A Forbes article listed 13 mistakes new franchisees make, and one of them was investing in a franchise business in order to be your own boss. “Franchising is based on conformity and uniformity,” the author said, “not freedom.”
One of the great advantages of a franchise business is that you don’t have to go through the same trial and error stage an independent business has to go through. By following the procedures and systems a franchise has already tested and found successful in multiple businesses, you increase your chances of success and avoid making major mistakes. You own your business, as many franchisors put it, but you’re not on your own.
Or, to put it another way, you don’t have time to make all the mistakes yourself, so you can learn from someone else’s mistakes.
With that said, is it true that you are not your own boss? Elsewhere in the article, the author puts it even more strongly, saying that you gain a “master” when you invest in a franchise. Certainly, different franchise and licensing opportunities offer varying amounts of support, guidance, and requirements. Some say they’ve noticed that franchisees who follow the system exactly are more successful,while some insist that you follow their system exactly for the integrity of the brand. If your idea of owning a business is following your own path, feeling the wind in your hair, and never knowing what’s around the next bend, you may not be cut out for franchise ownership.
You may not be cut out for business ownership, either. Outside of fiction, independent business owners rarely set their own hours and take time off whenever they feel like it, rarely make all their decisions according to the whim of the moment rather than the demands of their customers and investors, and almost never feel in complete control of their destinies.
As a franchise business owner, you may not have to do as much research on suppliers and sourcing as an independent business owner would, you don’t have to spend months working out your systems and tracking down software and tools, and you have support from experienced mentors. Combined with the name recognition of a franchise, these advantages give you a leg up on independent competitors, but they don’t mean you won’t have any decisions to make. You are still in charge, and you’re still responsible.
Read franchisee complaints (you should anyway — it helps you go into your own franchise investment with your eyes open) and you’ll be able to find reports from bitter people who thought that owning a franchise would be more like being an employee. They’ll say that the franchisor didn’t send them enough customers, that it was a lot of work, that the franchisor held them to their contract, and that it was hard to get out of the deal when they decided to give up. These are franchisees who expected to be franchise owners but not business owners.
Talk with franchisees and make sure you have a very clear understanding of your responsibilities. Make sure that the level of autonomy provided in the franchise agreement is an acceptable level for your personality. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that owning a franchise is significantly different from owning an independent business. You’re the boss.