Franchising – Getting Over the Fear of Buying One

If you’re looking for the safest way to expand or diversify a business, it’s franchising.

Now if that’s true, why do so many people fear franchising?

Since its beginning in the late 1800s, and with its post World War II expansion especially in the United States, franchising has developed one of the greatest business success stories of all time. Main Street America is populated by franchise outlets. From restaurants to specialty food shops, bookstores to clothing stores, beauty shops to postal centers, and a plethora of service providers, including carpet cleaners, auto shops and home remodelers, franchising is everywhere. Franchise businesses take in 40 percent of all retail sales in the United States.

There are some 2,000+ franchise companies supporting more than 900,000 franchised outlets in America. Countless people have become wealthy through franchising, and there are no financial or educational barriers to keep anyone from using this concept successfully. Governments around the world, and especially in the United States, have made it possible for the average person to investigate franchising and predict the outcome of a franchise investment. University studies, government statistics, and even polls by the Gallop Organization support the success of franchising.

So what’s to fear about franchising?

Critics say there are plenty of things to scare you away from the concept. Listen to the critics-some of whom failed in franchising and therefore believe they have the “credentials” to be critics–and they’ll tell you all the horror stories about franchising. Of course, there are horror stories about businesses of all kinds, yet only a misinformed person would say that owning a business is bad. Anyone who is willing to believe franchise critics, without doing their own homework, is probably better off fearing franchising. They’d also be better off not owning a business of any kind!

Fear is normal among business owners. Few people succeed without at least some fear. People like a little fear-they find it motivating. The greater the fear, the harder they work! Fear is only a problem when it stops you dead in your tracks. If you were so fearful of franchising that you couldn’t make a decision to buy one, that could be a mistake. However, that’s not to say that franchising is for everyone. It’s not. In fact, it may not be for you. But how will you know unless you move beyond your fear?

Let’s look at a few of the objections posed by franchise critics. Their information is not all wrong. It’s just not entirely accurate. And much of it decries simple common sense. They want people to believe that franchising is evil when, in fact, countless people will tell you that franchising helped them climb to greater levels of satisfaction and profit through their businesses. Franchising in America has helped tens of thousands of business owners become more successful.

Of all the franchise companies operating in the United States, some are better than others, but they are not all bad. Of all the franchisees in the United States, some are more profitable than others, but they are not all struggling for survival or even at odds with their franchisor, as some critics would have you believe. A little bit of investigation will show anyone who’s interested that there’s more good than evil in franchising.

Critics of franchising–including some misinformed legislators, educators, attorneys, accountants, reporters, and others who may have personal agendas-frequently miss the point about the success of franchising. Here’s the first complaint from many of them:

“The franchisor will make you pay a fee–upfront.”

That’s true. And let me quickly point out that these fees are sometimes hefty, up to $50,000 (though many cost less than $20,000). Critics say these fees are inflated and often unnecessary. They’ll have you think you can start a business independent of a franchisor without paying an upfront fee. And perhaps you can.

So why do franchisors charge franchise fees? If they didn’t have to, they wouldn’t! It would be a lot easier to sell franchises without an upfront fee. But franchise fees are necessary for several good reasons.

First, the franchise fee helps the franchisor recover money invested to start-up and maintain the franchise network. A franchise start-up can easily cost millions of dollars, and the ongoing legal, administrative, and operational costs can be staggering. A well-advised franchisor understands that break-even may be years away, requiring a specific number of franchises to be sold and supported. There’s a cost to franchising, just as there is to any product or service that’s sold. Surely it’s easy to understand that a franchisor has a right to recover this money.

Ah, but does it have to be paid upfront? That’s the rub for many critics, as well as for many would-be investors. Yes, it has to be paid upfront, and for another good reason. Let’s say you’re asked to reveal all your trade secrets plus train someone how to operate your business. Are you willing to do that without a financial guarantee? Before you spill your beans, you’ll want some money upfront. So does a franchisor.

