Dan Archer, managing director of Promedica24, explains how to get the most out of visiting a franchise exhibition
Franchise exhibitions are a great place to make some real progress in your journey to becoming a business owner.
You’ll find a unique gathering of brands from all sectors and industries, with prices ranging from £10,000 to £500,000. But walking into a vast hall brimming with business opportunities can be a little overwhelming.
Plan in advance
It’s easy to get hold of a list of franchisors who are going to be exhibiting - just visit the website of the franchise exhibition itself or often you’ll find a guide will have been sent to you in the post if you previously registered an interest in attending.
Take a look at the exhibitor list in advance and see if there are any brands you feel sure you want to speak to. Alternatively, you may have been invited by a brand you’re already in discussions with. Even if you’re going to see one specific company, look for a couple of alternatives for benchmarking on the day.
Whether you’re in the exploratory stages or you feel sure you know what to look for, there are some basic questions everyone should be asking. Some you can do in advance and some are best answered on the day.
How is the market demand in your area? Is there any competition? Who and where are they? How are similar businesses performing? What training and support is on offer, both initial and ongoing?
Think about your personal aspirations and what you hope to achieve for yourself and the business. These are the sorts of things you can discuss with a franchisor and their team on the day.
Be open minded
There’s every possibility something totally unexpected could catch your eye while you’re walking round the halls. And that’s fine.
Be open to new concepts because you’re going to see a lot of them. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart, if something feels right. At the end of the day, you’re going to need a lot of passion and drive for your new venture.
My best advice here would be not to talk yourself out of looking into a business just because you didn’t go to the exhibition with that particular thing in mind.
For example, one of the last visitors I spoke to at an exhibition said to me she knew she definitely didn’t want a care business because she didn’t want to have to deal with recruiting carers.
But she noticed our banner said we do that for our franchisees, so she came over to find out more. Stella launched her Promedica24 franchise in November.
Similarly, don’t stick religiously to your guns if the business or sector you felt sure you’d like to know more about isn’t ticking the right boxes.
Give yourself plenty of time
This sounds so simple, but visitors scrabbling round with five minutes to closing is genuinely something I witness every year. Don’t be that person.
If you’ve done a little research and planned in advance, you’re going to have some great conversations with franchisors on the day. And great conversations can take a little time.
Factor in that you may have to wait to see a particular franchisor, if they’re busy with other prospects. Then, of course, there’s lunch and a few well earned coffee breaks to be had. To get the most out of your experience, plan to be at the exhibition all day and allow for a return visit on day two to revisit any standout brands.
Soak up the expertise and knowledge
Every year, organisers of franchise exhibitions run free workshops, clinics and seminars for prospective franchisees on all aspects of business ownership.
Expert third parties and franchisors themselves offer advice on things like choosing the right franchise, financing your new business and PR and marketing tips to help launch and grow your venture.
As well as speaking to franchisors, take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the franchise industry and what being a franchisee is really like. A great way to do this is to sit in on one of the ‘real life’ Q&A panels, where franchisees old and new answer questions and share their experiences with you.
Talk to people
I can assure you wholeheartedly that any professional, ethical franchisor is not going to try to get you to sign up on the spot. You shouldn’t ever find yourself on the receiving end of any pushy sales tactics - that’s not what these events are about for franchisors.
Believe it or not, we franchisors aren’t just looking to take anyone into our networks. You need to meet our criteria and be a good fit for our brands too - this partnership works both ways. This means that when you talk to a franchisor at an exhibition, they’ll be hoping to find out about you too.
I encourage you to have an honest and open chat to any brand you meet. And please don’t be surprised when they want to learn about you too.
You’ll probably be asked questions around your personal drivers and motivations, your experience and skill sets, plans for funding and your timescale for starting. As a franchisor myself, I can assure you this isn’t so we can sell to you - it’s so we can determine if taking things to the next step would be worthwhile for everyone involved.
Expect a follow-up
After an exhibition, a franchisor will take great care to follow up with everyone they have spoken with. This is done in good faith on the understanding you were interested in learning more about the business opportunity.
Golden rule: double check the contact details you give are correct. There’s nothing worse than waiting for an email or a phone call that will never come.