Researching the various franchisors and interviewing past and present franchisees takes a lot of time and effort. Franchisors realize this, and that’s one reason most of them participate in franchise expositions. Because you can learn about and evaluate many franchise opportunities in one place, franchise expos can be a great way to find a great franchise fast. While expos offer many advantages, there are drawbacks, too.
At a typical franchise expo, there will be dozens — if not hundreds — of franchises represented. A prospective franchisee could easily spend an entire day wandering around the floor, sampling the sales pitches of the various franchisors. That is fine if you are looking for an overview on the franchise market and just want to know what it is all about. But if you are serious about purchasing a franchise, that would be a waste of your valuable time.
Form a Plan of Attack
Before you even arrive at the convention hall, you should have done at least some preliminary research. Consult the exposition’s program to find out which franchisors will be attending. Of the complete list of attendees, carve out the franchisors who you are seriously interested in. Spend the majority of your time at the show investigating these franchisors, listening to their pitches, and looking over their marketing materials. Of course you can still investigate other franchisors at the exposition, but spend the bulk of your time researching the companies on your “shopping list.”
Another bit of homework you should do is compiling a list of questions to ask your prospective franchisors. Many of your questions may get answered in the course of the franchisors’ presentations, but not all of them will. Coming prepared with a list of questions will help ensure that all your questions get answered and that you get the important information you need to make an informed choice.
The last thing you will need to do is determine your budget for your franchise purchase. Calculate how much money you will have to spend on your franchise purchase, apart from other business startup costs. Your budget will play a role in determining which franchises you will look at. If you can afford to spend $65,000 on a franchise but see an attractive opportunity that costs $100,000, remember your budget and move on to the next booth. Time is short, and it can be better spent evaluating opportunities you can afford.
Consider the Source
While the representatives at a franchise exposition can be a wealth of information about the companies they work for, remember that they are there only to sell franchises. While the majority of franchise brokers and company reps are honest and ethical people, there are surely those in the field who will misrepresent a company’s offerings — or worse — in order to close a deal.
One thing that you can anticipate is a top-notch sales pitch. These brokers and corporate salespeople are paid very well to sell you on their franchise. In some cases, the salesperson will earn a percentage of your franchising fees for years to come. They will pull out every sales trick in the book, and they may pressure you to sign something on the spot. Don’t do it.
Take everything you hear at a franchise exposition with a grain of salt. Once you get the answers to your questions, go back to the franchisor’s Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and make sure the information is accurate.
Analyze the Data
Once you get home from the show, do more research. Visit current franchises, and interview current and past franchisors. Try to get a sense of the “personality” of the franchise to see if it is right for you. After all, once you become a franchisee, you will be living and breathing the brand for the foreseeable future. Make sure it is one you can live with … literally.