Franchising guru Richard Pakey explains why an exhibition is best served as a fact-finding mission, and is neither the time nor the place for making concrete business decisions.
If you are currently looking to buy a franchise, then why not attend one of the many franchise exhibitions which take place around the country each and every year. Although the outbreak of the Covid pandemic led to a temporary suspension for many of these events, it does finally appear that life is slowly starting to return to some form of normality.
Franchise exhibitions are free to attend. Exhibitions are usually well supported by the franchise sector. These events have an overall title sponsor, with individual franchise brands hiring stands within the main arena. For franchisors it provides them with a great opportunity to fly the flag for their brand, with a few thousand people often attending these two-day events.
The London Excel arena is one particular large venue which has experience of staging such gatherings when more than two hundred exhibitors will hope to catch the attention of attendees who sometimes total over 10,000.
A franchisor will spend a considerable sum of money hiring a stand, along with other associated outlays that includes travelling costs and hotel fees. For them, their sole purpose is to attract new franchisees into the business. As for potential franchisees, they need to prepare in advance, by selecting brands they wish to contact and people they want to speak to.
Register early for an event so you receive much of the information you require, before carefully selecting your chosen brands. The earlier you register, the more up-to-date news, statistics and background knowledge you will acquire. This information will also make it easier for you to filter out the brands you don’t wish to contact.
Always attend these exhibitions with a manageable list of brands among your wish list. Don’t spread the load too thinly and make certain you spend enough time with each brand. All events produce a brochure which lists every attending brand, along with a map that shows where each of them is situated. Even take time out to sit down and have a mug of tea or coffee, while deciding on your itinerary for the day.
Walk around the entire hall or arena first to get a feel for the surroundings. Only then should you visit your first stand. Yet there is more to finding a franchise than simply attending an exhibition. These events are only part of your overall journey towards selecting your favoured brand.
Exhibitions are a great first step towards your goal of purchasing a franchise. However, you won’t be able to dig too deeply in such a short space of time. It’s also not the ideal place for asking in-depth questions or seeking ‘classified’ data. Use an exhibition to gather some initial information and to make that important first handshake with a franchisor, or one of their team members.
There will always need to be a follow-up meeting. Never sign on the dotted line at this early stage of proceedings. Exhibitions should be used to evaluate brands, after which your short-list of potential franchisors becomes even shorter.
Another free resource of these occasions are the seminars which take place around the arena. For some seminars you may need to book in advance, while others are simply walk-in events.
Seminars are run by experts and will include ‘question and answer sessions’. You may also wish to ask a question in private, and this should be possible too. Seminars are not just events used by brands to promote their businesses, but also cover more generic topics such as financing a franchise or seeking advice with recruitment.
If you are feeling anxious about attending an exhibition, and worried that you may end up committing to something you will regret later on, fear not. Franchisors will not expect you to sign-up on the day of an exhibition – nor will they want this anyway. Research is always on-going and the only thing you may be asked to do is exchange details with a franchisor, ahead of future meetings and planned discussions.
Purchasing a franchise involves several stages, and companies will be suspicious of those wanting to jump in too early. Franchisors do not wish to attract the wrong type of franchisee. These men and women are seeking the perfect fit for their businesses too.
Franchisors do not want to waste their precious time either, by speaking to someone who has no genuine interest in their brand. Therefore they will respect anyone who says ‘no’, even following lengthy, in-depth discussions. So don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ yourself.
Finally, exhibitions are a great networking tool. Make it your mission to understand, and even get to know, the ins and outs of the various brands, suppliers, consultants and generic franchising experts.
Above all else, use these gatherings as a fact-finding opportunity which can be put to good use further down the line. It could be another 12 or 18 months before you finally decide to take the plunge. By which stage you will be in an even better position to make the correct decision.