Think for a moment about the value of paying an upfront franchise fee. What’s it worth if a franchisor hands you an established business system, one that you can use to churn out a profit year after year? You don’t have to invent the system, or even test it. It’s already a proven, working system! What would it have cost you to invent this system, assuming that you could? What’s it worth if the franchisor not only gives you the system, but spends a couple of weeks or more training you to use it?

Now, if you already know how to build and expand a business you probably don’t need a franchisor. But what if you don’t know? Do you have the franchisor’s experience of site selection, personnel recruiting and development, training, sales and production, marketing, advertising, operations, and all other factors relative to a thriving business? Do you have the benefit of group buying power and name recognition? If not, then the franchisor’s business system alone-without the training and support-may very well justify the upfront franchise fee. Go out and ask people who failed as independent business owners if they wouldn’t have preferred to buy a franchisor’s expertise and guidance. Ask someone who has spent 60 to 80 hours a week in the same business for 25 years, struggling most of the time, if it wouldn’t have been worth it-years earlier-to pay a franchisor to show them how to accomplish success faster and bigger. What would that have done for their quality of life?

Yes, success does come with a price and it’s called a franchise fee, and it will be required upfront. Keep in mind, not all franchises are created equal. Some are better than others. Some have inflated their franchise fees and they do not deliver on what they promise. But with a little homework-asking questions of existing franchisees, for example-you can easily determine which franchises are worth an upfront fee.

Critics say: “You’ll have to pay the franchisor a royalty. Forever!”

Yes, you will. Not forever, but for as long as you remain a franchisee. Franchisors generally collect a weekly or monthly percentage of a franchisee’s gross sales. That’s their royalty. The percentage will range from several points to double digits. Generally, royalties are higher than 5% and less than 10%.

While franchise fees help franchisors recover dollars invested in the business system, royalties supplement the franchisor’s ongoing operating costs, and provide a profit. Accountants and lawyers, who are not necessarily critics of franchising, have advised clients not to buy franchises because they thought the royalty fee was unnecessary, or too high, or it would prevent the client from turning a profit. Let’s look at the facts.

Support is a primary reason for the success of franchised businesses. Why do so many non-franchised businesses go out of business? It’s not for lack of capital, even though under-capitalization is often an issue. However, there are many instances where the business owner had plenty of money. But he or she ran out of money trying to figure out how to turn a profit. Franchisees usually don’t face that issue. First, they are licensed to use a proven business system. Second, they get ongoing support from a coach-their franchisor. Just like athletes who benefit from a coach giving them encouragement as well as helping them improve their style and performance, business owners can also benefit from ongoing coaching. You might already be pretty good at running your business, but imagine what might happen if you had someone who could help you improve just a notch or two! That’s what good franchisors provide to franchisees.

Of course, good franchisors are well staffed. Operating a franchisor’s home office is a huge financial undertaking. Making the payroll for 30, 50 or more than 100 people requires cash flow. Where does the franchisor get the money? Royalties! Successful franchisees recognize the value of the franchisor’s training and field operations staffs. They come to appreciate the research and development people, the technical, financial, legal and media experts employed by the franchisor. Successful franchisees don’t quibble about paying a franchisor a percentage of their gross sales because they know it’s a good investment in their business. Again, not all franchisors are created equal. Some provide more value than others. Before you invest in a franchise, find out if your franchisor of choice delivers what you will need to be successful.

Critics say: “Owning a franchise is just like having a job. You’ve got to take orders from the franchisor. You’re not really in business for yourself. You’re like an indentured servant.”

Entrepreneurial people are difficult to train as franchisees. We value our right to make decisions. We cherish freedom. We do not like following orders. We want the right to do things our way, even if it’s the wrong way. If you don’t want to march to a franchisor’s drumbeat, do yourself and franchising a favor and do not buy a franchise. You may never become as successful as you had hoped, but buying a franchise won’t get you there, either.

