Opening a franchise is a lot of hurry-up and wait. When I wrote my first column about franchising for Club Industry in this series, I felt like the experience of opening a franchise was like a marathon. And even though at times it seems like everything is happening all at once, it simultaneously feels like nothing is moving forward. It's like trying to lose 20 pounds. You think you are doing everything right, but it takes a few weeks before you really start to see the scale move. So, is this normal? Is this just how the process naturally unfolds?
An article posted on Franchise Direct about the 11 steps to opening a franchise shows a typical path that a new franchise owner might take in opening his or her business. I've revised those just a bit to make 13 steps in my list:
- Pick a franchise consultant to assist you (optional)
- Attend discovery day
- Speak to other franchisees
- Choose a franchise and secure funding
- Find a suitable location
- Sign the agreement
- Obtain all necessary permits and insurance
- Construct or renovate the business
- Hire staff
- Open your franchise business
If you have been reading my columns since I started writing them this year, you know that over the past two and a half months I have chosen a franchisor, attended discovery day, purchased the franchise, found a location and signed a lease. During the next few weeks, I will be working with architects and completing the build out while hiring staff, doing pre-sales and ramping up operations, marketing and general administrative functions for the business.
Here are the five things I have learned so far in the process:
- Franchise support will go dark…temporarily. Although my overall impression of the franchise support team is overwhelmingly positive, they will be slightly less active as you scout locations and sign a lease. Expect their involvement to increase dramatically as build-out and hiring begins.
- Vendors have their own timetable. If you want a vendor to do something quick, be prepared for disappointment. Add two hours, two days, two weeks to every timetable they give you.
- Landlords are not your friends. Although landlords are not necessarily bad guys, their agenda is different from yours. They want the least expensive tenant at the most expensive rent possible. Therefore, it is natural to expect some negotiations over allowances, rent per square feet, terms and annual increases.
- Don't always look for "sexy" locations; look for profitable ones. I narrowed my location search to two properties. One was highly visible and one seemed less attractive. The less attractive property ended up needing the least amount of work and will potentially drive the most amount of traffic. Look with your budget, not your eyes.
- Time does stand still. Things take time to develop, so this could be more perception than reality. After all, you want your business to open as soon as possible, so every day spent planning, preparing and building is a day you feel like you are wasting revenue opportunities.
Matthew Cicci is a freelance fitness writer and small business owner in the Chicago area. With more than 15 years experience in the health and fitness industry, Cicci has operated businesses in the not-for-profit, commercial, private, franchise and residential fitness environments in the New York market. Cicci has held several industry-wide certifications, has a bachelor's of science degree in management and studied under the master's program for exercise science at Syracuse University. He can be reached at [email protected].