What to Do Before Buying a Franchise
What to Do Before Buying a Franchise

Research, think outside the box and talk to other franchisees, Mosquito Joe's marketing guru advises.

Angela Zerda is the director of marketing for Virginia Beach, Virginia-based Mosquito Joe and supports the company’s expansion as it launches franchises across the United States. After 12 years of marketing and advertising experience, Zerda knows the key factors that are important for franchisees to consider before selecting and purchasing a franchise.

Here are her best practices for potential franchisees:

1851: What are the top things you suggest potential franchisees do before buying?

Zerda: Know your must-haves up front: Before you even start looking at the franchise opportunities that exist, make a list of any “must-haves” or limiting factors for the business you want. For example, this could be monetary (a budget or investment with which you’re comfortable) or geographic (i.e. there must be an opportunity in the area you live because you know you wouldn’t consider moving), but be honest with yourself up front so that you don’t waste time later.
 
Think outside the box: Outside of your “must-have” list, don’t limit yourself in your initial franchise exploration. Think about the aspects of business that appeal to you (i.e. home-based model, seasonal business, operating hours) and be open to the opportunities that align with those, no matter what industry they fall in.
 
Research, research, research to narrow your list: Initial exploration will bring tons of opportunities to light so do your research to narrow those opportunities down to a manageable list. Then, do as much digging as you can to hone in on your top few standouts. Look at the company websites, read any articles you can find about them, request information and talk to sales representatives to learn more about them all and identify the best fit.
 
Visit your top choice(s): When you think you’ve identified the right opportunity, invest the time and money to visit their headquarters for a discovery day or similar opportunity. This will allow you to meet the corporate team, gauge the support offered, get a feel for the company culture and better understand what it would be like to be a franchisee in that system. Leave no question unanswered before you leave.
 
Talk to franchisees: Make contact with existing franchisees before you buy. Get feedback on their experience, the support they’ve felt (or not) from their corporate team, any lessons learned or advice they have to offer, and whether or not they’d make the same decision if they were to do it all over. If you have any concerns about whether the business model will suit you, address those concerns on these calls.

1851: Which one of those tips do you think is the most unexpected for new franchisees?

Zerda: I think the most surprising thing for new franchisees is the thinking-outside-the-box part of the process. A lot of potential buyers go into the process with a certain business or category in mind, but when they really step back and focus on the appealing aspects that they desire, they realize that some of those don’t really align. For example, not many of our franchisees woke up one day thinking they wanted a pest control franchise, however, as they explored business models that fit their lifestyle, Mosquito Joe fit the bill perfectly for them.

1851: What specifically does Mosquito Joe do to peak interest from potential franchisees before buying?

Zerda: We put a lot of effort into our discovery days for potential franchisees. Our goal with these events is to really give candidates a true feel for what it would be like to be a Mosquito Joe franchisee. In addition to spending time with our team, we walk them through our warehouse, have them test out some of the equipment, listen to customer calls, etc. so that when they return home they haven’t just been told about the franchise, they’ve experienced it.

1851: What is the biggest challenge you see new franchisees dealing with between signing and opening a first location?

Zerda: It’s easy to get overwhelmed between signing and opening a first location, with training and making all initial purchases. One of the largest challenges I see for new franchisees is handling initial staffing. It is important to start thinking about this as soon as you’ve narrowed down your list. Who will be involved in your business that you already know? Do you have friends or family that may be able to refer employees to you? Ask other franchisees where they have found their employees and see if the corporate staff has any advice or additional support for you. The great thing about a franchise system is that you’re never alone!

1851: How can franchisees combat roadblocks/challenges during the buying process?

Zerda: The best advice I can offer is to stay organized and commit the time. Choosing to buy a franchise is a huge decision, yet many people expect to spend less time in the process than they would to find a new job. Don’t be naive about time or money needed and be prepared to spend more than you think you’ll need of both.

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