Believe it or not, like it or not, consumers prefer the same old same old. Think about it for a moment. If you’ve patronized a particular business in the past-a restaurant, a beauty shop, a home decorator, the auto repair shop-and you were pleased with the results, would you return to that same business again and again? Of course you would. If you moved to another state and needed a particular service or product, would you patronize a business you never heard of, or look for one that you recognize? Once again, it’s an easy answer. You like knowing what you’re going to get before you buy it. You like familiarity, and franchisors and franchisees know that familiarity breeds more business.

Familiarity is one of the reasons franchised businesses succeed. Each one that’s successful follows a system. The system has been crafted to meet the needs of consumers and ultimately to produce a profit for the person who implements the system. That’s called franchising. When franchisees refuse or fail to implement the system, their business under-performs and may eventually fail. Requiring franchisees to follow a system makes good sense!

Most small business owners, including franchisees, have little expertise in running a business. They may have perfected a skill or a craft, but that’s not the same as running a business. To succeed in business, an operator needs a system-even more than money-to survive and succeed. The system is one of the primary reasons for investing in a franchise. You may not like a franchisor’s system, or parts of the system. You might not like the way the franchisor advertises, markets and sells its products and services. You might not like the franchisor’s dress code, or decorating scheme, or hours of operation. But you best not minimize or ignore the franchisor’s system, and you are required to implement it to a T. If you don’t follow the system, the franchisor has the right to disenfranchise you, and for the sake of the franchise network, the sooner the better. A renegade franchisee can destroy an entire company. Franchised businesses work because they are systematized.

If you don’t like that, or you don’t like systems, or you don’t want to follow another’s system, do not invest in a franchise! It’s not for you.

Don’t believe the argument that in every instance franchising is buying yourself a job. Do you know anyone who sold their job after they quit, or retired? You can’t sell a job, but you surely can sell your franchise business. And just imagine how valuable it may be. With a franchisor’s brand name and goodwill, the operating system, as well as marketing and sales systems, plus research and development and ongoing training and coaching, your business is likely to attract an enviable sales price. With a good franchise, you’ll have an asset than many people may want to buy.

And one more point about the nonsense of buying a job. Franchisors do not make all the decisions for franchisees. A franchisor doesn’t show up in a franchisee’s office or store every morning to motivate the staff, or even to hire and train the staff. Personnel decisions almost always belong to the franchisees. Customer and vendor relationships also remain the domain of franchisees. Franchisors provide instruction and coaching, but they do not do the work of the franchisee. Ultimately, it’s your hard work that builds a successful business. Even so, a good franchisor provides its franchisees with many opportunities to voice their opinions and to help shape the franchise business.

So if you’ve lost some of the fear you might have had about franchising, how would you go about finding a good franchise opportunity? There are many online resources that you can consult beginning with the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) site at Franchise.org. There are seminars produced by the International Franchise Expo–see FranchiseExpo.com–and there’s plenty of good reading material.

Perhaps the best resource is the franchisor’s disclosure document, which is required by federal law. Franchisors must give it to you free before you can invest in their franchise. Be sure to ask for it! It’s critical reading. The disclosure document is written in a layman’s language so it’s reasonably easy to understand. Almost everything you need to evaluate a franchise opportunity can be found in the disclosure document.

The document includes a description of the franchise, a list of all fees required, the franchisee’s obligations, the franchisor’s obligations, information about territory, restrictions on what the franchisee may sell, financial statements for the franchisor and even the franchisor’s litigation and bankruptcy history, if any. However, the single most important section of the disclosure document may be the list of the franchise outlets. There you will find contact information for existing as well as previous franchisees.

Armed with this information, get on the telephone and start doing some research. Call as many of the existing franchisees as you want-there’s no limit. Ask them whatever you want. For example, “Would you buy the franchise all over again, knowing what you know now?” . . . “Does the franchisor deliver on its promises?” . . . “How has the franchisor’s system helped you advance the growth and profit of your business?”

