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Advice from the field: Seven tips for aspiring entrepreneurs
By Dan Citrenbaum
Going into business for yourself can seem like a daunting option, but people do it successfully every day. So how can you transition from working for a boss to being the boss?
Get good advice from lots of people and learn, learn, learn!
The people who know best what it takes to succeed as a business owner are the people who have done it. Most of those I have worked with selected franchises as the surest way to achieve success as an entrepreneur. Since many people enter the business with no experience as an owner, a franchise offers years of expertise and back room support to help you get started.
Over time, I’ve collected some of their best advice for people who want to follow in the footsteps of successful entrepreneurs. So if you want to go into business for yourself, I suggest you read on and heed their wise counsel.
7 Tips for Succeeding with a Franchise
Look before leaping
Every year I hear lots of stories about people buying franchises because they always loved that particular business or always wanted to start a bakery because they loved to bake. Then with nary an iota of research, they sign a contract. Maybe they realize the franchisor is new to the business, or doesn’t really know how to help them get going, and they start to feel like they’re drowning in debt with no earnings in sight. Plan to spend two to three months researching businesses.
Cast a wide net
Once they start their research, invariably people learn the business they thought they always wanted isn’t really the right one for them. Either because the franchisor isn’t well run or because there are no nearby territories available. The truth is you should look for businesses with an open mind because you never know who’s behind the operation until you pull back the curtain.
Look for a great back office
One of the most important considerations is how well the operation is run. The best way to find this out is to have pointed conversations with executives from the franchise, as well as franchisees all around the country. In addition, you will need to read the Franchise Disclosure Document, which will provide information on everything, from the backgrounds of the executives, whether they face ongoing litigation to a complete list of upfront costs. Are you comfortable in your gut with how they run their business?
The first year is the most important for support
You need to learn from franchisees whether the franchisor’s support system is sufficient to help you learn the business, particularly at the beginning. Are they available whenever you call with questions? Is their software sufficient for managing the system? Do they help with accounting, advertising, leasing space? Know all upfront before signing any contracts.
Expect a slow start for cash flow to get going
As you learn a new business, it takes a while to get all the systems up and running. Depending on the business, it might take months — or even a year or longer to reach profitability. Plan for this by having enough capital to keep you going past the start-up phase. Sometimes cash flow starts growing quickly, but sometimes it takes awhile. Be mentally and financially prepared!
Talk to existing franchisees
Nothing is more important in your search. Talk to franchisees who have left the business, as well. Interview as many as you can, and press for as much detailed information as possible.
Know upfront what it takes to be successful
Are your skills comparable to the skills the successful owners had when they get started? Can you learn this business in short order? Is the day-to-day life of the owner of this business something you can see yourself doing and enjoying?
Be comfortable with the upfront costs
As one franchisee I know told me, “When people say why not just do it on your own so you don’t have to pay royalties, ignore those people.” You should get what you’re paying for, and good franchises provide a good value.
If you select a franchise because you decide it’s a great operation, by all means, follow their advice about running the business. Or don’t do it.
About the author