Say the word franchise at a dinner party and, depending on your company, you’re apt to get either nods of appreciation or blank stares and a few “Mhm, yes, that sounds like an interesting plan”s. Chances are the conversation will shift gears soon afterward.
But starting your own franchise isn’t nearly as intimidating or confusing as the average person assumes it to be. You don’t need millions of dollars, a completely novel and irreplicable idea, an award-winning retail space in the heart of a large city, or any other expensive items that would make most people turn and run.
Starting your own business can be as simple as finding suitable space in your own home: clearing off a desk in the basement, dusting a bit, throwing open a window for some air, and buying a file cabinet.
Think you can’t afford a small business? Think again …
Don’t let the masses fool you into believing that it takes millions of dollars, or even several hundred thousand, to start a small business. Though there are up-front costs that will require a bit of the spare cash in your wallet, the chances of your small business requiring such a large sum of cash to get rolling are slim.
In the end all you need is a space to make/prepare your product, the ability to network, the drive to succeed, and a market to sell to — and most of those items are cost-free!
Recently, Entrepreuneur magazine published an article about franchises that you can start up for $50,000 or less — in other words, the layman’s guide to franchising. Examples include estate sale companies, house cleaners, tutoring services, cellphone and wireless accessory carriers, small weekly newspapers, fitness classes, mobile DJ services, and many more.
A great tool for ideas about starting a small franchise, the article listed a range of start-up costs, all of which bottomed out at below $50,000, and some less than $5,000!
In the long run, all you need are some basic business smarts, an idea you know can make money, and the drive and management skills to get it going.
And while it’s true that not everyone is born with the innate ability to manage a company successfully, it just takes an open mind to learn the tools that will help you stay afloat as a small business in today’s economy.
Getting started: business classes, research, and a will to succeed
Most people have the customer service skills to understand what it takes to run a business. Even if you haven’t worked directly with customers, you know the old mantra: the customer is always right.
That being said, unless you plan on starting out behind the scenes and staying that way, it is good to have some customer service experience before you try to launch a business. Customers can tell when you’re comfortable and know what they need, and that will improve their buying experience exponentially.
In the end, business management is about knowing what you are good at and sticking to it. If you know you have the people skills, consider hiring a financial advisor or taking on a partner that can crunch the numbers.
If you are more of a number-cruncher yourself, consider asking your wife, your daughter, your son, your father, your neighbor — anyone who has good people skills — to join you and work on the front lines while you take care of the technical stuff.
Remember: nobody can do everything alone, and everybody needs help sometimes. Starting out your business with someone you trust and can work well with is a great way to make sure that you stay afloat; and having complementary skills to draw upon will boost your productivity and increase the likelihood of your success.
And if you’re nervous about the prospect of running a business, check a book out of the library and brush up on your management skills, or consider a free online business course from a site like Open Culture or Coursera.
Blogs to guide you along the way
There are a number of great small franchise bloggers that discuss their business experience. These can help you anticipate the hardships to expect along the way, and can also be a great morale booster. It’s uplifting to see others’ successes, and to learn how gratifying it can be to be your own boss, despite some of the struggles that await you.
Among the great blogs you might follow are:
1. The New York Franchise Law Blog
Run by attorney Charles Internicola, this one is great and steadily getting better. Some posts that might interest you on this blog are written for those in the more exploratory, dip-your-toes-in stage of starting a franchise. Those tips may help you move from “maybe I will” to “when can I get started?”
2. Franchise Pundit
If you are thinking of starting up a food-related franchise, this might be the right blog for you. It follows primarily existing franchises, and provides images of the delicious foods they serve! A great place to see where you can be in a few years if you work hard and can cook up some delicious treats.
3. Rush On Business
This man started blogging long before social media was called social media, and it shows: he knows his stuff. He’s an attorney who posts primarily about business law, which is something you should certainly become more familiar with if you want to start your own company.
4. AllBusiness.com Franchise Blog
A former editor of Entrepreneur magazine runs this blog. If that isn’t enough reason to check it out, I don’t know what is. Need to do some research? Check out their article on the top 300 franchise prospects, and many others of a similar nature.
5. Franchise Business Opportunities webblog
This blog is great because it’s large, incorporates a number of writers who are all excellent at what they do, and is global. That means you enjoy the advantages of looking at what other companies are doing in the world, not just local companies in the U.S.
The moral of the story … ?
Starting your own business isn’t nearly as unimaginable as you might think. You can create your start-up with the money you have in your savings account — if your sweetheart will give you the account code, of course! — or with a small business loan that will pay itself off if you work hard and put in the hours it takes to start your franchise.
And, if you’re nervous about starting something brand new, you can always take a slightly different route: editing what’s already there. Buy up a franchise and make the changes needed to keep it afloat.
Change the name if you have to, but keep the supplies. If you’re operating on a small budget and you see the opportunity, snag it; you might not get another chance to be the guy or gal that turned a franchise around and made it successful again!