By Shawn Gurn – Certified Franchise Consultant / Franchisee / Owner- HOF Franchise Consulting

Any gamers out there recognize that quote? Hint: think old school video games. If you remembered that moment, you may recall what was the first step to be prepared for the dangers awaiting you once you embarked on your mission.

I’ve learned (the hard way) what it’s like to dive into franchise options without proper guidance. Now that I have a deep understanding of the pitfalls awaiting “new adventurers”, I’d like to offer a few pointers to make sure that the mission is successful for those who are ready to take the leap into business ownership.

“Why not just start my own business? Why would I pay someone else to do what I can do myself?”

This is a common perception for those new to the exploration process. Franchises are expensive, what am I getting for all that cost? The answer is pretty – simple: mitigated risk. Creating something from scratch is very time-consuming, prone to mistakes and ultimately a huge investment of time that may or may not set the business up for success. A franchise, on the other hand, is a proven business model that can be replicated. Additionally, it comes with processes, systems, support, training… for lack of a better term, it’s a “business in a box”. Once you evaluate the benefit of adopting a model with a track record of success versus embarking on your own, the value of a lower risk option such as a franchise starts to make sense. Most importantly, you may also find that not all franchises have a huge price tag!

“I can research on my own. I’ll know the right opportunity when I see it.”

When I decided to depart my 25+ career in marketing / advertising, this was my mindset as well. After almost 6 months of spinning my wheels, however, it became clear that I was in over my head. I really didn’t have a good idea of what would be a good fit for me. I thought a restaurant would be the right direction (I mean, that’s what a franchise is, right?) and I didn’t deviate from that path. I couldn’t really get good information from any of the concepts I found online and they were selling me… hard. It was overall a very unpleasant experience and it didn’t really start to come into focus until I worked with a consultant.

Why work with a franchise consultant (or why you shouldn’t go into this alone)
Looking back at the wasted time and frustration I experienced trying to navigate the limited possibilities I could find online, I realized that once I partnered with a consultant I trusted, many of my previous assumptions were incorrect. The right consultant comes with a diverse portfolio of brands across all verticals and an agnostic attitude toward which to focus on. The research was customized to my skills, qualifications and, most importantly, my goals. I was able to review and learn about a diverse range of opportunities and get real information as my consultant had already validated my qualifications (getting me past all of the screens that online inquiries put in front of you). The end result? My wife and I found the right franchise, but i also learned there was so much more I needed to learn… and there were probably others out there making the same mistakes that I could help them avoid.

I realized that once I partnered with a consultant I trusted, many of my previous assumptions were incorrect.

I’ll post more about the benefits of franchise exploration and working with a consultant, but probably the biggest point I can make for those who are remotely interested in navigating opportunities – you don’t know what you don’t know. I consider myself to be a guide and advocate for learning, not a sales person trying to push someone into the wrong business. I know it’s scary to take the leap… you don’t have to go alone (and sometimes it can be dangerous).