I’ve put on quite a few seminars on franchise ownership over the years, and continue to be amazed by some of things attendees share with me in private.
On more than one occasion, (usually it’s when I’m putting some of my handouts away in boxes and such) an attendee has come up to me and shared the following statement:
“I never thought to contact franchisees before I signed on the dotted line for my franchise. I wish I would have known to do that.”
I try to be on my best behavior when I’m the one putting on seminars, I really do…but really? You didn’t call any franchisees? Wow.
Typically, I do the following: Bite tongue. Shake hands with the person. Smile. Avoid sarcasm. Thank them for attending.
The Most Important People to Contact
If you want to lower your risk…if you want to improve your odds of success, you need to talk to them. Them being the people who have already invested their money into the franchise opportunity you’re interested in and are running it. They are the most important people to contact. Period.
Follow my lead on this. Contacting franchisees is the most important part of your franchise research.
And, they’re easy to find…and easy to contact too.
Why? Each and every one of them is listed in the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). Go here to learn all about the FDD.
The names and phone numbers of the franchisees are included in the FDD. In addition, your franchise development representative may send you a list of franchisees to call.
This list is a good starting place, as most of these franchisees are used to getting calls from prospective franchise owners like you. That’s one of the reasons they’re on the list. Call a few of them first.
Next, from the FDD, start choosing franchisees to call randomly. I recommend contacting 10-15 of them. It may sound like a lot of people to call, but it really isn’t. That’s because some calls may last only 15 minutes. Make it your goal to have around 10 good calls…ones that last an hour or more.
You’ll need to take good notes during these calls. Keep track of who you talked to, where their franchises are located, how long they’ve been in business, etc.
Contact Past Franchisees Too
The names and phone numbers of franchisees who have left the system during the last 12 months are also listed in the FDD. You are welcome to contact them, too.
FYI: Some of the phone numbers may have been disconnected if they’re business numbers. Try anyway.
If you get hold of them, see if they’ll talk to you about their reason (s) for leaving the system. They may have sold their franchise, they may have decided to not renew their agreement, or they may have had to close their franchise up for some reason. If you don’t have any luck contacting some of these former franchisees, some of the current franchisees may know what happened, so ask them.
The reasons for franchisees leaving a franchise system aren’t always negative. But, you won’t know until you ask.
Good Research Questions to Ask
Here are a few questions you should ask each and every franchisee you contact:
- Why did you choose to buy this franchise?
- How long have you been in business?
- How do you rate your initial training?
- Can you describe your typical day from start to finish?
- How do you rate the staff at franchise headquarters?
- Are you getting the support you expected?
- Do you have any growth plans in the future?
Don't Delay, Make the Phone Calls
Now you know who the most important people to contact are.
Don’t be shy. Call the franchisees. They’ll share crucial information about the opportunity, so you can make a fact-based decision on whether or not to buy the franchise you’re interested in.
The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is a franchise ownership advisor. He’s the author of Become a Franchise Owner! (Wiley Publishing) and owns and operates Franchise Business University. Joel contributes a blog post to Franchise Direct monthly.