Financing a Franchise: the Real Costs

When you start looking into a franchise deal, you’ll find any number of sources that quote numbers claiming to be the “total cost to start up,” or some similar number. Without offering any disrespect to the financial experts and researchers who come up with these numbers, let’s simply point out that there is a huge difference in startup costs between, for example, opening a McDonalds in San Rafael, California vs. opening the same store in Ardmore, Oklahoma. With location being just one factor involved in financing a franchise, you can imagine that these numbers are, at best, educated guesses.

So if you can’t get a reliable estimate of the real costs of financing a franchise, what can you get? Well, you can start by at least getting a grip on what the real costs of starting up a franchise consist of.

Typical Costs of Starting a Franchise

  • Attorney Fees: to have a skilled lawyer look over the franchising contract and all related paperwork.
  • Accountant Fees: to have a skilled accountant prepare financial projections and other related paperwork.
  • Licensing Fees: to acquire the necessary licenses to do business in your state and community.
  • Certification Fees: to acquire any certifications (trade industry certificates, food safety certificates, etc.) necessary for you to do business.
  • Structure: to either build or lease a place to do business out of. Can also include landscaping, signage, alarm system installation, and more.
  • Equipment: to purchase or lease the basic equipment (non-consumable goods) you need to do business. Includes uniforms, manuals, and vehicles as well as more obvious items like deep fryers or computers.
  • Inventory: to purchase the starting inventory (consumable goods) that you’ll need to do business.
  • Freight costs: to get all of that equipment and inventory to your store.
  • Insurance: to acquire the various kinds of insurance (general liability, property, business owner’s policy, workman’s compensation, professional liability, commercial auto, directors and officers, data breach, commercial renter’s insurance, key employee insurance, and more!) you’ll need to do business safely.
  • Training: to make sure your employees know how to do their jobs by the time the doors open.
  • Franchise Fee: to obtain the right to use the brand name, business plan, and other assets provided by the franchisor.
  • Initial Advertising: to pay for the ‘alpha strike’ of advertising designed to make sure that there are customers at your door when it opens for the first time.
  • Emergency Fund: most franchisors require you to have 3-6 months of ‘backup funds’ set aside in a special account before you open your doors.

The Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD)

Fortunately, while the numbers you’ll see when you start your own research will vary, every franchisor is required by law to offer a FDD; a document that lists everything you’ll be required to pay, and does so in a way that gives you data accurate to your situation. You might not obtain the document when you first show interest, but they are obligated to give you an FDD at least 2 weeks before you sign the franchising contract, so you can get an idea of how easy it will be to finance your franchise.

The costs involved with financing a franchise are critical in determining whether you have the financial wherewithal to make it through the startup phase and begin turning a profit. Though traditional franchises such as fast food restaurants and automotive centers can be very expensive, there are other emerging industries, such as senior care and home-based sales franchises with minimal startup fees and high profit margins.

To find the best franchise opportunity to fit your passion, skills and budget, and to gain help with franchise financing, it is best to work with a franchise broker. At Franchise City, we are under contract with over 500 of the top national franchise brands across a wide range of industries. Through a unique and proven process, we help match candidates with their ideal business. There are no extra fees and there is no pressure to buy into a franchise; we offer our unlimited consulting services free of charge.

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A Brief Q&A on Franchise Funding

E2 VisasQ: Why is a franchise easier to get funded than a new business?

A: Simply put, franchises are less risky than new businesses. Franchises tend to come with established brands that already have a proven model and several-to-thousands of success stories already on the books. For that reason alone, any bank that has a ‘franchise unit’ or ‘franchise underwriters’ will be far more likely to finance you if you come to the table with a solid franchise plan compared to someone claiming that they can create success without a proven roadmap and existing brand positioning. In fact, if you don’t have a solid franchise plan in hand, or you talk to a banker that isn’t part of a franchise-oriented department, the chances are very good that the bank will insist that you have 100% collateral available before they give you any financing at all — which means you would have the option of paying out-of-pocket and skipping financing altogether.

Q: If I can afford to pay for a franchise out-of-pocket, why would I pursue financing?

