Like most people to have discovered the real possibilities that franchising has to offer as a method of starting your own business and becoming self employed, you are probably finding the range of information available quite overwhelming. Its not an easy job, as you are always learning more, yet you don't know when you know enough!
One of the best ways to gather information that you really need is by talking to people face-to-face, so Franchise Exhibitions make an ideal opportunity to learn new information about things you knew a bit about, gather information for the first time about things you knew nothing about, and confirm your thoughts and help you make decisions on the things you've been thinking about.
But what is the best way to get the most out of these franchise exhibitions? One thing is for sure, if you have not conducted prior research and have not been to a franchise exhibition before you will be in for quite a shock!
There are several franchise exhibitions each year and traditionally, the largest of these are the London exhibition in late March and the Birmingham exhibition in early October, but there are also franchise exhibitions held in Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow and Manchester at different time of the year, all of which represent good opportunities to meet and learn about franchising generally, as well as franchise opportunities.
TotalFranchise.co.uk has prepared this guide to getting the best out of Exhibitions, with the following advice and tips:
If you have discovered an exhibition is coming up, perhaps several weeks or even a few months ahead, and this fits in with your own timeframes of conducting franchise research, you really can use this event to your advantage. Use the search facilities available here to gather information on franchisors, by requesting their information packs to help you understand more about them. Those that appear of interest can then be approached, assuming they are exhibiting, at the forthcoming exhibition.
Consider what is important to yourself in a franchise opportunity, what you enjoy doing workwise, and what you want to achieve from a business venture, and begin to formulate a list of general questions so that the time you spend on each exhibition stand can be utilised as best possible. See also the guides in the About Franchising section for help and guidance.
As you walk around an exhibition hall, the array of displays and stands on offer can be extremely confusing. Some brands will be clear to understand what is being offered and the nature of the opportunity, whereas many will not be as obvious. These are often 'white collar' franchises too that don't necessarily have obvious 'tangible' features that make it clear what is available. The whole point of attending information is to learn about what is on offer, so avoid the natural reaction to avoid eye contact with the staff on the stand and walk away, and stop and simply ask what is being offered. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Do not expect to go to an exhibition and take away all the information you receive in your head. You will come away confused, exhausted and with more questions in your mind than answers! Virtually all exhibitors will have various promotional literature, such as flyers and brochures for you to take away, many supplying their own branded carrier bags to aid the collection process and of course to add awareness of their brand. Franchisors will be keen to collect your contact information in order to approach you to discuss your interest later, and will normally send out further information too, so look out for the post and check your email inbox for updates following the event itself. Expect to leave the exhibition laden with several bags and lots of brochures, you've been warned!
It can be all to easy to get caught up in the excitement of speaking to the first franchisor from your pre-selected shortlist, especially if the responses to your questions, and everything else you are learning seems to be 'ticking boxes' in your own selection criteria. While this is no bad thing, with such an important decision to be made for you and your family, and with the level of investment likely to be involved, there is nothing to be gained by rushing the decision. If you had a shortlist of opportunities you wanted to speak with at the exhibition, make time to approach and learn more about each. There is plenty of time to digest information afterwards and continue your research process of narrowing down your shortlist carefully to make the right decision.
Many franchisors, especially those that are well established often have franchisees on their exhibition stands so that you can get a better sense of the reality of being a franchisee. Of course, as helpful as the franchisor is, one's natural reaction is to expect that what is being learnt is going to be slightly enhanced and the reality glossed over slightly, as is the case in all sales arena's, but a franchisor, especially a member of the British Franchise Association ought to be very accurate and careful with the information being provided. Talking to a franchisee enables you to get their feedback on the franchisor and the opportunity being presented. Do expect feedback to be quite favourable however, as the franchisor is likely to 'cherry-pick' the franchisees it wants to be representing its franchise opportunity at an exhibition.
For a franchisor, following up on the prospective franchisee enquiries collected at an exhibition is a big challenge, as as many enquiries as may normally be generated in a month or two from other marketing could be collected from a single exhibition. Therefore, if you know that a certain opportunity is not for you, either say so on the stand to avoid completing an enquiry form, or at the earliest opportunity afterwards, so that the Franchisor knows that you are not interested and can remove your details from their database and to save them time in trying to reach you thereafter.
Today, we are extremely wary of passing our contact details to anybody and understandably so, but remember that franchising is a two-way research process, and ultimately the franchisor chooses to accept you as one of their franchisees, so don't do too much research from a distance. If you find a franchise of interest, then register this interest, as you wont get the information you really need to make a decision just by scouring the Internet or collecting press releases!
Wandering around an exhibition hall and having more information than you can handle being crammed into you head is extremely tiring for mind and body. There are plenty of refreshment facilities available so allow time for a rest, to digest the information you have gathered and perhaps make some notes if you have really come prepared! You will get far more out of your day by giving yourself the time to take a break.
If there are certain franchisors, perhaps that you are already in communication with, that you specifically wish to spend time with, its best to see them when they are not likely to be at their busiest. Typically, for the shows that are held on Fridays and Saturdays, the Friday is typically the busier day, so if you want plenty of time, best to arrive on stand early (shows usually open at 10.00am both days) or later in the day, after 2 or 3pm. Of course, you can always pre-arrange to meet a franchisor at a certain time to be sure of getting the attention you require. The quietest period of all is usually Saturday afternoon.