Critics will tell you that existing franchisees will lie to you because the franchisor pays them. But you should know that if the franchisor pays them for helping to sell a franchise, that information has to be disclosed. If you call a dozen to 20 or more franchisees, you’ll likely hear some negatives as well as positives about the business and the franchisor. Call enough franchisees to get a fair sampling. Stop calling when you feel you have enough information to evaluate the franchise opportunity.

Along with this research, you should also consult with a franchise attorney and an accountant that understands franchising. Rely on the IFA to lead you to good sources. You may need to investigate several franchises before you find a good one, and one that’s a right fit for you.

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, coined the phrase: Franchising is going into business for yourself, but not by yourself. That says it all. When you accept franchising for what it is, you accept the world’s most powerful system for building and expanding a business. If you explore what franchising offers, and thoroughly investigate the franchise opportunities of your choice before you invest, you can expect to succeed as a franchisee.

Will you succeed without fear? No. You’ll be afraid from time to time. But you ought to be scared to death to go into business without franchising!

10 American Norms, Now, Under Siege

What has always made America, great, appears to, be, in many instances, currently, under – siege! Without these, the very core, of the principles, concepts, and ideals, which, many Americans, have taken for granted, for generations, significantly, weaken, this nation, in essential ways! Many of Donald Trump’s core supporters, from the time of his campaign, through, his Presidency, to date, appear to be inspired, and motivated, by his slogan, Make America Great Again! In other words, what has taken, a revolution, Civil War, several Amendments to the Constitution, and well – considered, thinking, and planning, is, at – risk, of being lost, perhaps, forever! With that in mind, this article will attempt to, briefly, consider, examine, review, and discuss, 10 examples of American norms, which seem to be, seriously, and aggressively, challenged.

1. All men created equal: What is more basic, to our American system, than the concept, of equal rights, freedoms, liberties, and justice, for all, regardless of economic status, ethnicity, religion, etc. In the first two years of this administration, we have witnessed, both, actions, as well as rhetoric/ vitriol, seriously, at – odds, with that principle!

2. Land of the free: The American Constitution, and Bill of Rights, as well as the Amendments, which have followed, focus on specific freedoms, including, free speech, freedom of the press, the right to peacefully protest, etc. The focus on the Southern Wall, and attempting to blame the press (name – calling, etc), creates a clear, and present danger!

3. No man, above the law: The recent, Mueller investigation, and, subsequent, report, was severely limited, by the Justice Department principle, and guideline, stating, a sitting President, cannot be indicted! The President’s apparent attitude, as well as statements, made, indicate his belief, he is above the law! If that is permitted, what type of precedent will it set, for future Presidents?

4. Women’s Rights: In America’s short history, women have had to fight, for the right to vote, control their own bodies, and for equal employment opportunities! Recent events, clearly indicate, these are, under – attack!

5. Supporting long – term, foreign allies: President Trump’s rhetoric, has disturbed many of our long – term, foreign allies, because, several times, he has taken the side of traditional foes/ enemies, while opposing/ blaming our allies/ friends. How, can we make this world, safer, unless/ until, we work, cooperatively, with our closest allies?

6. Consumer protection: A student of history, realizes, consumer protections were introduced, because they were needed, to protect, the common man, from the predatory behavior of corporations, etc. Do we really want to go back, to the days, when workers lost protection, and consumers had little legal resource, against the abuses of certain companies?

7. Environmental protections: Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of every generation, to leave, the earth, with cleaner air, and water, for future generations? The short – sighted approach, of placing economic gain/ profit, over environmental protection, and denying, the presence and dangers of climate change, places this, in – peril!

8. Balance of Power: Our Founding Fathers, created the principle of a Balance of Powers, between the three branches of government, the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. Between the stacking of the courts, ignoring Congress’ subpoenas, and executive actions, this is another area, we should be concerned about!

9. Safety net: In the early part of the Twentieth Century, President Franklin Roosevelt, recognized, the need, for a safety net, including Social Security, Medicare, and, later, Medicaid. When the Republicans, under Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and his party, use these, as an excuse for the large deficits, they created, largely due to their ill – conceived, 2017 tax reform, even though, these items, are not funded by the General Fund, another set of American norms, is being challenged!

