Buying a Franchise
By: Kevin B. Murphy, Franchise Attorney, MBA - Mr. Franchise

Now, let’s consider the franchise checklist and factors to consider before any leap into franchising.  

INDUSTRY TREND

Is the franchise in a cutting-edge industry that is doing well currently and is projected to do well in the future despite any economic slowdown? Education and home-improvement services are stable categories. Food is over-saturated generally and, except in exceptional circumstances, is not worth the high investment, long hours, headaches and marginal income.  

TOTAL INITIAL FRANCHISE INVESTMENT

In general, don't expect a franchise that requires a five-figure initial franchise investment to produce a six-figure income. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. On the other hand, don’t assume a six-figure investment will lead to a six-figure income level. Be realistic and conservative. Is the total initial franchise investment range (including working capital) $125,00 or less; and the maximum investment less than $200,000? You can find solid companies in this investment range if you're willing to look around. 

Don't forget to consider long-term financial commitments, particularly the real property lease (see discussion below under "LEASING AND LOCATION"). Also, the working capital estimate (called “additional funds” in Item 7 of the company’s franchise offering circular) does NOT cover operations up to the break-even point. It only covers a short initial phase (usually only three-months) of operating costs as the break-even point (where revenues cover all operating costs) may not happen for one, two or more years, knowing only what it’s going to take to get you through the first 90 days is not helpful – in fact it may set you up for financial suicide.

In many cases, reaching the break-even point can require more reserve funds than the total initial capital investment. Don’t ever forget the name of Item 7 in the Franchise Offering Circular: “Initial Investment.” If you don’t have enough reserve capital to reach the critical break-even point, your entire investment will go down the drain and franchise failure occurs. 

One franchise owner in a relatively low investment and low operating cost window cleaning franchise said his biggest surprise was how long it actually took his franchise to be profitable. Going in, he thought it would take 12 to 15 months. It ended up taking twice that time. Fortunately, he had enough reserve capital to make it there, but declined to say what his actual franchise profits or income level were once he reached "franchise profitability." If you're operating just above the break even point and making less than minimum wage, is that anyone's definition of success?  

REAL BUSINESS

Is this a legitimate retail business, as opposed to a "work out of your home" operation? The vast majority of work out of your home concepts produce marginal income at best.  

FRANCHISE MANAGEMENT EXPERTISE

Does the management team of the franchisor (the company selling you the franchise) have executives with demonstrated past achievement and experience in operating a franchise company (not just persons who have sold franchises)? If not, this is a big RED FLAG.

Many companies enter franchising and fail to realize they are in a brand new business - one requiring entirely different management skills and abilities to navigate franchise relationships. A seasoned franchise management infrastructure must be in place. If the franchise management team lacks strong franchise credentials, or does not receive ongoing advice from qualified individuals, you might as well take a trip to Las Vegas with the money you're intending to invest. Your chances of making vs. loosing money are roughly equal.

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