns? If they were in the wrong, did they make things right? If they weren’t at fault, did they get defensive or respond with compassion?
Are the company’s values aligned with yours? Check their mission statement, but also look at their actions. Where do their donations go? What causes do they support?
As you’re observing, gathering information, and pondering these questions, think about yourself, too. Maybe you admire the driven, highly competitive people you meet, but you actually prefer to work with people who are focused on service — or vice versa. Don’t imagine that you’ll change to suit the company culture. Pick a company where you’ll enjoy the relationship just as you are.