Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Franchising
The following list of “frequently asked questions” is published by The International Franchise Association (IFA), whose mission is to enhance and to safeguard the business environment for franchising worldwide. Have a look at the answers to some questions regularly asked. Maybe the answer to your question is here. If not, feel free to contact us.
Franchising is a method of distributing products or services. At least two levels of people are involved in a franchise system: (1) the franchisor, who lends his trademark or trade name and a business system; and (2) the franchisee, who pays a royalty and often an initial fee for the right to do business under the franchisor’s name and system. Technically, the contract binding the two parties is the “franchise,” but that term is often used to mean the actual business that the franchisee operates.
Imagine a store owned by an individual with a particular concept. If the business is successful, the owner may develop a second or third store and hire employees for the day-to-day operations. At that point, if the entrepreneur still wants to expand but prefers not to operate additional stores himself or herself, he or she may decide to “franchise” the store name and business system to an independent business person known as a franchisee. In return, the entrepreneur may ask for an initial fee and/or a continuing royalty payment based on a percentage of that franchisee’s sales. The business is now franchised.
It’s difficult to tell just by visiting the restaurant. However, if it is a franchise, there should be some signage in the restaurant which indicates that the restaurant is independently owned and operated. Many companies have stores that are operated by franchisees but also have stores that are company owned and operated. So it’s entirely possible that of two stores with the same name, one may be operated by a franchisee and the other operated by the company. In either case, the products, services, and quality should be the same.
The answer may surprise you. By 2001, there were 767,483 business establishments in all domestic franchise systems (either owned by franchisors and franchisees), which employed almost 10 million people, with direct output close to $625 billion, and a payroll of $230 billion. These establishments account for significant percentage of all establishments in many important lines of business: 56.3% in quick service restaurants, 18.2% in lodging, 14.2% in retail food, and 13.1% in table/full service restaurants.
In business format franchising, the franchisor prescribes for the franchisee a complete plan, or format, for managing and operating the establishment. The plan provides step-by-step procedures for major aspects of the business and, anticipating most management problems, provides a complete matrix for management decisions confronted by the franchisees. The major advantage of buying a business format franchise is that the “system,” the means for distributing goods and or services, has been developed, tested, and associated with the trademark. As a result, rapid expansion of a successful retail concept can occur more quickly than through company-owned expansion.*
Sales by business format franchisors continued to increase steadily throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century. In 2001, comparing business format franchising to product distribution franchising, business format franchising had about 4.3 times as many establishments, employed 4 times as many workers, generated 2.5 times the payroll, and produced nearly 3 times as much output.
*Dave Thomas and Michael Seid, Franchising for Dummies 13 (IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. 2000).
As the economy becomes more service and technology oriented, as more women enter the work force, and as a larger percentage of the population grows older, growth areas in franchising are responding to these changes. The industry categories in franchising that are expected to continue to experience rapid growth for the start of the new century are service-related fields such as home repair and remodeling, carpet cleaning, household furnishings, and various other maintenance and cleaning services; business support services including accounting, mail processing, advertising services, package wrapping and shipping, personnel and temporary help services, and printing and copying services; automotive repairs and services such as quick-lube and tune-up; and other areas such as environmental services, hair salons, health aids and services, computers, clothing, children’s services, educational products and services, and telecommunications services.
While it is important to consider industry growth before investing in a franchise, it is more important to analyze an individual franchise company’s track record, keeping in mind that quick growth does not always spell success. A franchise organization that grows too quickly might not have a service team in place to support all of the units properly. Overall, long range trends indicate a steady, solid growth in business format franchising. Some will fall by the wayside, as is natural with any business, but others may well be the “household name” franchise success stories of tomorrow.
Virtually every business form you can imagine. The International Franchise Association now lists more than 75 different categories to describe its members. Typically, you would think of fast food and restaurants first when thinking of franchising, but franchising covers the spectrum from almost A to Z, from advertising/direct mail to construction to dating services to home inspection to security systems to video sales and rentals. Printing and copying services, maid services, computer services, cleaners, lawn care services, real estate, hotels and motels, and travel agencies are excellent examples of successfully applying franchising to established industries.
The increasingly mobile American consumer has come to depend on and appreciate the consistent quality of franchised products and services. Today, no matter where they go, people expect and want the same quality, which is why consumers so often stop at franchised establishments. The ability to easily recognize a franchised store, restaurant or hotel from the outside guarantees there will be no surprises or disappointments on the inside. Quite simply, the public knows what to expect and likes it that way.
Among the points which IFA recommends for investigation are:
- The type of experience required in the franchised business;
- A complete understanding of the business;
- The hours and personal commitment necessary to run the business;
- Who the franchisor is, what its track record has been, and the business experience of its officers and directors;
- How other franchisees in the same system are doing;
- How much it’s going to cost to get into the franchise;
- How much you’re going to pay for the continuing right to operate the business;
- If there are any products or services you must buy from the franchisor and how and by whom they are supplied;
- The terms and conditions under which the franchise relationship can be terminated or renewed, and how many franchisees have left the system during the past few years;
- The financial condition of the franchisor and its system.
