12 Criteria of Franchisability
While it is impossible to determine the franchisability of a business concept without a significant amount of analysis, the iFranchise Group has identified a series of 12 predictive criteria that assess the readiness of a company for franchising and the likelihood that it will achieve success as a franchisor.
To sell franchises, a company must first be credible in the eyes of its prospective franchisees. Credibility can be reflected in a number of ways: organization size, number of units, years in operation, look of the prototype unit, publicity, consumer awareness of the brand, and strength of management, to name the most prominent.
In addition to credibility, a franchise organization must be adequately differentiated from its franchised competitors. This can come in the form of a differentiated product or service, a reduced investment cost, a unique marketing strategy, or different target markets.
Transferability of knowledge
The next criteria of franchisability is the ability to teach a system to others. To franchise, a business must generally be able to thoroughly educate a prospective franchisee in a relatively short period of time. Generally speaking, if a business is so complex that it cannot be taught to a franchisee in three months, a company will have difficulty franchising. Some more complex franchisors offset this handicap by targeting only franchise prospects that are already “educated” in their field (e.g., a medical franchise targeting only doctors).
Next, measure how well a concept can be adapted from one market to the next. Some concepts (e.g., barbecue) do not adapt well over large geographic areas because of regional variations in consumer tastes or preferences. Others (e.g., medical practices) are constrained by varying state laws. Still other concepts work only because they are in a very unique location. And some work because of the unique abilities or talents of the individual behind the concept. Finally, some concepts are only successful based on years of perseverance and relationship building.
Refined and successful prototype operations
A refined prototype is necessary to demonstrate that the system is proven, and is generally instrumental in the training of franchisees. The prototype also acts as a testing ground for new products, new services, marketing techniques, merchandising, and operational efficiencies. The occasional exception to this rule is with companies whose franchises involve the direct sale of a proprietary product or service.
All successful businesses have systems. But in order to be franchisable, these systems must be documented in a manner that communicates them effectively to franchisees. Generally speaking, a franchisor will need to document its policies, procedures, systems, forms, and business practices in a comprehensive and user-friendly operations manual and/or computer-based training module.
Affordability merely reflects a prospective franchisee’s ability to pay for the franchise in question. This criterion is as much a reflection of the prospective franchisee as it is of the actual cost of opening a franchise. For example, a multi-million dollar hotel franchise is affordable to real estate developers, whereas a franchise with a $100,000 start-up cost that targets prospects with clerical experience might not be.
Return on Investment
This is the real acid test of franchisability. A franchised business must, of course, be profitable. But more than that, a franchised business must allow enough profit after a royalty for the franchisees to earn an adequate return on their investment of time and money. Profitability is always relative. It must be measured against investment to provide a meaningful number. In this way, the franchise investment can be measured against other investments of comparable risk that compete for the franchisee’s dollar. Typically, the iFranchise Group looks for the franchisee to achieve a ROI of at least 15 percent for owner-operators, and 20 percent for area developers, by the second to third year of operations. To see how your business measures up to this criteria, take the iFranchise Group Acid Test.
Market trends and conditions
While not an indicator of franchisability as much as a general indicator of the success of any business, these trends are key to long-term planning. Is the market growing or consolidating? How will that affect your business in the future? What impact will the Internet have? Will the franchisee’s products and services remain relevant in the years ahead? What are other franchised and non-franchised competitors doing? And how will the competitive environment affect your franchisee’s likelihood of long-term success.
While franchising is a low-cost means of expanding a business, it is not a “no cost” means of expansion. A franchisor needs the capital and resources to implement a franchise program. The resources required to initially implement a franchise program will vary depending on the scope of the expansion plan. If a company is looking to sell one or two franchised units, the necessary legal documentation may be completed at costs as low as $15,000. For franchisors targeting aggressive expansion, however, start-up costs can run $100,000 or more. And once the costs of printing, audits, marketing, and personnel are added to the mix, a franchisor may require a budget of $250,000 or more to reach its expansion goals.
Commitment to relationships
Successful franchisors focus on building long-term relationships with their franchisees that are mutually rewarding. Unfortunately, not all franchise organizations understand the link that exists between relationships and profits. Strong franchisee relationships enable the franchisor to sell franchises more effectively, introduce needed changes into the system more easily, and motivate franchisees and their managers to provide a consistent level of products and services to their customers.
Strength of management
Finally, the single most important aspect contributing to the success of any franchise program is the strength of its management. The iFranchise Group has found that the single most common contributor to the failure of start-up franchisors is understaffing or a lack of experience at the management level. Oftentimes, new franchisors will try to take everything on themselves. In addition to absorbing several new jobs for which the franchisor has little to no time, the franchisor needs to exhibit expertise in fields in which he or she may have little or no experience: franchise marketing, lead handling, franchise sales, ad fund management, training, and multi-unit operations management.
An appropriate first step in the decision to franchise is an examination of the question of whether or not a business concept is actually “franchisable.” Any organization seriously considering franchising should undertake this analysis before implementing a franchise strategy. For further information on whether your business is franchisable, request our free video or schedule a free consultation with one of our Senior Consultants.