A: Two words: leverage, and security. One of the key concepts behind maximizing your long-term profitability is called leverage: being able to invest more money than you actually have into a venture. The idea being that the more you can invest up-front, the shorter the total time-to-profitability, and thus the greater the long-run profit. At the same time, the most common problem in running a franchise is failing to have enough money in reserve to make it to the break-even point — and financing allows you to keep a greater amount of cash in an emergency fund than paying for everything up-front.

Q: How much should I borrow?

A: Wrong question. Instead ask ‘How much do I have to borrow?’ In balance to the last question: the more you borrow, the greater the impact if your venture fails — and you must account for the chance that you will fail. The point of financing isn’t to overleverage; it’s to maximize your chances of success by being amply-funded while also not taking on so much risk that a failure will drive you into bankruptcy. This is where a rock-solid business plan based on highly-conservative financial projections comes into play; with those documents and an experienced accountant, you should be able to reverse-engineer a loan that optimizes your chance for making a modest living in the short-term, breaking even in a secure and reasonably swift manner, and collecting a (hopefully somewhat immodest) profit down the road.

Q: Are there options beyond a simple bank loan?

Of course! Even within the ‘traditional’ banking system, there are several levels of financing that you can access. Then of course there are the many non-bank sources of financing you can approach:

  • The Small Business Administration and other business-related (usually State) organizations insure small-business loans to franchise owners. Technically, the loan still comes from a bank, but with the SBA’s backing, you’ll be far more likely to obtain financing.
  • Some franchisors will offer financing through an in-house system. Compare options carefully, because some can seem like traps for the unwary, but most are fair.
  • Other non-bank lenders can be extremely challenging to properly assess. The best advice is to inquire at your local Small Business Development Center and double-check a non-bank lender in the Better Business Bureau before you delve into that realm.

Funding is obviously one of the major considerations you must evaluate when deciding whether or not to purchase a franchise. Other considerations include skills, passion and interests. Many franchise recruiters will try to persuade you to buy into their brand simply because you are financially qualified. However, this is not always the best advice. It is much better to speak with a franchise broker who has access to hundreds of national brands across a wide range of industries and can objectively analyze which Best franchise opportunity is right for you.

At Franchise City, our brokers use a unique and proven 20 step process to match clients with their ideal business opportunity. There is no fee for our service and the franchise fee is the same whether you go through a broker or the company recruiter. For further information about franchise funding and all other aspects of franchising, contact us by filling out the form below.

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Writing Your First Franchise Business Plan

Creating a franchise business plan is a crucial step in determining whether or not you’re going to ‘make it’ as a franchisee. Many potential franchisees think of this step as an ‘entrance exam;’ a test to see if your planning skills are up to snuff. This is more-or-less exactly the wrong way to think about it: it’s not a test — it’s an opportunity for you to actually sit down and think hard about what assets you have on your side, what challenges you can expect to face, and how you’ll overcome them and achieve a steady profit flow.

Each section of the business plan introduces a new area of opportunity for you to plan out:

  • Introduction: Asks you to identify your primary products and/or services, the level of competition in your local market, the operational techniques used to achieve success, and a broad-strokes description of your key risks and challenges. This is your chance to fully assess the competition and ask yourself fundamental questions about the nature of the challenges ahead of you —       a key part of addressing those challenges (later in the plan.)
  • Management: Asks you to identify the key management roles in your enterprise and introduce the people who will be filling those roles. With each person, in addition to stressing generic qualifications, ask yourself if the individual has a skillset or other attributes that can help you tackle your main challenges or mitigate your main risks. Describe those attributes and explain why they’re valuable to you!
  • Marketing: Asks you to describe how you’re going to attract new customers to your franchise, including explaining the competitive advantages you have over local business in the same industry. Also asks you to describe how your product or service provides value to your customers, and how your initial marketing push will drive you toward profitability. This is where you should be sitting down and honestly asking yourself about who you expect to be marketing to — essentially, who you consider your ‘core audience.’ This decision should guide a significant portion of your business decisions and also point you toward certain answers for your key challenges.
  • Financial Projections: The most important part of the franchise business plan from the number-crunchers’ perspective: the cash flow statements, balance sheets, cost projections, and other numbers that will ultimately lead to a projected “time-to-net-profit” (which should be somewhere between 1-3 years.) Prepare these as conservatively as possible, because a new business — franchise or not — will always encounter unforeseen problems and issues. The more ‘wiggle room’ you give yourself by preparing conservative projections, the more likely you are to survive until profitability and thus achieve the goal of having a steady income stream.
  • Financing Needs: No matter how you’re financing your venture — even if the answer is “it’s all coming from my savings account” — always provide a complete analysis of all of your startup costs, from your initial marketing surge to all of the projected operating losses you’ll accrue until you achieve profitability. This process will give you even more insight into what stumbling blocks you might encounter as well as inspire you to awareness of alternative financing sources should you turn out to need them.

