Choosing the Right Franchise

Can You Trust Franchisee Surveys?

Research is essential when you’re trying to decide which franchise to choose for your business opportunity investment. You come to America’s Best Franchises to learn more, you peruse the Franchise Disclosure Document, you contact current franchisees, and we hope you also actively seek out complaints. The more you know, the better.

Another source of information is franchisee surveys. There are dozens of organizations that focus specifically on surveys of franchisees, not to mention broader research organizations like Deloitte, news organizations who run their own surveys, and academic research. These surveys offer a wealth of information, including overall satisfaction levels among franchisees.

Here are some questions to ask before you make a decision based on a survey:

  • Is the survey independent? Somebody pays for research, unless it’s academic research — and even then, some of it is paid for. Make sure you know who paid for the research you’re examining. Major independent research firms like Pew Research or Gallup are highly reliable and entirely independent. It’s their life blood, and they would lose their stature if they didn’t hold themselves to high standards. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce are also probably unbiased. A Premier Franchise Institute funded by a consortium of fast food franchise owners? Probably not.
  • Is the methodology strong? If the name of the researchers isn’t enough to make you confident, look for the raw data, or the “toplines” report. This lets you see the size of the sample, how people were contacted, and the types of questions asked. If you’re looking at a survey of 15 of the researcher’s friends or 30 people who answered an ad, you aren’t looking at the same thing you’d see if there were 2,000 people in the survey and they were contacted randomly in a door-to-door survey of franchise business owners in five major cities. Look, also, for leading or misleading questions or unrepresentative sampling. For example, a survey of the satisfaction of franchisees who have been in business for five years may not tell you much about how your first year as a franchisee could be.
  • Who’s reporting? The IFA got in trouble with Gallup and with the FTC when they gussied up the results of a Gallup poll. Gallup found that more than 90% of the franchisees they surveyed felt successful and that most would do it again.However, they didn’t tell just who was surveyed and they phrased their reporting in a way that made it sound as though it applied to all franchisees. Many a blogger or news outlet will go with a great headline rather than being precisely accurate. Make sure you follow the trail back to the actual study and find out who was surveyed and under what circumstances. Then compare the people surveyed to your own circumstances before assuming that the information will apply to you.

Surveys can be very useful, assuming you check them out thoroughly before accepting their conclusions. In general, the more sources of information you have, the more reliable the picture you’ll get.

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