By Kay Ainsley, Managing Director, MSA Worldwide
If you’re thinking of buying a franchise, you might find yourself at one of the many franchise trade shows staged in cities all across the country. At these shows you’ll find franchises at various investment levels; you will see many brands with which you are familiar, and you also may find new and intriguing concepts or come across a familiar name that you didn’t realize was a franchise. You may have the chance to sample the product or see a product demonstration, and you can meet the franchise salesperson face-to-face.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed and confused with too many opportunities and/or being “sold” on something that isn’t a great fit for you, it is important that you do a little homework before you attend the show. Below are five simple tips for getting the most from your visit to a franchise trade show.
Tip #1 – Do Your Homework
If you haven’t already done so, take the time for a self-assessment to determine the parameters for your search:
- What type of business would you enjoy operating? What’s involved in operating a business of this type? How much time are you willing to devote to opening and operating a business?
- Where would you like to open your business? Do the types of businesses that interest you meet the demand in your target market? Are there well-established competitors already in place?
- What does your family think of the idea of your becoming a franchisee? Will they join in and/or support your efforts? What do you need to do to convince them that franchising is a good idea for you?
- How much capital do you have to invest? Do you have a strong credit history, or do you need to take steps to become more credit-worthy? Do you have ready access to additional funds?
Once you have the parameters in place, go online to see which franchisors that meet your criteria will be exhibiting at the show:
- Check out their website to become familiar with their franchise offering.
- Google the company and its principals to learn what you can about their reputation and credentials.
- After this research, you may also want to call and talk with a franchise salesperson and set a specific time to meet at the show.
Tip #2 – Leave the Kids at Home
It’s true that you’re in the driver’s seat as you look at franchises, and that you have a lot of opportunities from which to choose. However, strong franchisors (those systems that you’d like to join) are also evaluating you as a potential franchisee. It can be more difficult to be seen as a professional if you have small children interrupting your conversation. Making a great first impression can influence their desire to woo you into their network.
Tip #3 – Walk the Show First Thing
When you first arrive at the show, start at one end of the exhibit hall and quickly walk the entire show without stopping to talk with the salespeople, but noting any booths of interest that you may want to come back to later.
Attending a show can be a long day on your feet, and it’s easy to become too tired to see everything if you jump right in to detailed booth visits. Walking the show first, and only then going back to those booths that are of the most interest, ensures that you don’t miss the best opportunity because you’ve run out of time or your feet hurt. It also gives you an idea of the breadth of franchise opportunities available, and you can be selective about who you’d like to speak with.
If you’ve made an appointment, be sure to keep it and to be on time. At the show franchisors evaluate whether a prospect is a good fit for their business, and missing an appointment or being late is not going to win you any points.
Tip #4 – Know What You Want to Discuss
What do you most want to learn about a company? Know what information is important to you, and ask those questions first. Make sure that you leave the booth with a full understanding, or set a specific day and time for a follow-up conversation with the franchise salesperson.
Make notes on all of your conversations immediately after leaving the show to avoid any confusion in the days ahead. You may want to take a photo of the booth if you think it will help you remember certain information.
Tip #5 – Think It Over and Follow Up
It’s easy to become excited about an opportunity while at the show and talking with the franchise salesperson. But take a deep breath and, after the show, think through all that you’ve heard, ask further questions, and talk with your family and others who will be supporting you. Make sure the franchises you are considering are good investments, rather than ‘opportunities’ you should avoid. Investing in a franchise is a life-changing decision. Take the time to evaluate whether it is a good choice for you.