One of the great rules you will do very well to remember as a franchisee is that every problem is an opportunity in disguise; including this first, fundamental challenge of writing your franchise business plan. Take it on, make it the opportunity it can be, and learn everything you can by doing the best job you’re able, and you’ll be far more ready and able to deal with the challenges of creating a profitable business.

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Home-Based Franchises vs. Home-Based “Business Opportunities”

Franchise OpportuntiesThe word ‘franchise’ seems to carry a fairly conformist spin to it — when you think about a ‘franchise,’ you tend to think about pretty traditional businesses like Subway, Merry Maids, or the UPS store. But there are a huge variety of franchises in the world, and some of them are home-based ventures that will have you doing things you never knew you could do for money, much less do as a franchise with an established business plan and proven historical success stories to emulate. From using border collies to chase geese off of golf courses to providing breakfast-in-hospital-bed to immobile soon-to-be-mommies, the number of home-based franchises you can get into is stunning.


The number of home-based “business opportunities” on the Internet isn’t just stunning — it’s downright unbelievable. It’s trivially easy to find websites out there insisting that you can ‘start your own business’ and ‘turn a huge profit overnight’ by doing ridiculous things that range from classic scam material (envelope stuffing, anyone?) to downright bizarre (collect discarded batteries and ‘recondition’ them to work ‘like new’?)

What’s the Difference?

Simply put, the difference is that, no matter how unusual the franchise concept seems, it is always, 100% of the time, going to be a significantly more reasonable investment. That’s because a “business opportunity” is almost always just a product that you buy along with a vague outline of how you can use it to make money. A “franchise,” on the other hand, is a specific kind of transaction wherein you buy everything you need to turn a profit, from the equipment to the step-by-step business plan, along with a promise of future services including training, advertising, and more.

What’s the Downside to a Home-Based Franchise?

The cost. Very literally, there are purported “business opportunities” that claim to be able to get you turning a profit by having you download a free e-book and spending $75 on some product or other that you’re supposed to be able to use to provide a valuable service. The cheapest home-based franchise will charge you around $4,000 to get started — and those franchises are little more than “here’s the plan, you’ll be managing a website that sells products, by the way executing the plan will require several dozen 18-hour days in a row, good luck!” The more successful home-based franchise models start in the $20,000 range and go up to several hundred thousand dollars’ for the upfront investment.

And $20,000 is the “More Reasonable” Investment? …For a Home-Based Business?

Absolutely it is. Let’s take just one random example: $46,250 to get into a property management franchise. You could go check out every book on property management, read every blog about property management, and then go try to start a property management business out of your living room on your own…and you would almost certainly fail unless you already had years and years of experience. Sure, all you’re out several grand and a few months of your time…but if you put in the money up front, you can hook up to a system that has proven to create successful property management business time and again. You’ll lose more if you fail — but the chance that you’ll fail is massively reduced compared to trying to go it alone. And that’s really the best reason to choose a home based franchise over a “biz-op” — because you’re willing to invest in your own success.

The number of home-based franchise opportunities is overwhelming, and the process of inquiring with the franchise recruiter for each brand before you find the right one for you can seem daunting. At Franchise City, we offer a better way. If you are interested in home-based franchises or any other kind of franchise business model, we offer free unlimited consulting to help you find the business that fits your skills, tastes and budget. Through a unique and proven 20 step process, we take clients by the hand and give them all the tools they need to find the franchise they are most likely to succeed in. To learn more, fill out the form below for further information.

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How Minimum Wage Increases Affect Some Franchises

It started in Seattle, overtook California, and it seems to be imminently-nationwide phenomenon: the $15 minimum wage. And while economic data out of Sea-Tac airport and the Seattle metro area is showing that it’s probably not the massive economic catastrophe that some predicted, there are definitely some sectors that are seeing challenges in the near future as wage floors rise. Many of those sectors are prime territory for franchises — the most obvious of all, fast food, or otherwise known as quick-service restaurants (QSRs).

