Making the most of an exhibition visit

As the unemployment figure in the UK reaches a 17-year high of 2.67 million*, thousands of people are seeking new opportunities to secure their future, with franchising proving to be one of the most popular options.

A good place to start when considering investing in a franchise is to visit to an exhibition where franchisors will be showcasing their opportunities to potential new investors.

However, as a prospective franchise owner how do you stop yourself from feeling overwhelmed and make the most of your time at these events?

It is vital that you remember that attending a franchise exhibition should only be treated as a part of your franchise research – not all of it.

Always keep your goals at the forefront of your mind: to identify a number of promising opportunities, which deserve further investigation after the event, and to meet and gain an impression of the management of those franchises, while retaining a level of detachment sufficient to avoid being swept up in the hype and enthusiasm.

Not every franchise opportunity you come across will be right for you, even if they fall within your investment budget and the franchisor makes them sound like a perfect fit. The more astute exhibition visitor will set aside a whole day to visit as many stands and talk to as many franchisors as possible.

Try to study the exhibition catalogue when you arrive and identify the brands you really want to see before making your way around the hall. By doing this, you should leave the event satisfied that you have gained an accurate picture of the range of franchises you want to explore further.

Enquiring minds

Meetings between franchisors and potential franchise owners have sometimes been described as two-way interviews. You will be assessing each other as potential partners in a franchise relationship and, as such, you must endeavour to maintain a balanced approach to the conversation.

On the one hand, you will be attempting to find out more details about the franchise and the management team from your meeting; while on the other, the person you will be talking to from the franchise will want to evaluate your suitability.

You should prepare a list of questions, such as those you can find on our Checklist on page 146, while the exhibitors will be trying to ensure no time is wasted on unqualified prospects. Their aim is to qualify you quickly with upfront questions and filter out those with vague answers about money.

It is possible they may misread your intentions and not class you as a genuine prospect, in which case they will then likely ask you to fill in a registration card for possible follow-up rather than devote their time explaining their franchise. If your interest in the opportunity is sincere, make it clear and ensure that you are provided with the attention you deserve.

Look and learn

At most exhibitions you will find accompanying seminars delivered by experts and designed to educate visitors about different aspects of franchising.

Subjects including ‘An introduction to franchising’, ‘What to consider when choosing a franchise’ and ‘How to franchise your business’ are covered, with each seminar usually lasting about one hour.

Don’t sign anything

Most franchisors view the return on their investment in an exhibition as a significant amount of registered interest in their brand – a list of leads to follow up, with a percentage ‘converting’ by investing in the franchise. Certainly no franchisor should be seeking to sign franchise owners up at the exhibition itself.

Assess your options

Approached in the right way, franchise exhibitions are valuable and even fun ways to gain access to the people involved with the franchises available and secure the information you need to properly consider the opportunity being presented. By the end of the day you’ll be returning home with a couple of bags full of brochures and promotional literature, which you can read through during your cooling off period. Combined with the research you have carried out on the internet and through reading this magazine, you should now have enough information to begin identifying the opportunities that interest you most.

* According to the Office For National Statistics, February 2012.

Written by Fraser McKay