Having worked in the franchise world for almost twenty years, I've heard this old adage more than enough times to understand its weight. And although franchisees buy and run their own businesses at their own risks, they have access to a strong support infrastructure every step of the way. This infrastructure includes corporate offices, phone and email addresses of the franchisor and other franchisees, national conference software, and field support staff.
So, by these measures, the old adage appears to be accurate franchisees are in business for themselves, but certainly never by themselves.
Having sold franchises and also been a franchise consultant, I've noticed a change in how entrepreneurs approach franchising: Over the last ten years, more prospects have purchased comprehensive franchise systems with strict menu, decor, and marketing standards than ever before. This is because doing so allows them to own their own business and also lessen start-up risks.
When I first landed in the franchise world, a turnkey franchise was a hot commodity. Today, the term has all but disappeared. Now, franchise prospects are interested in franchise systems with strict menu, decor, and marketing standards.
So, how did this happen and is it a good thing?
Early franchisors were larger, more established corporate businesses. They possessed brand-name recognition, personnel, and proven systems. Today's franchises have less brand recognition and are rooted in concepts rather than proven results. This makes them more likely to challenge new systems and-since most of them lack financial strength and confidence-avoid presenting a firm, comprehensive offering. The only problem is that this flexibility can actually erode the fabric of the franchise and make it harder to garner brand recognition and franchisee support.
If you want to invest in a franchise, choose one that has a proven track record and can survive without undergoing major change. You must trust the franchisor you are going into business with and allow them to perform their corporate duties, while you execute at the unit level. If you choose to purchase a franchise system and find yourself going back and forth with the franchisor, wrestling for control --- put the FDD down and walk away. Franchising probably isn't for you and you will be happier being in business by yourself.