10. Free Press: Although, it should be the press’ responsibility to fact – check, their reports, before publishing, and, perhaps, there is a need, to clarify some of the libel – laws, when the President, refers to anyone in the press, who opposes his behavior, actions, etc, Enemy of the People, that, just, isn’t right, or normal!

Wake up, America, because, what we are witnessing today, isn’t normal, nor, does it support the freedoms, liberties, justice, and principles, that, have always, made this nation, special! Act now, or imperil, the future!

What is MLM and Network Marketing – An Overview of a Powerful Home Business Model

Have you heard of MLM or network marketing? MLM, or network marketing, can be a powerful home based business vehicle, but it is not generally well understood. It is fraught with misconception and an often tainted reputation on the part of the general public.

If you have heard of MLM or network marketing before, do you think of it in positive terms or do you have a negative perception of the industry? When you hear someone such as Donald Trump, or Robert Kiyosaki, or Jim Rohn suggest network marketing is a terrific home based business vehicle for the average person, what reaction do you have? Which side of the fence are you on and more importantly, why?

If you already participate in network marketing, do you sometimes feel embarrassed to admit it? What is it about your beliefs around network marketing that lead you to have these feelings?

In this article, you’re going to get the straight goods about MLM and network marketing as an industry, how it evolved, and where some of the misconceptions came from. That will allow you to put the feelings or perceptions you have about the network marketing industry into some context, from which you can assess whether or not your feelings and perceptions are valid

Modern MLM and Network Marketing

MLM and network marketing is huge. It is a +$100 billion dollar per year industry which offers an accessible way for the average person to launch a legitimate business with the potential of generating very substantial income. It affords you the opportunity to launch a business on a part-time basis, and grow that into a full-time (or more) income. And it requires the least amount of start-up capital and ongoing operating expense of virtually any legitimate business model.

Paul Zane Pilzer, a world renowned economist and college professor, goes so far as to predict that over 10 million new millionaires will be created through network marketing over the next 10 years.
If this is true, why on earth would you feel ashamed or embarrassed to be part of this industry?
Well, as I’ve already hinted, there’s a lot of history behind network marketing.

The Early History Of Network Marketing

Network Marketing as a means of product distribution – which is really all that it is – has been around literally forever.

You can go back through history and the establishment of trade routes and find examples of traders who distributed goods, food, and fur, face-to-face, on behalf of various backers. For example, the Voyageurs established fur trading routes and posts on behalf of the Hudson Bay Company. The Hudson Bay Company itself relied upon the influence of Prince Rupert, who was the cousin of King Charles II, to acquire the Royal Charter which, in May, 1670 granted the lands of the Hudson Bay watershed to “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay.”

In New England, in the mid 1700’s, began the phenomenon of the Yankee Peddler, in which peddlers would travel in their cart home to home throughout the countryside, selling their wares.

From there evolved the concept of the door-to-door salesman. The Watkins Company was launched in 1868, selling a popular liniment. The late 1800s saw the spawning of new companies employing door-to-door salesmen to distribute bibles, books, spices, remedies, perfumes, tonics and the like. The California Perfume Company, which later became better known as Avon, was founded in the late 1800s.

The Fuller Brush Company debuted in the early 1900s and it was Alfred Fuller who is credited with transforming door-to-door direct selling into something different. Rather than positioning himself as a salesman who sold brushes and focusing on the features of the brushes, he instead focused his attention on selling the benefits of his brushes to the consumers.

The early 1900’s also saw the emergence of vacuum cleaner and encyclopedia companies such as Electrolux, World Book and Britannica.

The term “network marketing” specifically is 20th century creation.

It is out of this trend that the term “belly to belly” marketing – or warm market as you may better recognize it – was coined.