Both the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) and IFA (www.franchise.org ) have many helpful publications and resources. Equally important, IFA recommends that you engage an attorney to examine the contract. It is important to work with an attorney who understands franchising, especially the antitrust laws, the trademark laws, the Federal Trade Commission Franchise Rule, and applicable state laws. It is also recommended that you ask a competent accountant to examine your anticipated expenses, your financing needs, and your prospects for achieving your desired level of profitability before you sign any agreement.
It is a federal regulation which requires franchisors to prepare an extensive disclosure document and to give a copy to any prospective franchise purchaser before he or she buys a franchise. The disclosure document typically used to comply with the Rule is called an FDD. Within the FDD are many different categories of information about the franchise, including some of the information described in the response to Question 9 above. Required fees, basic investment, bankruptcy and litigation history of the company, how long the franchise will be in effect, a financial statement of the franchisor, earnings claims (if the company makes them)… all are presented in this disclosure document. IFA recommends that both your attorney and your accountant review the FDD and your franchise agreement.
Even though inaccuracy and misrepresentation carry civil and sometimes severe criminal penalties, there is no way to be absolutely sure. The disclosure document makes fraud and deception less likely. However, because the franchisor has — under penalty of law — answered in written (or electronic) form a variety of very important questions you can use to judge the offer, IFA recommends that you carefully consider the information provided and evaluate the materials, including the history and reputation of the company and its officers, with the assistance of your lawyer and accountant. Also, be absolutely sure you talk to a substantial number of others who have already obtained franchises from the company you’re considering, and ask them to verify any information you question. Learn if they are “satisfied customers” of the franchisor.
Fourteen states require franchise companies to file or register their franchise offerings with a state agency: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. These states, plus Oregon, also have disclosure regulations similar to those of the Federal Trade Commission. By means of so-called business opportunity laws, certain other states regulate the offer and sale of a business opportunity which may include the offering of a franchise under the state’s definition of a business opportunity.
You can contact YFS directly, and let us help you “shop wisely.” “Shopping wisely” requires that you determine the type of franchise right for you, how much you can afford to invest, and where to obtain financing. Careful investigation prior to purchasing a franchise also necessitates understanding the FDD. You need to examine what the franchise relationship entails. For instance, you need to inquire into the training and support provided, assistance in finding and developing a location, and the sources of inventory and supplies. We will also help you research the companies’ growth and prospects for future growth. You should also seek advice from professionals and business people you respect. By shopping wisely, you can make an informed decision on whether to purchase the franchise.
Investment requirements differ tremendously. It all depends on the industry and the type of business. Total start-up costs can range from $20,000 to over $1,000,000, depending on the franchise selected, and whether it is necessary to own or lease real estate to operate the business. Moreover, the initial franchise fee for most franchisors is between $10,000 and $50,000. Seventy percent of franchisors charge an initial franchise fee of $40,000 or less. The average investment is between $350,000 – $400,000 for retail and $60,000 – $180,000 for service franchises. You must discuss the initial fees and opening costs with individual companies, although IFA’s Franchise Opportunities Guide can supply general information.
A successful franchisee should be suited to the industry of which he or she is a part, suited to the particular franchise company, and suited to the franchise system generally. Important questions to ask yourself include: Am I suited to the industry physically and by experience, education, learning capacity, temperament and financial ability? What type of work is most appealing to me; for example, do I enjoy working with food, mechanical things, people, real estate, books and recordings, sporting goods, etc.? Am I prepared to work hard and take financial risks? Do my advisors, family, and friends think I am adaptable and trainable? How do I react to controls? Am I a loner – resenting authority and restraints, or can I accept guidance and direction happily? If I prefer to act as a passive investor in the franchise, will the company accept this? How do I personally feel about the company’s image and products and services? The right answers to these types of questions help determine your potential success as a franchisee.
No one can be 100% sure. Although the majority of franchisees are satisfied, successful business people, some do suffer financial losses. That’s why you must be particularly wary of any company which “guarantees” profit or certain success. If you hear a claim about a company that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investigation of all earnings claims made by a franchisor is especially important. But, regardless of earnings claims, you must recognize that your success can come only through hard work. Success or failure ultimately depends on you.
In exchange for the security, training, and marketing power of the franchise trademark, you must be able and willing to give up some of your independence. If you are a person who likes to make most decisions on your own or to chart the course of your business alone, a franchise may not be right for you. As a franchise owner, you must comply with the various controls and procedures established by the franchisor. Then, too, all successful businesses require a lot of dedication and plain, hard work. You must be prepared to make that commitment.
Among the most important trends in franchising today are the internationalization of franchising, the emergence of women and minorities in franchising, and the increased use of technology. All of these have profound and positive effects on franchising and make it an even more dynamic method of doing business today.