This Friday, thousands of ambitious would-be business owners will descend on the NEC exhibition centre in Birmingham for the National Franchise Exhibition, the UK’s biggest franchising event. The two-day gathering, which is backed by the British Franchise Association (BFA), will introduce ticket holders to a raft of franchise concepts, ranging from food and drink operations, such as noodle chain Chopstix; fitness opportunities, like Anytime Fitness, also the major sponsor of this year’s event; property firms, including Platinum Property Partners; and many more besides.
But, with so many franchise systems to choose from, and so much ground to cover, how can those attending get the most from the experience, and find out what they really need to know from the franchisors taking part?
Know what to expect
It’s not enough to turn up on the day without knowing what’s on offer. A serious would-be entrepreneur will have done research ahead of time, scanning the show guide thoroughly or looking at the event’s website for a full list of exhibitors. You may have a set idea about the industry sector you’re interested in, but be honest with yourself about your skills, experience, and where you might really flourish. Look at all of the participating companies, as franchise systems offer training to franchisees, and you might find an unexpected, interesting match in an area you hadn’t considered before.
Have a strategy
Plan your time. A vast exhibition space full of stalls demanding your attention will be overwhelming if you haven’t some concept of where to focus your attention. Devise a shortlist of franchise outfits to approach, and have some key questions drafted so you don’t forget anything in the heat of the moment. We’ve talked on this blog before both about what would-be franchisees should be asking franchisors, plus the tough questions franchisors often wish you wouldn’t pose. Consider these fundamental elements, and any queries you have that aren’t answered by the franchise outfit’s website, and available literature. This is your chance to put their representatives on the spot, so take advantage of it. And don’t forget they’ll be weighing you up as much as you are them. The franchisor wants to get an idea of whether you’re serious about investing, or unlikely to commit. Preparation is everything to ensure any exchange is useful for you, and that you give the best impression of yourself.
Do your sums in advance
Just about the most important thing you need to know going into a conversation with any franchisor is how much you can afford to invest in a franchise unit. This will determine what’s available to you, plus your probable likelihood of success both in terms of being recruited as a franchisee, and as a business owner. You may be quizzed in some detail about where your capital investment is coming from, and how you’ll fund the franchise purchase, whether from personal savings, bank borrowing, or lending from a specialist provider. Be realistic about how much you can raise, which means crunching some numbers before you approach a franchise system you’re seriously interested in.
You could make your first stop at the show one of the many franchising experts who will be in attendance. Accountants, franchising lawyers, bankers with expertise in franchise funding, alternative lenders, and franchise consultants will all be present, so seek out several specialists to research all your financial options.
Don’t ignore the educational stuff
These large events aren’t just a showcase for franchise systems, they also provide aspiring franchise owners with a chance to tap into the collective knowledge of some of the leaders in the franchising field. This year’s National Franchise Exhibition is hosting more than 60 seminars from industry experts, such as the pros and cons of acquiring a franchise resale, what to know about low investment franchises, and how to choose the right franchise for you. The BFA is holding sessions including an introduction to franchising, and, for the first time, a series of ‘Growing Your Own Business’ workshops. Then, big name franchise outfits such as McDonald’s, Papa John’s, and Starbucks are holding interactive events about how their systems operate. Smart individuals will take advantage of all of this expertise to inform themselves of the ins and outs of the franchising experience, and to make some valuable contacts for the future.
Take your time
You’re at this exhibition to learn as much as you can about how franchising works, plus the businesses that might be a potential match for you. But you don’t have to make your mind up on the day about where you may invest. Act in haste, and repent at leisure. Some exhibitors may try to persuade you to make a commitment on the spot. Resist this, even if you’re very keen. It’s always wise to have a cooling-off period, and time to digest all of the information you’ve gathered. Take all of the bags full of brochures home, along with the contact details of the various people you’ve met, and the lessons you’ve taken from the seminars, and talks. Then, really consider what stood out for you once you’re away from the fevered exhibition atmosphere. There will be plenty of time for follow-up conversations further down the line. And sensible franchisors will want a potential recruit to have taken the decision seriously over time, rather than leaping into a hasty union.
For more information about the National Franchise Exhibition, follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #NFE15, join the Franchise Exhibitions group on LinkedIn, or visit the Franchiseinfo group on Facebook.