A good deal of information has been written and published about how to evaluate a franchise opportunity. Whether one is an individual or represents a private equity firm, it’s important to be able to evaluate and vet a franchise before conducting a full-scale analysis. The following is a way to do an initial franchise review, before investing a lot of time and money.
Contributing to the 10 steps was Mario Herman, a Washington D.C. based franchise attorney.
Following are 10 preliminary steps for evaluating a franchise opportunity:
- Franchisor Management-review the management background and experience of key franchisor executives and support staff. It’s important that they have experience in the business sector and franchise industry. Franchisor leadership should have a cross section of business skills and experience.
- Franchisee Territory-The territory should be defined in a consistent manner and allow for franchisee growth. Verify if the franchisee territory is Exclusive, Protected or Open. Franchisors that grant small open territories can result in conflicts among neighboring franchisees as some franchisees will be more aggressive than others. There is also the potential for a dispute with the franchisor over the territory.
- Franchisee Fees-identify if the franchisor charges other fees for services above and beyond any royalty and ad fund fees. Additional continuing fees for software usage and licensing fees, when added to royalty and ad fees will increase expenses. Be sure that the initial franchise fee and the continuing fees are comparable to similar franchises.
- Item 20- review the growth of new franchisees and compare to franchisee terminations. This number will reveal net franchisee growth and prevent one from seeing misleading data. Also, the number of Franchises Sold But Not Opened can indicate if the franchisor is devoted more resources to selling franchise versus the growth and development of existing franchises. The tables in Item 20 contains information which can indicate positive or negative performance results.
- Financial Statements– Unless the franchisor is a start-up there should be three (3) years of audited financials available. Look for a continuing and growing stream of revenues from franchisee royalties. Initial franchise fees should not represent the preponderance of revenues unless it’s a start-up.
- Required Suppliers and Rebates– Does the franchisor requires purchases from specific vendors? Compare that information to the data in Item 8, which shows the percent of purchases from the franchisor and other vendors and suppliers. In addition, does the franchisor receive rebates from vendors and suppliers and if yes, how much? Many rebates from required franchisee vendors could compromise the trust between a franchisor and its franchisees.
- Intellectual Property-Does the franchisor have any confidential, proprietary information or trade secrets that distinguishes the franchise from the competitors? Check Items 13-14 of the FDD to determine how unique the system is, and whether the franchisor has a comparative advantage over its competition. Also, does the franchisor have the marks trademarked? Make sure that the franchisor properly and legally controls the brand name, and there is no potential dispute over ownership of the marks.
- Item 19-it’s important that the franchisor makes a Financial Performance Representation under Item 19. Any established franchisor should make an Item 19 disclosure. The more detailed the financial information the easier to evaluate franchisee performance and make financial projections. If the franchise is a startup there should be financial data for company locations.
- Franchisor Litigation- franchisor-franchisee litigation is a barometer of the state of franchisee- franchisor relations, is it positive or negative? Has the franchisor acted to protect its system and brand or is it a case of franchisees having disputes with the franchisor, because they are not receiving support or meeting their financial expectations? Some medium to large franchisors report no litigation while some smaller franchisors may have had many legal disputes. The amount and source of litigation is an area that should be reviewed since it be can be a red flag.
- Franchisor Training Programs– Franchisee training should be comprehensive and presented by more than one person. Training that includes a portion of onsite training for new franchisees provides real world franchise experience that the classroom can’t duplicate.
Whether you’re a multi-unit franchisee, an individual franchise candidate or a representative of a private equity group these 10 steps will allow you to perform a preliminary franchise review. Although a first step in the franchise evaluation process, it can provide an overview of a franchise investment opportunity at minimal cost and expense. If you decide to proceed with a specific franchise opportunity, be sure to utilize an accountant and franchise attorney to guide you along the way.