Ideas When Reviewing Franchise Agreements
Buying a franchise may seem like an easy way to get into business, but there are many things to consider before you make a commitment. Here are some thoughts.
A franchise agreement is basically a contract between you and an owner (franchisor) which allows you to use the owner’s trademark, trade name, business systems, advertising support, and business know how. In exchange for this right, you pay fees (often a portion of your business revenues) to the franchisor. As with any business relationship, specific obligations and benefits can vary dramatically.
Some franchisors offer a full range of services to help you get started, including training, site selection, marketing plans, and products. Others give you little more than the legal right to use their name or symbol, after which you are on your own.
Where to begin
Initial and ongoing expenses vary widely among franchises, so determine all your costs before you invest. For example, some franchisors require franchisees to pay for licensing fees, building renovations, equipment purchases, operations manuals, real estate leases, and other start-up costs. Other franchisors may require you to pick up such costs as training, insurance, and advertising. So review the agreement to fully understand your obligation.
Doing your due diligence
Understand any restrictions on competing with other franchisees or selling your business. While the agreement will lay out your legal obligations, talk to other franchisees of the franchisor that you are considering. Do they get the training and ongoing support outlined in the agreement? Is the promised advertising actually delivered and is it very effective? If you hear extensive complaints, you should probably keep looking.
Remember the Document is a Required Disclosure
The franchise disclosure document is a legal document the Federal Trade Commission requires franchisors to provide to prospective franchisees before selling a franchise. There are 23 different sections that a franchisor is required to disclose, from potential litigation or bankruptcy issues, to initial fees, other fees and financial statements. Don’t get overwhelmed, as the entire document can run several dozen pages. This document can contain a treasure trove of information. And any omission is a potential legal liability to the franchisor, so it is worth your time to be thorough in your review.
As always, it’s a good idea to seek professional advice before investing in a new business.