Finding Success in Visiting a Franchise Expo

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Attending a franchise expo is easy, getting value out of it takes solid prior planning. 

All too often attendees at franchise expos walk in the door and have no game plan to work their way through the hundreds of booths they will wander past.  They walk out the door at the end of the day with a bag full of brochures after countless franchise brands scanned their badges and the food concepts took up their time standing in line for free food samples.  When they get home all those brands that scanned their badges will start calling and sending emails trying to get their attention again.

Many expo attendees are more confused and less focused after attending than before.  Here is how to avoid that:

Before going to the expo do some soul searching about what you are good at and enjoy doing.  This is less about the product and more about the tasks you would do daily.  Detail your ability and interest in:

1. Managing people, what kind of employees and how many – Consider white collar vs. blue collar staff and your comfort with each

2. Selling, managing salespeople or networking to build business – Nothing happens until somebody sells something to someone

3. The days and hours each week that you want to work

4. The types of customers you want to serve

5. Brick and mortar vs. service businesses

  • Your comfort with the possible higher start-up cost in brick and mortar
  • Your comfort in not working from the same desk all day in a service business
  • Your desire for variety in daily tasks
  • How close the owner’s role is to the level you achieved in the corporate world
  • Multi-unit growth plans vs adding territory
  • Desire for Recession resistance
  • Comfort with fads, vs long term trends

Once you have this personal outline you will have a rudimentary representation of what we build for our candidates and refer to as their model.  This basic outline should help you plan your visit to the expo so that you get more value out of the experience.  If you need help with this personal outline drop me a note.

Get a list of the brands that will be attending, preferably with a map of where each brand will be in the expo hall.  With a highlighter, possibly multiple colors if you want to prioritize, highlight those brands that fit the outline you built.  Your goal will be to visit brands that fit you as an owner, those may or may not be the ones that fit you as a customer.  There are countless brands that I am a raving fan of as a consumer that I should never own, you will likely find the same thing.

You may see various other service providers, just focus on the franchise brands for now.

Put together your list of questions that you will ask each vendor so that you can compare the answers across the pool of brands you talk to.  Being able to do side by side comparisons is important in this process.  Here are some questions I would not overlook:

  1. The all in TOTAL estimated start-up cost
  2. How long have they been franchising?
  3. How many franchisees do they have?
  4. Ask them about the areas important to your personal outline. Don’t compromise here, if they are not a fit then more on, you can’t “make it work” if their model does not fit you.

When you get to the expo pull out your map, start on one side of the room and mark off the ones you have visited as you go.

See that restaurant concept with the long lines waiting for free food samples?  Are they on your list?  If not then keep moving!  These booths can be a huge time sink where folks lose more than half their day waiting for food with no intention of running a restaurant every day.  Free food is like flypaper for attendees that did not plan their visit.  In trade for the food sample you generally have to get your badge scanned which starts the calling process.

If you are genuinely interested in running that restaurant every day simply walk past the line and find one of their salespeople to get your questions answered, they would love to talk to you.

As you work your way through the list are you finding that the concepts that you thought would fit you are not?  Do you need to step back and reconsider what types of businesses you are checking out?

There is no harm in stepping off the floor to retarget the booths you want to visit.  Remember this is not about being sold something it is about finding your perfect match.

When you get home it is time to organize your notes on each brand and start considering how well they fit your personal outline.  If they didn’t then you should not invest considerable time beyond the expo.  If a brand fits your outline, pulling together your notes is the beginning of your investigation.  Next steps would be to have an overview call with their sales team and get their Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).

If you are visiting with an International territory in mind or a special model like a Master Franchise or Area Developer, you can follow the same basic roadmap and add in your particular considerations.  These investigations have many questions we would add particular to the candidate and their goal.

As you look at brands consider both mature and emerging brands.  For those newer brands you will have to do added work to confirm the experience of the executive team and their ability to grow a new brand.

Have fun, learn a lot.  I am your franchise adviser, reach out to me if you have any questions.

George Knauf is a highly sought after, trusted advisor to many companies; Public, Independent and Franchised, of all sizes and in many markets. His 20 plus years of experience in both start-up and mature business operations makes him uniquely qualified to advise individuals that have dreamed of going into business for themselves in order to gain more control, independence, time flexibility and to be able to earn in proportion to their real contribution. Contact the Franchising USA Expert George’s Hotline 703-424-2980.

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