Franchising On Display
The success of the franchise model continues to stimulate tremendous growth as budding entrepreneurs enter the foray to expand their concepts, and existing franchisors look to grow their chains. In our rapidly flattening global marketplace it seems that every experience is moving to a virtual arena. We buy our new car without ever going to a dealership. We order our books into our Kindles and iPads with just a few taps of the screen. Yet, in franchising nothing replaces the opportunity to go face-to-face at a tradeshow with company representatives. When you consider the average cost of a franchise is upwards of US$250,000, it is important to do solid research. The process might include gaining knowledge and narrowing your interests by spending some time on the internet, but once you have a pretty good idea of the concepts you are interested in, spending a day or two at a franchise expo can be very valuable.
Tips for Not Wasting Your Time
It can be somewhat overwhelming attending a franchise tradeshow if you haven’t been to one before. Typically, there will be hundreds of booths filled with franchise concept representatives, concept materials and graphics, and in some cases franchises of the business. To start be sure to grab a map that shows the layout of the show and the location of all the franchise booths. If you have narrowed your search to certain categories and/or concepts, be sure to identify them and plan a route so that you can be sure to visit each of them.
Many times when you are walking down the aisles the representatives will entice you to stop by their booth and you could end up spending a lot of time looking at stuff that is not on your priority list. If you get to all your targeted concepts and still have time left over, then you can do some casual browsing. Also, once you get to a target concept booth, be sure to assess it from a distance before descending upon it. See how it is operating and try to determine who is in charge.
Sometimes there is hired staff there to hand out materials and chat with attendees. You should try to get directly to someone that works for the company and has in-depth knowledge of the concept. And, set a time limit for each encounter so that no one session monopolizes your time. The goal should be to ascertain all the information you need on each of the concepts of interest within a day or so, which will take careful planning and deliberate execution.
More Than Just Franchises
While meeting franchise company representatives to talk about their concepts is the core activity of a franchise tradeshow, there are many other important activities to take in. First, there is generally a full slate of educational programs to choose from, and many of them are presented by professionals in the franchise sector. They should be interactive, but if not don’t be bashful about asking questions. You are probably sitting in a room filled with people that have the same question but were afraid to ask it. Also, visit with the speakers after the session or make an appointment to meet them later. They probably have much more information on the topic they were speaking on but only provided with a limited amount of time to cover the subject matter. The reason they were chosen to speak on the subject was because of their expertise, hopefully. And if that appears to be the case, spending some one-on-one type with them could prove very valuable.
After the Show
Once you conclude your visit to the franchise tradeshow you need to review your collection of materials and record some notes from your conversations with the representatives. In your notes be sure to include how you felt about your interaction and what insights it might give you to what being a franchisee would be like in that system. Also, consider the information that was provided for professionalism, completeness and attractiveness.
You will want to align yourself with a concept that can present itself well at a tradeshow. Make a note of any questions you may have and try to schedule follow-up calls with each company. Determine from those calls if they are interested in you as a candidate. If they are not eager to have you in their system it could be a sign that it is not a good fi t. Certainly, given the long-term nature of franchising it is best to determine that as quickly as possible in the process. If you take a calculated approach to using franchise tradeshows to help you narrow your search, your final decision stands a much better chance of being successful. And that is franchising well…
Ben Litalien is the 2011 Karp Research Foundation Award recipient for his ground-breaking research on “Social Franchise”.
He is the founder and principal of Franchise Well, a specialized consulting practice supporting franchise companies, prospective franchisees and nonprofit organizations interested in the franchise sector. Ben is a Certified Franchise Executive as designated by the Institute of Certified Franchise Executives and he teaches the Franchise Management Certification Program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He has an executive MBA from the University of Houston in Texas and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Management degree at the University of Maryland University College. For more information visit the website at www.franchisewell.com or Ben can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.