McJobs and McWages

The QSR sector is one of the most competitive in the food industries, with slim margins. The average McDonalds runs about a 6% profit margin; Papa Johns is 9%…on the other hand, the average Blimpies just barely lands in the black at 1%, and the average Quizno’s runs a 0% profit margin. Yep, signing up to Quizno’s is basically flipping a coin where one side means insolvency.

Keeping in mind that McDonalds’ typical labor cost is 20% of its gross income, and the vast majority of those employees work for the minimum wage, if the wage floor rises to any meaningful degree, the profitability of running a McDonalds franchise is going to start to compare unfavorably to Quizno’s. The same logic applies to any and every franchise that relies on a plethora of quick-to-train, high-turnover minimum-wage employees in their workforce.

Riding the Minimum Wage Wave

Some will come back with the “new economics” logic that says “won’t the people making all that new minimum wage money be able to spend a little more to buy your burgers, then?” But that’s not how it works — because McDonalds, Subway, and similar QSRs have spent millions of marketing dollars over the last decades establishing themselves as the cheap, fast option. To try to sell their audience on the kind of across-the-board price increase they would need to make to stay pleasantly profitable would be a tough gig.

That doesn’t mean the “new economics” reasoning is flawed, however — it’s just not likely to benefit McDonalds and their direct competition. It totally will benefit franchises that are offering products and services geared toward college students, young families, and in fact anyone in the lower half or so of wage earners, as a raise in the wage floor will see a ‘ripple effect’ nudging wages upward for a good number of people.

Franchises That Benefit From a Higher Minimum Wage

The easiest way to benefit from that ripple is to sell to the people who are enjoying their increased wage and/or avoid having minimum-wage employees. Home-based, single-employee franchises such as home inspection services, cleaning, and senior care services that hire over-minimum-wage employees are great franchise opportunities in the new economy; find one that sells to the newly-$15/hour crowd, and you can reap the benefits while skipping out on the pain. If you’re wondering where that kind of deal can be found, talk to a franchise broker — they’ll have that data and much more handy, and they can provide free unlimited consulting services to help match you to a franchise opportunity that works.

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Franchise Marketing: A Split Decision

Imagine being a new franchisee: you just spent a big chunk of money to get your franchise set up. The people are hired and trained, the property is leased, the equipment is installed — all you need now are customers. Your franchiser puts out ads in your area, so the advertising aspect is covered, right? Well…no.

Local Business Marketing vs. The Franchise Marketing Fund

The fact is, every franchiser out there has already established a Marketing Fund — sometimes more than one. You’ll be asked to contribute an amount every month, quarter, or annum in order to pay for the advertisements you benefit from. You’ll also be able to purchase your own advertisements, typically called LBM: Local Business Marketing. Most franchisers will assume you’re going to invest in both the Marketing Funds and in LBM.

You Might Not Want to Invest in LBM…

Imagine being a new franchisee: you just put another chunk of money into your franchiser’s National Marketing Fund, and a second into their Regional Marketing Fund, and now you’re starting to worry a little, because your money is going out faster than you expected. It isn’t endless, and you have to balance your ability to draw in new customers with your ability to stay in business long enough to start turning a profit.

Sorry to make you sweat even harder, but there’s one more aspect of this process to worry about, and it has to do with the different purposes that different advertisements can have. By and large, there are three that are used by businesses:

  • Solicitation: The kind of advertising that gets people to do something — like ‘sign up for your service’ or ‘eat lunch at your place.’
  • Brand Building: The kind of advertising that cements the position of the business within the marketplace — ‘When you hear ‘Business Name,’ you know it means ‘Value’ type of stuff.
  • Promotion: The kind of advertising that alerts customers to a specific initiative being pursued by the business. This can be as traditional as “Product Name is on sale for just $5,” or it can be as unique as the epic failure of JC Penny’s No More Sales promotion.

…But You Really Should!

Now, imagine being a new franchisee and needing customers now to get off the ground. Are you going to be happy when the franchiser takes your money and puts it into a brand-building or promotional campaign? That doesn’t do anything for you directly; it just means people around you are going to be aware of your company’s name. It does nothing to get people in your door. And the majority of Marketing Fund-type advertisements are going to fall into one of those two categories.

