“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” This quote may go some way towards explaining why Richard Branson has been so successful in business but the trick which differentiates his success from the successive failures of “Del Boy” is in picking the right opportunities.
Whilst some business people will tell you that they don’t ignore their gut instincts, delve deeper and you’ll often find that that gut instinct has been based on in depth research. The pages of business history are littered with tales of endeavours which should never have got off the ground and lack of research and planning sit high on the list of reasons for failure.
One way to potentially avoid the pitfalls is to buy into a franchise business. But just because a franchise is successful it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can sail straight in without research. Franchisees need to know that the opportunity they are buying into will match their personal and business requirements whilst franchisors need to have the confidence that potential franchisees will work to promote the business.
Luckily for those looking to become franchisees or to expand their franchise operations there are two franchise shows coming up on 22 & 23 February. The National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham and The Franchise Show at Excel London will give potential franchisors and franchisees the opportunity to meet and explore potential working relationships. But whether exhibiting or visiting, the key to a successful show is preparation and planning.
For exhibitors at any business show, the difference between a feeling of success and a waste of money and time is the way in which you plan and prepare. A business show may be the start of a relationship with a new franchisee and how you portray yourself at the show will win or lose custom.
Start by asking yourself what types of people you want to attract, how much information do you want to collect from them at the show and how much information are you prepared to put on public view. It doesn’t really matter whether you show flashy videos, run a competition or simply hand out leaflets; what does matter is that the look and feel of your stand is designed to attract the interest of your target franchisees.
Next make sure that your stand is manned by people who know and care about your franchise and who are good at talking with strangers. We’ve all seen stands at shows which are manned by a single individual sitting quietly at the back and not making eye contact or by a couple of people chatting to each other about their weekend. All that approach will do is convince a potential franchisee that you are not interested. So choose people who are chatty, who will invite conversation and who actively try to draw passers-by into conversation.
If possible include a couple of existing franchisees in your team so that they can share their own experiences of the franchise operation.
Finally, set aside the week after the show to follow up everyone who has shown an interest. Even if this is only a quick phone call to invite potential franchisees to a seminar or informal chat, the sooner you contact attendees the more likely you are to convert initial contact into new franchise outlets. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression and taking time to make a good impression at a franchise show will pay dividends in terms of quality leads for potential franchisees.
It is true to say that those visiting a franchise show will get out as much as they put in. It doesn’t matter if you are vaguely interested in the concept of franchising and want to know more or whether you have decided to move into franchising in a particular field and are weighing up the options. Either way, the way in which you plan your visit will make a lot of difference to whether the show is a success for you.
There is no better place to start planning a show visit than with a look at the show’s website. Not only will this give you an idea of those exhibiting, it will also enable you to review and book the seminars on offer. Make a list of the franchisors which interest you most and prepare a set of questions (for help see our article “Which Franchise is right for you”).
On the day, it can be tempting just to wander around picking up leaflets and leaving your details with lots of businesses. This in the long run is potentially a waste of your visit. Visit the franchisors which interest you most and make sure that you engage them in conversation. If you want to follow up your chat then leave your details, if not don’t. You may well speak with a number of franchisors, each of whom works in different ways so take notes of your conversation to help you to remember who said what.
Then take time to follow up on the franchises which interested you in the next few days. Remember, attending the show is only the first step in becoming a franchisee so don’t stop asking questions and researching until you are sure that you have found which franchise is right for you. To quote Richard Branson again “a business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”
Seeking advice and testing your thinking is important – two heads are always better than one. Talk to friends and family, seeking the opinion of someone who you respect and who knows you is important. Often they will see the opportunity differently, they may confirm your analysis and agree with you or they may well challenge it. This is an important part of the decision process.
Now you have decided on the right business you need some professional advice. Talking to an experienced franchise solicitor is a good starting point. A solicitor will ensure that you understand what you are committing to, and provide protection for you and your business.
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