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You’ve Officially Signed on the Dotted Line — Now What?

Experts in franchising explain what happens in the interim before operations start.

Once your signature is on the dotted line of the franchise agreement, the congratulations have been given and the champagne has been served, what’s next? There is a waiting period between the contract execution and when a new franchisee officially has their first day of business, and a lot takes place during this time. 

The post-signing, pre-opening process and timeline look different from industry and industry and specific to each brand. But this phase is typically spent doing a deep dive to learn about the brand and its products/services, training, finances, insurance and permitting, and handling real estate and hiring (if needed).

Follow A Checklist

A good brand will be there to answer questions when you’re confused about the next step; a great brand will provide a playbook of exactly what you should be doing and when. Once the agreement is signed and the money is wired, most franchisors will provide a welcome package with detailed steps to onboard new owners and inform them of the interim process before operations start. 

“Onboarding is this process of gaining access to all of the proprietary software systems and documents that are necessary to begin learning as an owner and to understand the timeline from agreement signing all the way to the door opening,” explains Joshua Kovacs, a multi-unit franchisee with PetWellClinic and Xpresso Delight USA, and CEO of Oakscale Franchise Development. “A great franchise will be very organized on what happens immediately after the agreement is signed.”

Franchise Training 

Shawna Eikenberry, a Footprints Floors* franchisee in Raleigh, North Carolina, said that the comprehensive training offered by the brand set her up to feel “well-prepared” once business began. 

“Aside from a ton of encouragement, cheerleading and emotional support, Footprints Floors provided us with three full weeks of training and orientation. It was hugely instrumental in helping me understand our business model, and the flooring trade in general, and how to be successful,” she said. “We were also given access to virtual training modules from the National Wood Flooring Association, another immensely valuable resource.”

Real Estate Decisions

For retail-based franchises, the pre-opening process takes longer and has more steps involved because there is a real estate piece that has to be handled. Most retail businesses will open within six to nine months of the franchise agreement being executed, but timelines are all dependent on the market, construction, permitting and more.

“Franchisors are usually pretty accelerated in giving the information necessary to immediately start in real estate. Because there's all these things that have to be done in order: you can't sign a lease until you find real estate; you can't start building until you've signed a lease; you can't start hiring until you have a business for them to work in,” Kovacs explained.

Brands will connect the new franchisee with a broker, urge them to start looking at appropriate sites and offer guidance on details like square footage, ideal location, design specifications, floorplans and more. They will also set them up with the company’s vendors for construction, equipment and signage so the process is streamlined and set up for them as much as possible.

Hiring for Operations

Eikenberry uses subcontractors rather than employees for her Footprints Floors operations, so she hit the ground running to find the right crew. She said that the hiring field is tough right now, but with the brand recognition of a known and trusted franchise behind her, it gave her confidence in recruiting. 

“I did a lot of pounding the pavement, virtually and in real life, trying to build relationships and present us as a company they want to partner with,” she said. “I tried to make it really clear to potential crews that they would be treated well, paid on time and kept busy with lots of jobs on the schedule.”

Kovacs agrees, saying the employment climate can be tough, especially depending on the type of business, but that having a franchise system behind you makes the process much easier. 

“They've helped us identify the people that we need to hire, and that’s remarkably helpful because your business is an extension of you and your team, so there's a lot of pressure to find the right employees,” he said. “It’s a decision that impacts the franchise greatly, and having a great team you trust is incredibly valuable.”

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.