If you want to grow your way into success, then, you’re going to have to spend a bit more of your money on LBM — on soliciting your local customers to come in and give you more money. Imagine being a new franchisee…now imagine the kind of cash flow balancing act you need to get to the break-even point not on what you started with, but on what you can make while you’re moving forward — that is why it is usually a good idea to split your marketing dollars between corporate and local advertising campaigns.

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Are Home Care Franchise Opportunities A Good Investment?

Home care franchises are one of the fastest-growing breeds of franchise on the market today. Home care is the nation’s leading alternative to residential healthcare, and the benefits it offers for the patient are enormous. For a clever entrepreneur seeking a solid business model, a home care franchise is a great way to turn that skillset into a profit — and because it’s profit made by making people’s lives better, it’s capitalism you can feel good about!

What sets the home care franchise apart?

  • Low Startup Costs: You could pay a half-million dollars or more to start a fast food franchise, or you could pay one-fifth that to start a home care franchise. Rather than purchasing a mountain of equipment and hiring people to operate it, you’re primarily hiring marketing staff, paying for basic office space, and recruiting and training nurses and home care aides.
  • High Income: Research firm Home Care Pulse studied home-health franchise revenue and determined that the median gross income was just over $1 million in 2009, and it’s risen to just under $2 million projected for 2015 — an insane rate of growth that shows no signs of slowing.
  • Expanding Market: The number of people over 65 doubled between 1960 and 1990, and then doubled again between 1990 and 2015. The number of people over 85 tripled between 1960 and 1990, and then tripled again between 1990 and 2015. The Census Bureau’s estimates are that these rates are only increasing — so if you’re in Home Care, your customer base is only getting bigger, faster.
  • Legal Advocates: One of the greatest hindrances to a modern medical startup is the legal limbo that many areas of medicine are in right now. Home care, along with telemedicine and midwives, is struggling to convince the legal and political arenas to keep up with a quickly-evolving market. As a franchise, you’ll have a much stronger and better-backed company representing your interests and ensuring that your business and the law don’t come into conflict.
  • The Chance to Do Good for Your Community: This is, no doubt, the heart and soul of anyone who gets into the home care industry. If you’re not looking to help the homebound patients that are your customers — and to help their families — you should probably look for a different opportunity.

Not All Are Created Equal

Most in home care franchise contracts are renewed every 10 years — which means you need to find more than just “a home care franchise.” You need to find the right franchise. Every one of them offers a different set of advantages and tools. Some will require you to recruit your own home care aides; others will provide you with a pre-existing structure. Some will offer you legal services; others won’t. Find the franchise that asks for your strengths and offers tools to cover your weaknesses, and you’ll be doing as much as you can to set yourself up for success.

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13 Franchise Development Experts on Great Franchisees

One of the best ways to determine whether or not you would make a good franchisee in general — rather than determining your match with a specific kind of franchise — is to look at the attributes that franchise development experts are looking for.

“Franchise Development” Experts?

They go by a bunch of different titles, but basically we’re talking about those people who have the job of, well, developing franchises. That means they put together the system franchisers sell to franchisees — which means they know better than anyone what their company needs to see in a franchisee in order to make headway into the marketplace. So what do they say? Let’s look at some quotes.

