Maximising opportunities: How to get the most out of a visit to a franchise exhibition

Franchise exhibitions are a fantastic opportunity for you to meet multiple franchise brands all in one place. Here, experienced BFA members give their top tips on how a potential franchisee can get the most out of their day

BFA exhibition stand and team 1

On franchise exhibition days, visitors will be greeted with a ‘mini mall’ of franchise operations, from well-known high street brands to names you’ll probably never have heard of, so what’s the best way of tackling the day, research first or ask as you go? Casual dress or suited and booted, we get the low down from those on the stands.

Your franchise journey 

All journeys start with a single step and Emma Chappell, head of franchise recruitment at Sylvian Care hits the nail on the head when she says: ‘Getting the most out of your day will depend entirely on where you are in your research process. It may be that you are simply aiming to learn more about franchising in general and want to conduct further research into whether franchising is right for you… and if you are right for franchising. Alternatively, you may have already fallen in love with the franchising format, and now need to find the ideal franchisor to partner with.” So presuming you have narrowed down your search and identified some brands who will be attending the exhibition, what next?

Research, research, research  

The best advice we can give you here is to do your research before you go and try not to ask anything that is easily answered on a brand’s website. You want to be looking for deeper answers to bigger questions.  Graham Duckworth, Franchise Sales Director of Driver Hire suggests: “Carry out some research on the brands who could interest you – their websites should give you a basic understanding of their business and what running one of their franchises involves.  Attending the exhibition with some knowledge will make your enquiry stand out.  Think about the questions you’d like to ask and take a notepad with your questions and to jot down answers.  This will help you retain the information after you’ve left the exhibition. It’s also worthwhile engaging with your preferred franchise brand(s) in advance of the exhibition and asking if you can book an appointment.  This can help ensure you get a decent amount of time to ask your questions and learn more about the business.”

Drill down to the core

So you’ve done some research but what are the questions you need to ask to get to the core of a franchise opportunity?  Joanne Aldridge from The Holiday Franchise Company says: “Engage with franchisors by asking insightful open questions about their support, systems, financial stability, and growth opportunities, while avoiding queries solely focussed on earning potential. Ask if it is possible to speak with existing franchisees, to gain an honest view on partnering with them.”

Phil MacKechnie from Radfield Home Care agrees: “Focus your questions on understanding what makes a franchise model robust and stable; also seek conversations with existing franchisees and the support team, especially those involved in training and franchisee development. These interactions can offer candid insights into the day-to-day operations, challenges, and real-world application of the franchise model. Engaging with franchisees can provide a realistic picture of the business and help gauge the community and network support you’d be joining.”

Stand-out questions

There really is no such thing as a ‘silly question’ but are there limits to what you can ask a franchisor? Apparently not.  Emma Chappelle from Sylvian Care says her favourite question she was ever asked was: “Would you buy this franchise?”  She says: “It was such a brilliant question; I loved the boldness of it” and she urges attendees to ask anything they like. “Don’t forget this is your opportunity to really delve into the heart of a franchise opportunity. Franchisors love the quirky questions, and being challenged, so don’t hold back. We’ll always be happy to run you through the monthly service fees, working capital, and business support services you’ll receive, but don’t hold back in throwing us a curveball!”

Talks and Support Services

While you are at the exhibition, it is well worth making time for general browsing and seeking out franchise support services, as Elliot Walker from The Massage Company explains: “A Trade Show is also a good opportunity to meet the support services you may need to utilise, whether it is financing from one of the banks, speaking with the BFA for guidance on what a good franchise business looks like or attending a seminar on “how do I choose the perfect franchise business” – immersing yourself in the seminars and talks brings you one step closer to identifying the right opportunity for you.”

Your friend in franchising – The BFA

With hundreds of brands to choose from both in the exhibition hall and in general, how do you know who the ‘good guys’ are and who to avoid?  Pip Wilkins, CEO of the BFA (British Franchise Association) says: “It is easy to become overwhelmed at a franchise exhibition which is why prior research is useful. Most importantly, you need to ensure the brands you are considering are fit for purpose, ethical, professional and will enable you to build a profitable business to sell in the future. Founded in 1977 we are the largest and oldest franchise trade association in the UK, and we are proud to be the leading authority on franchising and franchise education in the country.  Our 300+ BFA members have all had their business models thoroughly audited to ensure they meet our standards and have pledged to adhere to our strict code of conduct for ethical franchising. Consider the BFA your ‘friend in franchising’, here to answer any questions you have, be that via our website, email or telephone and make sure you visit our website to see all 300+ members before your next visit to a franchise exhibition

Pip Wilkins
Pip Wilkins