This lesson is part of our free Franchise 101 course.
If you’re considering joining a franchise, then one of the best sources of information is the people already working with that franchise. How can you contact existing franchisees? And what can you expect from this research?
Why Talk to Franchisees
Talking to existing franchisees might sound like a no brainer, but a surprising number of franchisees skip this step, so it’s worth talking about why it’s valuable.
Current and former franchisees have direct experience of what the franchise is like. They’ve dealt with the franchisors, so they know what level of support you’ll get and what will be expected of you. They’ve run the business, so they know the unexpected challenges it presents on a day-to-day basis. They’ve met the sort of customers you’ll be attracting, and so they know what they’re like to serve.
This is the sort of direct experience that won’t be in the franchise disclosure document (FDD) and that the franchisors might not want to share. It’s an important way of cutting through the brand marketing to the truth.
It can feel uncomfortable to contact strangers out of the blue, like you’re intruding on their time. But remember, most people enjoy talking about their work, especially when it’s work they’re passionate about, and if they don’t have time for you, most will simply and politely say no.
Every FDD has a full list of franchisees attached, with contact information. This covers not just current franchisees but also ones who have left the franchise. This will give you more than enough people to contact.
Plan on speaking with at least seven franchisees. This means contacting more than seven, as not everyone will be able to talk to you. The majority should be current franchisees, people with experience of where the franchise is at right now. But make sure to include a few former franchisees, perhaps two out of your seven, to get the perspective of people who’ve left the franchise. Their reasons for leaving might tell you things that the franchisors really don’t want to share.
What to Expect
Not everyone you contact will speak with you. Some will be too busy running their businesses, others may be passive owners with little knowledge of day-to-day operations. Just keep trying until you get hold of the people who are willing to spend at least a few minutes talking to you.
Take plenty of notes on what you’re told and be ready with questions if there are specific areas you’re interested in. The detailed information you get will let you compare the different franchises on your shortlist. If they all have the potential to meet your interests and financial needs, then these notes will let you compare the franchises and decide which one you want to work with.
Direct contact with franchisees is one of the most valuable sources of information, so don’t miss out on the potential it offers.