Franchise Developers Want…

  • Philly Pretzel Factory: “Someone who is willing to follow a system. We want someone who has the entrepreneurial spirit, but they have to understand that we have a proven model here.”
  • Mr. Handyman: “If you don’t have all the capital required to get to break-even, the first part of launching your business will feel like everything is going well. However, when you run out of capital, the banks won’t lend you anymore, because you are now at the highest point of risk.”
  • Cinnabon: “Passion and enthusiasm in being a small business owner, and having the go-getter mentality… You’ve got to like people to do business at Cinnabon.”
  • Merry Maids: “We’re not looking [so much] for somebody with a certain net worth or a certain background as we are for someone who really wants to jump in and get directly involved in developing a business.”
  • French Fry Heaven: “Do you understand what you’re getting into? Do you understand the work this is going to take? Do you understand it’s going to be hard?”
  • Snap Fitness: “Somebody who is a fitness nut: a personal trainer, somebody who comes from running a health club themselves. The economics of it are second.”
  • 1-800-Dry-Clean: “[Franchisees] must be willing to work harder than they have ever worked in their lives…There is no ‘easy’ business or franchise, despite what many believe. All startup businesses are hard work, and starting a franchise, while it has much less risk than a non-franchise startup, is still hard work.”
  • Burrito Box: “Big time: somebody who is in to marketing…. The focus is on the human connection with the customer. That’s what we don’t have. The machine doesn’t have that.”
  • The Maids Home Services: “If someone does not have the financial wherewithal to do this, we’re not doing them any favors by squeezing a square peg into a round hole. They need to find a different business model that doesn’t have the same financial requirement. Also, when we feel that someone isn’t really willing to follow our system, we have to address that right away upfront.”
  • Expedia Cruise Ship Centers: “People that would be team leaders. Our franchise partners… recruit, train, mentor and motivate a commission-based sales team. So, the larger their team, the better trained and coached they are, the more successful they will be.”
  • HipPOPs: “We’re looking for somebody who is a go-getter… somebody who is involved in their community, someone with a really strong work ethic. What we’re not looking for is someone looking for a get rich quick scheme.”
  • Happy & Healthy Products: “Somebody part time, because we want to slowly build it. We want it to fit into their lifestyle, instead of taking it over.”
  • Molly Maids: “If I’m talking to people who have already put thought into what they’re looking for, that’s a very good sign…if people don’t know what they’re looking for beyond the fact that they just want a change, it’s much more difficult.”


The Essentials

As you can probably see, these break down into a few basic attributes that come up over and over again. If you have the financial backing, if you’re willing to follow a system but do it with dedication and enthusiasm, if you’re willing to work hard — genuinely hard — at making your franchise work, and if you have the leadership and marketing savvy…you have what it takes to be a massively successful franchisee. All you need now is to be matched up with a franchise that will match your skills, interests and budget, and the easiest way to sift through the hundreds of opportunities out there is to work with a franchise broker.

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How to Determine Your Personal Top Franchises to Buy

There are literally thousands of lists of “Top Franchises to Buy” on the Internet, and all of them have some kind of logic behind them. The problem is that “some kind of logic” isn’t necessarily your kind of logic. This is a guide to understanding your logic and learning how to apply it to your personal ‘Top Franchises to Buy” list.

Step 0: Start With What You Love

The first thing you need to do is cross off 95% of the potential franchises in the world by crossing off anything and everything you don’t care deeply about. The single most important indicator of success among people who actually sign a franchise deal is that they are dedicated to the idea they sign onto. If you don’t start with passion, you’ll never end with a profit.

Step 1: Understand Your Limitations

Every franchise has certain requirements — some more than others — and your personal ‘Top Franchises’ list is going to have to automatically cross off any that you simply can’t meet the requirements of. The most common forms of requirement are:

  • Funding. Far and away the most common requirement for people that want to buy into a franchise. Franchises require a lot of money to start up, and then even more to keep afloat until you start turning a profit. If you don’t have the financial backing, you don’t have a franchise, period.
  • Net Worth. Some franchisers additionally require you to have a level of personal net worth before they’ll consider you — $250,000 in semi-liquid assets is a fairly common requirement. Again, if you don’t have it, you’re out of luck.
  • Education. More rarely, but still known to happen, a franchiser might require you to have a certain level of education or even a certain specific major, minor, or degree in order to consider you a viable candidate.
  • Legal. Finally, you have the requirements that aren’t inflicted by the franchiser, but by the government. If you can’t, for whatever reason, get all of the licenses, permits, and so on, you’re going to have to look at a different franchise opportunity.

Step 2: Can You Turn a Profit?

Once you’ve crossed off all of the franchises that are “hard nos” because of Step 1, its time for the hard work: crossing off any and all of the franchises that don’t have a business plan that shows you turning a solid profit sometime between 15 and 30 months out. Any longer than that, and you risk a ‘black swan’ event ruining you before you start getting your feet under you; any shorter than that, and you have to ask yourself if you wouldn’t be better off establishing yourself as a competitor to that franchise rather than becoming a part of it.

Similarly, if the profitability isn’t significant after a few years, you’re running the risk of a small economic downturn or a shift in the market wiping out your profit entirely in the first place. Before you move on, do all the work you need to in order to cross off any franchises on your list that aren’t going to be reliably, decently profitable within a reasonable timeframe.

Step 3: Will They Help You When You Need It?

