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With over 3,000 different franchise concepts to choose from, the intense search to find the perfect match for your goals, income potential and lifestyle can leave you chomping at the bit to get started. But before you do, pull back on those reins and make sure you’re squarely in the saddle before you begin rounding up your preferred choices. The last thing you want to do is rush headlong into an ambush of your own doing. But if you follow this advice, you’ll have a much better chance of leaving your troubles behind and riding off into the sunset.
If you’re searching for a franchise for the first time, here are six tips to consider:
1. Crack a spine or two
We don’t mean in a physical sense. In this case, cracking a spine or two means you should read a good book or two about becoming an entrepreneur, starting your own business, or even franchising in general. There are thousands of great books on the subject, and you don’t have to begin with “Franchising for Dummies.” And absorbing knowledge from a great book or two at your own pace of reading is also an exercise in patience. Which you’re going to need once the franchise search process begins.
Related: 3 Books Every Franchise Buyer Needs to Read
2. Clear up this one misconception
Have you heard the one about the accountant who hated his job, so he went out and bought an H&R Block franchise instead? Many candidates researching franchises for the first time mistakenly lock on to concepts that mirror their previous experience, skills, and career path. But when you decide to franchise your way to business ownership, your focus should be on finding a concept that matches up with the entrepreneurial lifestyle you’re going for—not where you’ve been. Remember these truths: you don’t have to love the particular product or service your new franchise offers. And you don’t need an emotional connection to your business. Business ownership is a means to an end. If it checks off the goals, income, and lifestyle you want, it’s a fit.
3. Do your market research
Before beginning the search for a suitable franchise, you should investigate the current markets and determine where there’s a demand. We’re not talking about hype or a craze, but economic indicators that signal favorable market conditions. In a capitalist economy, there are always winners and more than a few losers. Some industries are dying out, while others are only beginning to emerge, destined to become a steady and stable economic driver in their own right. What you want to find is opportunity. And unless you’re planning to become a multi-unit owner with franchise operations in multiple areas, keep your research in your own local area. Maybe even at a hyperlocal level. Just think, “What type of business does this town really need?”
Related: Conducting a Market Analysis for Your Business Plan
4. Assess the competition
If you have an idea of a particular market or industry that you’re interested in pursuing, take the time to do some competitive analysis. Pick an example you’re considering and look into what the similar businesses are in your area. How well are they doing? Are they thriving? What do their online reviews say? No matter the franchise concept you ultimately choose, you will have a competitor.
5. Network yourself
Like to network? There’s no greater source of information about franchise ownership than a current franchise owner. And it’s a safe bet there’s one—if not several—in your immediate area. Pick a considerate time to visit the business, introduce yourself, and share your interest in becoming a franchise owner. Let the current owner know that you’d appreciate some helpful advice over coffee or lunch—your treat, of course. Most people are flattered when they’re asked for their expertise and advice. When your lunch or coffee date arrives, show up with a notepad and a good ink pen. Ask questions, then sit back and take notes. You’re about to get a useful education from someone who’s already been in your shoes.
6. Keep an open mind at all costs
Whether you begin a franchise search by yourself, or with the help of a broker or consultant, keep an open mind above all else. The investigative process is just that—a process. It takes time, effort, and patience. You may find yourself seriously considering a franchise concept you never imagined owning. But it also might end up being the perfect fit.