10 Tips for attending a franchise expo

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The fastest way to find the franchise business that makes sense for you, professionally, personally and financially, is to visit a franchise expo and spend time getting to know franchisors. Many people like to visit expos for the free food and beverages, but serious franchise candidates come to shop for opportunity! Here are 10 tips for making the most of your next trip to a franchise expo.

Most people attend an expo unprepared and that's a mistake, so the first several tips will help you get prepared. You might want to set a goal for your visit. For example: "To leave the expo with three different franchise disclosure documents." Getting a disclosure is a must before purchasing a franchise, but franchisors prefer to disclose only qualified candidates. There's another goal: "Find out what the franchisor expects of franchisees." And that takes us back to planning, so let's get started:

  1. Go with the intention of speaking to, and not just looking at, the franchisors. Many people go through an expo by picking up all the free literature and promotions, i.e. candy, pens, stress balls, etc., and ignoring the people working the booths. They don't stop to talk to anyone. Why? They're afraid of impulsive buying. One of many good things about franchising is that you can't make an impulsive buy. Franchise laws won't allow it. Until you've been properly disclosed, a franchisor cannot take your money. There's no arm-twisting at franchise expos, so take off your game face and talk to the franchisors. That will lead to you getting the all-important disclosure document, which provides detailed information about the franchise opportunity.
  2. Prior to visiting the expo, develop a list of questions to ask. For help coming up with the right questions, consult 101 Questions To Ask Before You Invest In A Franchise . Carry your computer or notebook and record answers to the questions you ask, making certain to keep track of the franchisors that provided the answers. After the expo you won't remember who told you what unless you have good notes.
  3. Do some advance planning. The International Franchise Expo will occur June 19-21, 2014, but a partial exhibitor list is already available at www.ifeinfo.com . Franchise Expo South, set for Feb. 6-8, 2014 in Houston includes dozens of exhibitors at www.franchiseexposouth.com .
  4. Start gathering information immediately. What can you find out about the companies on your list even before visiting them? The more you know the better prepared you'll be to explore issues that may concern you. Visit franchise web sites, request information, and find out if the company is interested in opening units in your area of choice.
  5. Where do you plan to open your franchise after finding the right one? Franchisors will want to know. They'll ask because they may be sold out in your area or state and they'll want to know if you're willing to relocate. Are you?
  6. How much can you afford to invest in a franchise? Expect that question from franchisors. It's a waste of time to speak to franchisors that require a minimum investment of $250,000 when you're capable of investing up to $100,000. And by the way, you'll find some great opportunities for less than $100,000.

With the preliminaries out of the way, now you're ready to show up at the expo, and here's what to do:

  1. Pick up a show catalogue, look at the list of exhibitors that interest you (this is a good time to sit with a beverage and a snack), and locate their booth numbers. Follow the signs inside the expo to the appropriate booths. A representative will be waiting for you! Introduce yourself, tell them about your interest in the business, and set a meeting time when you can talk uninterrupted for 15-30 minutes. Get ready to ask questions and take notes!
  2. While you're walking the aisles, keep your eyes and mind open. You will discover new opportunities. Many existing franchisees went to an expo thinking they would buy Franchise X and instead bought Franchise Y because it was a better fit. There are some 100 industries using franchising as a method of distribution. Most people are surprised to discover the great variety of franchise opportunities.
  3. Take advantage of the service providers who exhibit at the expo. You want free legal advice, accounting assistance, location information, etc.? Now's the time to get it.
  4. Schedule time for symposia and free seminars. Enhance your franchise education by attending one or more of the educational programs offered by the expo.

 And that's how to get the most out of a franchise expo! Once you get home, read the disclosure documents and make plans to follow through accordingly, i.e. discuss details with a franchise attorney, talk to your accountant, and continue your dialogue with the franchisors that interest you. You'll need some time to make a good decision and on average it will take up to 6 months before you actually become a franchisee.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas

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