Every business owner needs help somewhere along the way — franchise owners should be able to expect it from their franchiser. But not all franchisers play ball, so before you make any decisions, you need to cross off one last group of franchisers: those who fail to offer meaningful assistance in each of these four key areas:

  • Management: the tools you need to recruit, train, and manage employees.
  • Location: assistance in finding and acquiring the right place for your franchise.
  • Budgeting and Cost Control: the structure you need to stay afloat until you turn a profit.
  • Key Business Activity: whatever your franchise actually does to turn a profit, there should be an ample amount of help available to ensure you can do it as well as the home office knows how.

Congratulations! Now that you have all of those franchises crossed off, arrange the rest according to your personal ROI/Job Satisfaction needs, and start applying. When you do apply, be ready to deal with the company’s franchise recruiter. This is the person whose job it is to “sell” you on the benefits of buying into that particular brand.

Another way to go is to work with a franchise broker. Brokers are under contract with several hundred of the top regional and national franchise brands and they are not “captive” to any one particular company. This frees them up to do all the leg work for you and help you find your top franchise to buy – based on your passion, skills and budget.

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Finding the Best Franchise Opportunities for 2015

It’s a tough thing to sort out all these “top franchises” lists. They all use different metrics to determine which is the “best” franchise on the market. Some are geared toward the franchiser’s total profit, others toward the franchises with the minimum investment required to join, and still others toward more obscure metrics like ‘delta-S’ — the change-per-franchise in the brand’s total market share. But for your purposes, there needs to be only three statistics examined: franchisee satisfaction, franchisee success, and the cost-of-entry.

Fortunately, industry research firm Franchisee Business Review has already done the work and given us a list of the ‘best’ franchise opportunities. We’re going to break down three of those opportunities for you to show you what we consider ‘ideal’ opportunities in some very different industries.

National Property Inspections, Inc.

  • Cash Required to Start: $44,000 (Franchise Fee: $34,900)
  • Franchisee Satisfaction: 4.1/5
  • Unique Pros: No other employees required; work solo/from home
  • Unique Cons: Getting wrapped up in Tyvek suits and crawling through confined spaces

A franchisee with National Property Inspections is expected to come in with a modest supply of startup cash (see above), the desire to learn and work hard…and that’s about it. NPI will train you in both home and commercial building inspection and provide you with a complete step-by-step for running your business successfully. So long as you’re willing to get down and dirty (literally!), and you can follow a plan to the T, NPI is a great low-cost opportunity for people who want to fly solo.

Firehouse Subs

  • Cash Required to Start: $128,760 (Franchise Fee: $20,000)
  • Franchisee Satisfaction: 3.8/5
  • Unique Pros: Profound vetting system means if they take you on, you’re probably going to succeed.
  • Unique Cons: Your main competitor (Subway) is far-and-away the most dominant force in the industry and you have to be something special to steal their customers away

Firehouse Subs was started by a pair of firefighters who understood what their fellow public-service personnel — love (hint: meat.) They also have an intense focus on making every store successful (somewhat the opposite of Subway’s “open everywhere, see who fails” model), which on the one hand means it’s quite possible to get your application for a franchise declined — but if they do accept you, you can be assured they’ll do everything in their power to help you make it.

Payroll Vault

  • Cash Required to Start: $69,000 (Franchise Fee: $28,000)
  • Net Worth Requirement: $250,000
  • Franchisee Satisfaction: 4.2/5
  • Unique Pros: A thoroughly white-collar, B2B affair — franchising from a desktop
  • Unique Cons: Lots of legal details; most be attentive to minutia

If you’re interested in a franchise but you don’t want to deal with scheduling shifts, manual labor, or corporate uniforms — if your skillset is in financial advising or business capital — Payroll Vault might be a great fit. With a relatively modest startup fee and great training opportunities that include shadowing existing franchisees on the job, you can start a payroll outsourcing firm and start building your LinkedIn network and brushing up to your local Chamber of Commerce like any other suit-and-tie corporate professional.

These are just a few examples of the best franchise opportunities for 2015. There are hundreds of other brands that have proven successful business models with relatively low barriers to entry. A franchise broker can help you perform a more efficient search by sifting through the hundreds of possibilities and narrowing your search down to the handful of franchises that best suit your passion, tastes and budget.

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