Being a good prospective franchisee

I have a plea to people looking for a franchise opportunity. The bit between thinking you might like to buy a franchise and actually buying one.

Being a good prospective franchisee

I have recently been asking myself why people apply for information on a franchise and then do nothing further.

Ghosting, as it’s now known, seems an extraordinary behaviour. Unless there are some rogues out there, no franchisor is going to try and coerce someone into buying a franchise. I’d love to share with you why it’s so inappropriate.

When you buy into a franchise, you’re developing a relationship akin to marriage. You go on a few dates, you find out lots about each other, you see whether there is a comfortable match – and then you legalise the relationship – or you break up. Usually as kindly as possible in an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ conversation.

The franchise buy-in process should be one of discovery – this will mean release of some initial / taster information, most likely a Discovery Session, then meetings, a possible ‘come and try it’ with a franchisee and disclosure along the way of relevant and important information regarding the franchise.

During this time, you, as the applicant, are also being interviewed. Your behaviour during this process will show the franchisor who you are and whether you work to similar values and standards. Not responding to emails or calls, being late or not showing up, failure to do what you say you will do and/or simply not being willing to follow the discovery process in place are all red flags for us.

I have never really understood why a person would make an application for a franchise and then simply not respond to any contact. A rough estimate from franchise recruiters is that 90% of enquiries never get beyond an initial email. And that’s to people who have directly asked for information. Even if you discount competitor shopping, that feels very high!

I have run and attended many Discovery Events for franchises and find myself intrigued. I have two examples of responses that I think indicate the lack of understanding of the franchise discovery process:

“Call me on the morning and I’ll tell you if and when I can join you.”

“I don’t need to hear it all so can you tell me when you’ll talk about the financials because that’s the only bit I need to make a decision? “

The investment any franchisee makes in a franchise is usually one of the biggest purchases in their lives. And the discovery process should be set up to ensure that the franchisee fully understands what is expected of them – in fact it is incumbent on the franchisor to make sure the franchisee does understand this since it may directly affect the success or failure of the franchisee. There should be an opportunity for the franchisor to get to know the franchisee and understand their motivation, drivers and indeed what they bring to the business.

It’s also a chance for the franchisee to see if they really want to work with the people in the business, deliver the model and work to the operating standards.

It’s a two-way process – both parties are putting themselves forward for assessment and every action will be judged for the suitability and match. Like dating, you want to bring your best game but help each other to understand your weaknesses.

Returning to the idea that you get initial information and do nothing further – why is that? Why wouldn’t you drop a note and just say – it’s not for me thanks. Or, I’m doing a very broad research currently but won’t be looking to put meetings in place for a year or two. Just a polite response to let the franchisor know your position.

I recently had an enquiry from some who had sent two previous enquiries – and then not responded to any other contact. I challenged them, as politely as possible, to let me know what it is they were planning, because three years is a very long decision-making process when all you’ve had is the same prospectus and nothing further. Silence once again, but at least I got it off my chest.

I’ve also had 5 people signed up for an event, mobilised the speakers and bought supplies, only to sit there with no-one. Some do tell us – others just don’t bother. If they ever wanted to come back to Discovery, the excuse would need to be robust to convince us they aren’t just rude and unreliable.

I love a franchisee prospect who drives the process with me. Not everyone is right for us and we’re not right for everyone – but how lovely to meet a candidate who is eager for the next stage, keeps you informed of their timing and never leaves you hanging. Because we won’t do that to a candidate.

And you wouldn’t do that to your long-term partner potential when you’re dating…

Louise Harris
Louise Harris