A company named California Vitamins came to the realization that many of their new sales recruits were in fact friends and family of their existing sales force. That led the company to recognize it was easier to build a sales force with a lot of people who sell a small amount of product, than it was to find a small number of top sellers who would move mountains of product.

And so California Vitamins designed a revolutionary sales compensation model encouraging their salespeople to invite new representatives from satisfied customers, most of whom were family and friends. This allowed the sales force to grow exponentially. The company rewarded its representatives for the sales produced by their entire group – or network – of sales representatives. And so multi-level marketing was born.

The original party plan was the Stanley Hostess Party Plan, by Stanley Home Products. The focus of the party plan was to demonstrate the myriad of uses and benefits of the products right in the home. Out of the original Stanley dealer roster came the founders of such future marketing program giants as Mary Kay and Tupperware.

The introduction of the multi-level, person-to-person sales program in the mid 1950s coincided with another pair of new giants arriving on the scene: Shaklee and Amway.

The Advent of MLM

The term multi-level marketing, or MLM, became a part of the industry lexicon. And the direct selling industry would never be the same.

The popular notion that MLM companies are illegal pyramid schemes really gained steam in the mid 1970s when the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged that Amway and its multi-level marketing structure constituted an illegal pyramid.

Out of that court decision, the “Amway Safeguard Rule” set the legal standard for direct selling, multi-level, and network marketing based companies going forward.

The Myth of the MLM Pyramid

Amway and its multi-level structure were targeted by the FTC partly in response to a proliferation of pyramid programs in the 1970s. There was no underlying product or service. It was the emergence of several high profile schemes that led to a rash of regulatory requirements and the ultimate targeting of MLM as a structure. It also led to the clarification of speculative or fraudulent schemes and legitimate direct sales activities.

The Amway Safeguard Rule identifies three key points which ensure the validity of the opportunity. It was the existence of these three points as part of the Amway structure that led the court to conclude the business was not an illegal pyramid.

These therefore are important criteria with which to assess any network marketing or MLM opportunity and establish whether it is in fact legal as opposed to “one of those pyramid scams”.

Does the opportunity require the retail sale of products or services before one can qualify for any recruiting commissions or sales?

Does the opportunity have a mechanism in place to prevent the stockpiling of inventory of physical products with no intention of reselling?

Does the opportunity offer representatives who choose to leave a buy-back provision on unsold, unopened inventory or products?

The term “network marketing” became popular in the 1980s.

Ultimately, direct sales and multi-level marketing are distinct subsets within the overall network marketing industry. Multi-level marketing is where the profit or commission for a retail sale is shared with an up-line (or recruiter). Typically there are also bonuses paid based on recruiting activity, so long as the recruiting is accompanied with ongoing retail sales activity. In Direct sales, typically only one profit or commission for a sale is paid to one person, so there is no sharing of the profit with the up-line recruiter.

MLM and Network Marketing Gains Legitimacy

A number of very well known and respected authors and business people began to lend their public endorsement to the industry. People such as Brian Tracy, Robert Kiyosaki, Paul Zane Pilzer, Jim Rohn, and even Donald Trump began to openly talk about the merits of the industry and, in fact, encouraged people to consider it.

At the same time, network marketing has morphed into a proven, preferred method of product distribution by some of the largest companies on the planet. Corporations came to the conclusion that network marketing, as a distribution channel, offered many advantages, not the least of which is that it’s lower cost.

Commissions are only paid on the sale of product or services and the structure allows the companies to offload much of the time and training requirements onto its representatives, who are incented to train the new representative they recruit. So it’s a very cost effective method of distribution for a business to utilize.

In particular for new product launches, network marketing distribution allows companies to avoid costly traditional advertising campaigns.

Pretty soon telecommunications companies, travel companies, satellite providers, financial services companies, and many other industries joined the party. Today there are literally thousands upon thousands of network marketing based companies operating throughout the world.

Network Marketing MLM: Is it For You?

Now you have a much broader understanding of the MLM/network marketing industry and the history from which it has evolved.