A great sense of accomplishment comes with finding your perfect franchise opportunity and signing on the dotted line. But that’s only the beginning. Many things need to happen between the time you sign the franchise agreement and the day you open your new business. As a new franchisee, you’ll have many questions. What do I need to do to get my business open and running? How long will it take? What tasks will I need to complete along the way?
Because no two franchises are exactly alike, there’s not a “one size fits all” checklist for a new franchisee. However, some general guidelines hold true for any high-quality franchise company.
The franchisor will supply you with new franchisee materials. Most franchisors provide training manuals describing the franchisor’s operating systems, marketing procedures, and new-business setup. Additional materials and tools may include a company intranet, training videos or DVDs, and sometimes even personal visits by company employees.
These materials will explain how the franchise system works. They’ll address the tasks ahead of you. The franchisor designs these materials and this process to move you through the learning curve as quickly as possible.
Critical path items
If your new franchise will require real estate space (e.g., a storefront or industrial space), the franchisor will specify critical path items for getting your unit open and running. These tasks will include selecting and buying or leasing the real estate space. You’ll learn about zoning and permit issues. The franchisor may help you find architects and contractors and assist you with signage, product, furniture, fixtures, etc.
Additional support from the franchisor may include ideas and resources for employee hiring (especially in franchises that depend on a large minimum-wage workforce or employees with special licenses). Many franchisors provide support for developing and implementing a marketing plan and/or integrating technology into the business (e.g., point of sale, operations tracking, intranet). The franchisor will help you ensure that everything is in place prior to opening.
New franchisee tasks: timing and sequence
Franchisors usually provide checklists and a timeline or schedule of the things you’ll need to accomplish for opening. For example, you might receive a list of items to be completed at least five weeks prior to opening and additional lists for each succeeding week. A progression of scheduled checklists will help you prioritize your “to do” list each week throughout the process.
As a general rule, these factors will determine the time it will take you to get your business up and running:
Real estate. If the franchise involves leasing a location, it will take six months to a year (or sometimes even longer) to get the business open. If the business requires a custom-built stand-alone location, plan on six months to two years for its completion.
Training. After you’re awarded a franchise, the franchisor will schedule your training date. Many franchises seek to train several franchisees at the same time. The training may take place at the corporate location and/or involve hands-on training at a franchise location. This is usually timed to ensure that training is fresh in your mind when you open your own business.
Financing. Financing can delay your opening for a period of six to eight weeks, or sometimes as long as six months, depending on the lender and type of loan.
How to ease any anxiety
If reading this list of items gives you a feeling of anxiety, that’s normal and expected. As with any new experience, the easiest way to alleviate anxiety or fear is to gather information. During your research, as well as during your training, make sure to ask the franchisor all of your questions. Speak with existing franchisees to get their perspective as well. That way, you’ll have realistic expectations, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done, and you’ll be likely to have a positive experience when opening your new business.