Experience a world of franchising in California

Franchising is responsible for 8.1 million jobs and this is estimated to increase by 2.2 per cent in 2012, according to Franchise Business Economic Outlook.

Investors are targeting trade shows and exhibitions, such as the West Coast Franchise Expo (WCFE) at the Anaheim Convention Center, from October 12 to 14, as prime places to explore viable business investments and speak with top level executives about turning their career around – even in these recession hit times.

One example is its efforts to attract highly qualified investors ready to start their own business. With partnerships including local government agencies, small business and entrepreneurial organisations, and veteran-centric associations, WCFE promises to open new doors for aspiring business owners. It is not surprising that exhibitions remain at the top of lead generation efforts for so many franchisors.

Tim Courtney, Director of Franchise Development for CruiseOne, says: “We advertise in various media outlets including print and online. We feel that exhibiting at WCFE and investing the three days here to meet people face-to-face gives candidates an opportunity to see that we’re real, our team is real, and lends quite a bit of ease to the relationship building process. The quality of the prospects walking the show floor has been excellent, and we expect to close some deals and continue to grow in California.

“We reserved our space for WCFE 2012 at the 2011 event. We also exhibit at Franchise Expo South and the International Franchise Expo. These ‘in person’ opportunities are how we grow and we plan to continue to use these events to fuel our expansion.”

Growing awareness

Prospective franchise owners are becoming increasingly aware of the financial incentives offered by developing franchisors. Federally-backed loans to small businesses in Southern California and across the nation are increasing as more banks participate in federal lending programmes. Small banks continue to be ahead of their bigger counterparts when it comes to small business lending, according to credit marketplace Biz2Credit’s June Small Business Lending Index.

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are backed by the US Government in the event of a default, thereby reducing the risk to lenders. The latest analysis of 1,000 small business loan applications on Biz2credit.com found that approvals last month by big banks rose half a percentage point from May to 11.1 per cent, while small bank approvals jumped two percentage points to 47.5 per cent.

“Small banks are the big story this month,” explains Rohit Arora, CEO at Biz2Credit. “They have made a lot of SBA 7(a) express loans, which used to be the strength of the largest banks.”

Excellent opportunity

Tim Linderman, Director of Franchise Development at Primrose Schools, states: “WCFE has proven in the past to be an excellent opportunity for Primrose Schools to meet highly qualified franchise candidates. The opportunity to meet face-to-face with people serious about starting their own business is a very valuable resource for Primrose.

“Since Primrose has a relatively high initial investment level, it is important to meet candidates who have access to capital, and many people we have spoken to at WCFE were self-funded or have access to capital, and they are looking for the right opportunity.

“We finished the 2011 expo with several exciting leads. As we continue to grow our brand in the west, it’s critical to meet qualified prospects to fuel our expansion.”

Events like WCFE provide a unique forum to follow up on warm prospects that are still in the pipeline. Dave Schaefers, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development for Driven Brands, says: “We haven’t just met with new prospective franchise owners at WCFE, we’ve also met people we saw six months or a year ago who are still considering buying a business and who have gone through our process and remain interested. We did very well at the last expo – we met three people who had been in our pipeline and WCFE was a great opportunity to reconnect with these prospects and enjoy some great dialogue.

“For new prospects with an interest in an automotive business and who we are meeting for the first time, the expo allows us to engage in a conversation that you probably couldn’t get into on the phone, and certainly not have the opportunity to qualify them the way you can face-to-face. Either you’re in the business or your not. We’re in franchising for the long haul. If we don’t award a new franchise owner at the expo this year, we’ll get one next year.”

Joel Goldstein is the Group Marketing Director at MFV Expositions, a producer of leading franchise events worldwide.