Franchising World

By Chris DeJong, Big Blue Swim School


With a built-in support network and a proven business model, franchising is often considered a reliable path to business ownership that carries significantly less risk than going it alone. However, success is never a guarantee. Selecting a franchise that fits your goals, resources and lifestyle is a crucial part of the puzzle. You need to have a solid idea of what you want and where you want to go before selecting the best partner to get you there. Here are five questions you need to answer before buying a franchise.

1. How involved do you want to be in operations?

Franchising can be very hands-on or hands-off — it depends on the model. Some owners like to be on the frontlines of the business, building relationships with customers and their team and maintaining an active role in operations well after things are up and running. Other owners, especially serial investors, prefer to set things up and walk away, letting the business operate independently. While they still have an active role in the overall growth and strategy of the business, day-to-day responsibilities are left in the hands of the management team. With a hands-on role, you can ensure that the details of the business are running the way you want them to, but it also means taking on more of the work. A hands-off role gives you more freedom to do other things but requires a strong management team and a lot of trust.

2. What kind of investment can you make?

Capital is an important consideration when franchising. High-capital opportunities provide larger returns, but they also cost more upfront. The returns of a low-capital franchise may be smaller, but they’re more obtainable, especially for those just starting out or working with a limited budget. Another consideration when deciding on an investment is whether to do a home-based or brick-and-mortar business. When property or real estate becomes involved, there tends to be more responsibility put on the franchisee regarding capital requirements

How much time you can invest is also a thing to be mindful of — not just in terms of operations involvement, but long term. Many franchise contracts have a minimum time commitment, often a decade or more. This means you can’t decide to sell off the business and leave if you lose interest in a year or two.

3. What is your long-term plan?

Always think about your long-term goals when considering a franchise. There are many ways you can approach this kind of investment. It’s common for more seasoned investors to build up a location and sell it off later. Others look at them as a long-term investment to pass along to their kids for reliable income. Scaling up to purchase more units is another approach. While your plans can change over time, having an idea of what you’d like to do with your business in the long term will help inform your decisions. For example, if you have young kids and want to build a mature business model to help pay for their college later, you may choose to go with a high-capital franchise over a low one.

Always think about your long-term goals when considering a franchise.

 4. What kind of support and infrastructure do you need to make it happen?

Once you know what you’re looking for in a franchise and what you’d like to do with it, you need to consider what kinds of support and resources you will need from the franchisor. Training and onboarding are always important to look at, especially if you are new to the industry or franchising in general. If you want a hands-off investment, you will want a brand that knows its business model from the inside out and can educate you on the internal drivers so you can maintain your responsibilities while being remote.

5. What kind of people do you want to work with?

Even though you’ll own your business, as a franchisee, you’ll still be part of a larger corporation. There will still be a culture and tone you need to interact with relatively often, so it’s wise to find one that is a good fit. Some organizations thrive on competition, while others are very close and want high-contact relations with their franchisees. Some encourage experimenting and innovation, while others favor doing things entirely by the book. There is no wrong answer; every model can be successful with the right people at the helm. You just have to decide if you want to be on the ride.

At the end of the day, franchising is a partnership between a brand and a business owner. And like any successful partnership, it requires good communication. They can’t help you if you don’t tell them what you need. But how can you tell them without first knowing the answer yourself?


Chris DeJong is the founder and president of Big Blue Swim School.