A franchise exhibition is the perfect starting point for any would-be franchisee

This is the message from Richard Pakey who advises anyone interested in joining the industry to attend one or two of the franchise exhibitions that take place annually around the UK.

A franchise exhibition is the perfect starting point for any would-be franchisee

Anyone keen to understand the world of franchising should visit one of the many franchise shows or exhibitions which take place around the UK every year. Tickets for these events are usually free and they offer the ideal opportunity to examine the vast array of franchise businesses all under one roof.

Following the restrictions imposed by Covid, franchisors are relieved that these large-scale events are back on the calendar. These exhibitions attract thousands of visitors. They are also the perfect place for hundreds of franchising brands to promote their businesses.

Three of this year’s biggest events are the Franchise Show at the London ExCel in Docklands; the British & International Franchise Exhibition at Olympia in west London; and for those who don’t wish to travel to the English capital can head to Birmingham for the National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC.

These are all two-day gatherings, with the Franchise Show being held on April 14-15, the Olympia Exhibition on June 9-10, while the National Franchise Exhibition takes place October 6-7.

Although few people purchase a franchise while attending an exhibition, they remain the perfect venue for chatting to franchisors and other members of the network. These are events where those keen to join the franchising industry can best appreciate the large collection of different sectors available.

Most ‘business deals’, and the ultimate signing of a franchise agreement, usually happens long after interested parties attend such shows. A typical order of play is meet the franchisor, collect literature relating to their business, go home, and when the time is right read through this information. And if you are interested in taking matters further, contact the franchisor again for a longer, in-depth chat. By this point you will have written many questions you want to ask the business owner.

You should also carry out independent research about a company before making a final decision. The entire process should take weeks, and probably months.

Visit as many exhibitors as possible to sample the different types of franchise opportunities on offer. At this stage there’s no point going into too much detail with any single franchisor.

Bear in mind that shows are not an ideal environment for extensive dialogue. From a franchisor’s point of view, they do not wish to spend too long with a single interested party either.

They want to capture everyone who shows some significant interest in their business. So don’t feel offended if they need to end a conversation in order to meet and greet their next potential franchisee. There may be a long line of people waiting to speak to the franchisor.

As many as 150 to 200 franchised brands usually attend the largest exhibitions around the country. These will be listed in the official exhibition magazine, as well as online. Thanks to the internet, visitors can even start their research before they leave home on the morning of the event.

The brands you choose to focus on will depend on a number of things, such as sector, personal interest, investment level. It’s vital to find the best ‘fit for you’. But, don’t forget, franchisors need to be certain that you are the ‘perfect fit for them.’ The reputational damage suffered by a brand, when a franchisee fails, can be significant, so any deal has to suit all parties.

Failure or termination of an agreement – irrespective of fault – may have serious financial consequences for the franchisee who could be financially ruined by the experience.

So how do you know if a franchise represents value? First of all, it is vital to carry out your own due diligence on any business which attracts you. Ask difficult questions to franchisors, while also seeking the opinions of professional advisors, family and friends. Don’t forget, this is a major life-defining moment. Only by capturing the hard facts will you be in a position to make an educated decision.

Exhibitions are more than one-dimensional gatherings

These two-day events also include speeches, seminars and workshops. Seminars will provide you with many of the facts needed about a franchise brand. But not all businesses run seminars, so please check the details first. Although they are free to attend, there can be limited seats available, so you may need to get there early or pre-book.

Most visitors travel to events to gather information, although a number of people may have already done some research and are using this moment to meet the franchisor face-to-face for the first time.

Franchising is not an ‘impulse buy’, and anyone who attempts this move would be considered suspicious by any franchisor. Franchise agreements usually consist of dozens of pages of intricate detail and legal jargon, which may require independent professional guidance and assistance.

Despite gathering lots of information at a show, and then delving deeper into your research, which will probably include attending online discovery days, holding conversations with franchisors and network members, as well as seeking professional advice, you may still end up saying ‘no’.

Don’t worry. This happens a lot and it’s always best to err on the side of caution. It’s an expensive business, and the final decision must be the correct one. 

That said. Always be courteous. Answer all calls and emails, but don’t be scared to tell the franchisor you are not going ahead with a purchase or taking it any further. They will appreciate your honesty. Franchise exhibitions are a great resource when utilised correctly. Make use of them, even if eventually you decide to look elsewhere.

Richard Pakey
Richard Pakey