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How Long It Really Takes to Buy a Franchise
1851 Franchise spoke to a few of the industry’s top development experts to highlight what candidates should expect as they start the discovery process.

There’s a sense of excitement that comes with launching a new business. That’s why entrepreneurs are often antsy to get their concept off the ground as soon as they make the decision to invest in a franchise. However, how long does it really take to buy—and open—a franchise? 1851 Franchise spoke to a few industry experts to find out.

According to Paul Pickett, chief development officer at Wild Birds Unlimited, the question of long it takes to buy a franchise is a complicated one that doesn’t come with a simple answer. In fact, he says that there are three different phases that franchise candidates should take into account before starting the purchasing process.

“There are three phases that are involved with buying a franchise. The first is how long it takes for a candidate to make the leap and decide on a brand to partner with, the second is how long it takes to find the right location and the third is how long it takes to complete the actual store build out. And while all three play a vital role in the franchising process, franchisees only have control over the first phase,” said Pickett. “Before any type of store build out can happen or movement can be a made, aspiring business owners need to know that they’re teaming up with the right brand. Being a successful franchisee ultimately comes down to being with the best brand for you, no matter how long it takes to make that decision.”

That second phase—finding the right location—has the potential to be the longest part of the entire franchising process. While candidates are often eager to hit the ground running, Richard Zimmer, director of franchise development and real estate at Zoup!, warns that it’s well worth it for franchisees to take more time if it means securing a better location.

“The hard part of the purchasing process typically comes down to finding the right site. That’s the wild card—some franchisees find their perfect location right away, while others have to wait for a while. Plus, you never know how long it will take to negotiate with landlords and ensure that the paperwork is up to date,” said Zimmer. “For our system specifically, we know that it’ll take 60 days to build a store, 30 days to secure the right permits and that the grand opening process will take place over the course of five or six weeks. But there’s no way to guarantee how long it will take to find the site that’s going to put you in the best position for long term success.”

While franchise brands have systems in place that are designed to streamline the buying process, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the overall time it takes to get a new location up and running. From simple delays like entrepreneurs already having a full-time job to more complicated ones including trouble getting financing, candidates should be prepared for everything.

“Outside of the time that it takes to find the right location and build out a store, there are a lot of other factors that have the potential to extend the entire purchasing process. Buying a franchise can take a lot longer if you need to find access to a loan or financial capital—being preapproved, on the other hand, can speed the process up. It can also take longer to invest in a franchise when candidates seek out more validation. And even though it takes time to call existing franchisees and speak to them about their experience with their brand, it’s essential to take that testimonial into consideration before officially signing on the dotted line,” said Pickett. “Thoroughly going through a brand’s FDD, or Franchise Disclosure Document, can also make the franchise buying process longer. Those documents are long and a lot to digest, but again, are a necessary piece to the discovery puzzle.”

At the end of the day, how long it takes to buy a franchise comes down to what brand a candidate is partnering with, and what their specific process takes. For Wild Birds Unlimited, three months is considered to be a very fast build out where everything goes right. For Zoup!, on the other hand, the average to open up a restaurant is eight to 10 months. But no matter how long a candidate takes to buy a location, it’s better to be positioned for success.

“At the end of the day, what will help candidates through the franchising process is having realistic expectations. While brands are there to help guide franchisees through their grand openings from beginning to end, it’s better to know from the start that the time that it takes to buy a franchise can vary,” Pickett said. “But in my experience, it’s clear that franchisees agree with one thing: no matter how long it takes, it’s worth it to wait for the right place and the right time.” 

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