Advice & Tips Ask an Expert November/December 2018

Q: What should I expect from working with a franchising consultant?

THANKS TO THE INTERNET, folks searching for fran­chise opportunities have a virtually unlimited amount of information available at their fingertips. Franchisors are more creatively targeting online marketing and advertis­ing too. And, of course, there are still traditional options like trade shows. There is however a downside to this accessibility: information overload! With such breadth of information out there in the digital space, users run the risk of frequently running into questionable content propagating potentially incorrect or biased information. One can easily get in over their head and float rudderless towards a bad decision.

This is where working with a trusted franchise con­sultant comes in.

Let’s start by clarifying “Franchise Consultant.” Many franchise consultants specialize in helping companies start franchising; or established franchises with a spe­cific need or challenge. My business card also reads “franchise consultant”, but my role is different in that I help prospective franchisees navigate the sometimes overwhelming arena of finding and researching possible franchises to invest in.

When it comes to the question of what to expect from working with a franchising consultant, one thing should be on the top of your mind: that your needs come first.

In my role, I work for you. Regardless of the fact that I am compensated by the franchisor (when clients move ahead with a franchise), my duty to the franchisor is to help them find the most suitable franchisee. At the same time, it is to help you find and research the ideal franchise for you. There is a lot at stake here. My ethics and reputation are on the line while you, by choosing to enter the world of franchising, are making a life-changing financial investment. In order for you to achieve the best outcome, I need to put your needs first.

The first step when we team up is to formalize your game plan, or business model. By taking the time and effort up front to explore the many aspects of what the ideal business looks like for you, we eliminate guess work and I can make solid franchise recommendations. It becomes immediately apparent that I have a great deal of questions in a number of areas for you to help me fully understand what you are looking to do. Because my recommendations of which franchises you might want to consider exploring are a direct result of this step, it is important to not rush through it or pass over critical subject areas with potentially major outcomes.

When we talk about money, my aim is to understand how much you are comfortable investing; where the funds are coming from, and if you plan on borrowing. It is not my place to suggest how much capital you should invest, or to encourage you to bump the number up. I should, however, point out that I may directly question your fig­ure if it appears to be overly aggressive or unrealistic. If needed, I will encourage you to take a more conservative approach to the financial aspect of the franchise. By buff­ering the amount of investment required; for example: factoring in higher-than-anticipated start-up costs or longer-than-usual period to positive cashflow, I can help us stay the course. Here, I am putting your needs first to ensure you do not risk your investment by running out of start-up capital in the early days. It is also worth noting that your fit, enjoyment, and success in franchising is not directly tied to the investment you make.

Once the game plan has been set, it is time to get introduced to franchise concepts that come closest to bullseye on the priority factors laid out. There shouldn’t be any bias towards franchises that other people have opted for (unless it is a solid match for you too), or pref­erence towards “new” or “hot” franchises, or ones that are fastest growing for reasons that don’t line up with your agenda.

One thing I will reiterate at this point is the expected volume of work about to begin. Earlier conversations clarifying your available bandwidth may influence how many franchises we explore at one time. And at no time will we suggest watering down your research efforts by looking at too many at once.

The research agenda we follow is purely yours and I will endorse the client’s needs when it comes to time­line over those of the franchisors. In the past I have seen franchisors keenly invite candidates to discovery days prematurely – The goal will be to time your head office visit when you are ready. Accountability is one thing you can count on me to provide – keeping you on task with following proven processes. Without adhering to one, you are left to make up your own and run the risk of get­ting it wrong.

While the intention is never to unnecessarily slow your progress, I am guilty of asking clients “have you talked to enough franchisees” or spending time focusing on aspects of the business that might be less appealing or more challenging to you. At no point am I there to wave you to a decision like a 3rd base coach when there is still work to be done. This will always include advocat­ing working with a bonified franchise lawyer to review the FDD and your franchise agreements.

And just when you think it is decision time, it’s time to jump in the hot seat. Your job is to demonstrate that you have done your homework to the full extent and coming to the end with your eyes wide open. Ulti­mately you have to convince me that you are making a smart decision.

No one else’s agenda is ever at the forefront when working with a franchise consultant. If you feel other­wise – pressured, being sold or rushed – then it is not a good fit and time to part ways and consider another consultant.

Jania Bailey