When investigating a particular franchise business, be sure to take advantage of one of your best sources of information: current franchisees. By interviewing current franchisees, you can get an honest, inside take on the system’s culture, advantages, and challenges. This is a great way to get a detailed picture of what it would be like to own and operate a particular franchise.
This outline provides a starting point to help you to develop your list of validation questions. Some may not be relevant to all industries and may apply only to particular categories. You should add questions that are important to you.
Keep in mind that these business owners are participating as a courtesy to you. Whether you get great feedback or not-so-great feedback, it is important to draw your own conclusions about how you might fit into the culture of the franchise.
Validation Questions: Background
What type of work did you do before you got into your own business?
Why did you leave that job to go into your own business?
When did you open your business?
Why did you choose this franchise?
Validation Questions: Initial Training & Opening Support
Did your initial training adequately prepare you for opening your business?
During your first year in business, did the franchise company provide adequate support? Can you give an example?
What do you think is the biggest mistake that a first-year franchise owner can make?
What would cause a franchisee to fail?
Validation Questions: Ongoing Support
Has the franchise company continued to provide the level of ongoing support you expect and need? Can you give an example?
After initial training, what additional training does the franchisor provide? Is it regularly scheduled or provided as needed? What additional training have you received? What difference has that made for you in operating the business?
Is there enough or too much training? Is the franchise company flexible in giving more training to franchise owners who need/want it?
Does the franchise company host franchisee annual meetings or teleconference calls? (These meetings and calls are often a great source for information, training, and networking with other franchisees.)
Validation Questions: Marketing Programs
How does the franchisor contribute to your marketing efforts? What are the results of those marketing efforts?
What programs for lead generation has the franchise company introduced you to? Do you use those tactics? What are the results and costs of those tactics? Do you consider them worthwhile? What have you added locally to generate business?
Do you have any strong competitors in your area? If so, who? What do you think are the major competitive advantages that set you apart?
Validation Questions: Purchasing Power
Are you required to purchase from the franchisor, or may you purchase locally?
Can you purchase items from vendors outside the franchise company? Do you consider that good or bad? Why?
Does the franchisor use the collective buying power of the entire franchise to obtain discounts on supplies and/or inventory beyond what the individual franchisees could achieve? Can you give an example?
Validation Questions: Franchisor / Franchisee Relationship
Is the franchise company supportive and caring about you and your operations? What makes you say that?
Is the home office competent? Do they act with your interests in mind? Why do you say that? (The answer will tell you this owner’s perception as to whether or not everyone at HQ is on the same page, and performing as a team in the franchise owners’ best interests.)
Validation Questions: Investment Details and Role of the Owner
How did you determine the location/territory you have?
How much investment did it take you to get your business up and running? Did that include some working capital? How much working capital did you budget? How long a period was that intended for?
Currently, what is your hourly commitment to your business per week? Has that amount of time changed since the first few months you were open?
Is your role in the business what you wanted/expected it to be? If not, how is it different?
Validation Questions: Earnings
What were your expectations for annual revenue? How long did it take you to realize those expectations?
How long were you in business before you reached breakeven?
What was your annual net profit, as a number or percentage of sales last year? (If open for several years: was that fairly consistent with prior years? If not, greater or less?)
What has the greatest effect on your annual net profit?
What will you do differently in your business this year? Why have you decided that?
What separates higher performers from lower performers in your franchise system? Why do you say that?
If you had it to do over, would you decide to get into this business again? Why or why not?
Validation is a critical part of the investigation process that offers a wonderful opportunity for you to get a feel for the culture, competence, and owner’s perception of the franchise company. Keep in mind that it’s also a chance for the franchise company to find out how their owners perceive you as a potential franchisee. Make sure these conversations reflect you at your very best.