Franchising: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

As I often do on the weekends, I was searching through my personal library seeking out a book or two that might provide me some inspiration for an article or report, and this weekend, I came across a business book that was published back in 1979. The book, “Free Yourself in a Business of Your Own” by Byron Lane, caught my eye for reasons I cannot really explain. Obviously, I’ve had it in my possession for many years, yet, never opened it again since I purchased it for $1.29 at Target. It must have been a clearance book as the cover price was $5.95. Anyway, I can’t even recall seeing it when I routinely search through my library. It’s like it suddenly jumped out front and center and said, “Hey, look here!”

Well, I decided to look through the book because the back cover stated, “This book is about freedom. Freedom from an 8 to 5 regimen. Freedom from dehumanizing democracies. Freedom from job boredom. Freedom from the lock-step culture. Freedom to do your work your way.” Hmmm… not much seems to have changed although lock-step culture is not one I’ve heard of before.

Right away, my thoughts turned to franchising and I began to think about what franchising was like back in 1979. Fortunately, I didn’t have to think very hard, as to my surprise, was a chapter on franchising! It’s placement was to present franchising strictly as an alternative to other forms of business ownership, and in a book with 174 pages, the franchising chapter comprised all of 3 pages. Yes, 3 pages!

Within these pages were a series of bullet points that I found very interesting and it made me wonder how much franchising had actually changed since 1979, and if the changes have improved franchising today. Read the bullet points below and you be the judge.

– While there are no federal laws governing franchising, most states have franchise laws. Get a copy of the law in your state and read it for degree of stringency and coverage. If it is a tough law and a franchising company qualifies to do business in your state, you have one measure of security.

– Don’t believe that acceptance of you by a franchiser means they have evaluated your ability to get the job done. Some franchisers would select a corpse if rigor mortis had not set in and if it clutched in its hand a certified check for the amount of the franchise fee. Do your own introspection and decide if you can handle the franchise.

– Do not deal with profit projections or average profits. Insist on actual financial statements from a cross-section of franchisees. Then, evaluate your expected return on investment.

– Get the financial statement of the parent company and evaluate its ability to provide the services it promises.

– Read the franchise contract. It should be simple, frank, and fair, with complete disclosure, not an instrument of repression. After you think it through with your head, listen to your gut and determine if the contract fits you.

– Finally, and perhaps most important of all, is evaluation of the franchiser’s management team. You should do this from two aspects – their management ability and their humanness. If the management does not measure up to good corporate standards, you will not get the profits you seek. You may turn out okay, but they can bring you down.

Well, it’s no wonder that many individuals had a distaste for franchising. I cringed at some of the statements implying unfairness and deceit, along with an apparent free-wheeling approach to franchising. On the other hand, some of the advice was sound and still applies today.

It’s obvious franchising has changed, and for the better. But, are some of the negatives that’s were stated (or implied) above, still actually cause for concern within franchise organizations today?

I wonder what future generations will think about franchising when they discover some of today’s books and articles on the subject?

Yes, you be the judge…

*By the way, the author is listed as having several advanced degrees in business and psychology, and was a professor at a leading California university. He is also credited with developing several successful companies including a multi-million dollar franchising chain!

Note: originally posted on this site 12/10.

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One thought on “Franchising: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

  1. Great post Paul. In Australia this advice would still ring very true today. But I don’t think franchisors would let anyone see actual financials. This would highlight pretty quickly just how little money most franchisees actually make. It was caveat emptor then, and now. Not all bad, I agree, but with a different franchisor going under each week, it’s certainly showing franchisees that all is not guaranteed just becuase you buy a franchise.

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