In this introduction to franchises, we explain the fundamental benefits and responsibilities associated with franchise ownership.
This article can help you evaluate whether owning a franchise is right for you. It will help you understand how franchises work, including your obligations as a franchise owner.
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The Benefits and Responsibilities of Franchise Ownership
A franchise typically enables you, the investor or "franchisee," to operate a business. By paying a franchise fee, which may cost several thousand dollars, you are given a format or system developed by the company ("franchisor"), the right to use the franchisor's name for a limited time, and assistance. For example, the franchisor may help you find a location for your outlet; provide initial training and an operating manual; and advise you on management, marketing, or personnel. Some franchisors offer ongoing support such as monthly newsletters, a toll free 800 telephone number for technical assistance, and periodic workshops or seminars.
While buying a franchise may reduce your investment risk by enabling you to associate with an established company, it can be costly. You also may be required to relinquish significant control over your business, while taking on contractual obligations with the franchisor.
Below is an outline of several components of a typical franchise system. Consider each carefully.
The Costs Associated with Purchasing a Franchise
In exchange for obtaining the right to use the franchisor's name and its assistance, you may pay some or all of the following fees.
Initial Franchise Fee and Other Expenses. Your initial franchise fee, which may be non-refundable, may cost several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars. You may also incur significant costs to rent, build, and equip an outlet and to purchase initial inventory. Other costs include operating licenses and insurance. You also may be required to pay a "grand opening" fee to the franchisor to promote your new outlet.
Continuing Royalty Payments. You may have to pay the franchisor royalties based on a percentage of your weekly or monthly gross income. You often must pay royalties even if your outlet has not earned significant income during that time. In addition, royalties usually are paid for the right to use the franchisor's name. So even if the franchisor fails to provide promised support services, you still may have to pay royalties for the duration of your franchise agreement.
Advertising Fees. You may have to pay into an advertising fund. Some portion of the advertising fees may go for national advertising or to attract new franchise owners, but not to target your particular outlet.
To ensure uniformity, franchisors typically control how franchisees conduct business. These controls may significantly restrict your ability to exercise your own business judgment. The following are typical examples of such controls.
Site Approval. Many franchisors pre-approve sites for outlets. This may increase the likelihood that your outlet will attract customers. The franchisor, however, may not approve the site you want.
Design or Appearance Atandards. Franchisors may impose design or appearance standards to ensure customers receive the same quality of goods and services in each outlet. Some franchisors require periodic renovations or seasonal design changes. Complying with these standards may increase your costs.
Restrictions on Goods and Services Offered for Sale. Franchisors may restrict the goods and services offered for sale. For example, as a restaurant franchise owner, you may not be able to add to your menu popular items or delete items that are unpopular. Similarly, as an automobile transmission repair franchise owner, you might not be able to perform other types of automotive work, such as brake or electrical system repairs.
Restrictions on Method of Operation. Franchisors may require you to operate in a particular manner. The franchisor might require you to operate during certain hours, use only pre-approved signs, employee uniforms, and advertisements, or abide by certain accounting or bookkeeping procedures. These restrictions may impede you from operating your outlet as you deem best. The franchisor also may require you to purchase supplies only from an approved supplier, even if you can buy similar goods elsewhere at a lower cost.
Restrictions of Sales Area. Franchisors may limit your business to a specific territory. While these territorial restrictions may ensure that other franchisees will not compete with you for the same customers, they could impede your ability to open additional outlets or move to a more profitable location.
Terminations and Renewal
You can lose the right to your franchise if you breach the franchise contract. In addition, the franchise contract is for a limited time; there is no guarantee that you will be able to renew it.
Franchise Terminations. A franchisor can end your franchise agreement if, for example, you fail to pay royalties or abide by performance standards and sales restrictions. If your franchise is terminated, you may lose your investment.
Renewals. Franchise agreements typically run for 15 to 20 years. After that time, the franchisor may decline to renew your contract. Also be aware that renewals need not provide the original terms and conditions. The franchisor may raise the royalty payments, or impose new design standards and sales restrictions. Your previous territory may be reduced, possibly resulting in more competition from company-owned outlets or other franchisees.
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