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How to Buy a Franchise

How to Buy a Franchise

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How to Buy a Franchise

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288 pages
3 hours
Dec 29, 2011


An updated, comprehensive guide to buying a franchise in the 21st century. Written by an experienced franchise attorney, "How To Buy a Franchise" offers an essential roadmap for franchise buyers. From the basics of understanding franchising to dissecting Franchise Disclosure Documents, this guide is long on practical information while short on legal jargon. The author includes a sample Franchise Disclosure Document with a generic Franchise Agreement to acquaint you with the legal documentation involved. Learn how to investigate franchise systems, the people who run them and existing franchisees. Don't buy a franchise without reading this book.

Dec 29, 2011

Despre autor

James A. Meaney, a frequent presenter on franchise topics, is a franchise attorney who has practiced in the area for nearly 30 years. Mr. Meaney is a partner with Zaino & Humphrey, LPA in Dublin, Ohio. During his career, Mr. Meaney has held the following positions: General Counsel and Vice President of Franchise Development for Damon’s Grill®, General Counsel of the Ohio Petroleum Retailers and Repair Association, Section Chief of the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section (responsible for enforcement of Ohio’s Business Opportunity Law), Chairman of the Columbus Bar Association’s Franchise and Distribution Law Committee, and a member of the Board of Governors, Columbus Bar Association. He has also contributed numerous articles and presentations to various franchising publications, and is the author of How to Buy a Franchise. Mr. Meaney has been a member of The American Bar Association’s Forum on Franchising since 1989 and has had the honor of presenting at a number of Annual Forums, most recently including: “Starting A Franchise System: Practical Considerations, Planning and Development,” American Bar Association Forum on Franchising, 2010 Annual Forum (Co-author - October 2010). He has represented franchisees, franchise systems, master franchisors, franchise area developers and multi-unit franchisees. His practice includes franchise and commercial litigation, franchise regulatory compliance and transactional matters. Mr. Meaney is licensed to practice law in Ohio and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Visit www.fddlawyer.com for more information about Mr. Meaney and his franchise practice.

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How to Buy a Franchise - Jim Meaney



Opening Remarks

The first incarnation of this book dates back to 1986 and was intended to serve as a simple guide for first-time franchise buyers. Much has changed since that time—in franchising and the business world—but the basic premise of this book has not: an educated franchise buyer who engages in thorough and analytical due diligence is more likely to make the right franchise decision and succeed in their business.

The idea for this book arose from my experience in a state attorney generals’ office where I was in charge of enforcing franchise and business opportunity law violations and stopping outright scams. It struck me that innocent folks who were being taken advantage of knew little about business and less about buying a business. In addition, most franchise and business opportunity purchasers were short on time and eager to begin a new business. With this, it was clear that a franchise-buying guide would have to be short, concise and simple. In updating this guide, I have endeavored to stay true to this original principle.

But, as noted, much has changed and the time has come to revise and update the information you need to make the right franchise choice.

In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) amended its rule that served as the national minimum for franchise disclosures and prohibitions. Now known as the Amended FTC Franchise Rule (16 CFR Part 436), the Amended Rule has modernized and further standardized the disclosures required in a franchise sale. While we will avoid becoming overly-legalistic, it is important to understand the basic regimen of federal and state laws designed to protect you. More will be discussed on the laws and regulations in coming chapters.

There is little question that franchising has taken the world by storm. New franchises come into existence every day. From Topeka to Timbuktu, the names of well-known franchise companies have become household words.

Many people consider franchising the epitome of the American dream—an opportunity for financial success unparalleled in U.S. business history. A vintage report issued by the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Small Business (Franchising in the U.S. Economy: Prospects and Promises) when the first national franchise regulations were implemented, reflected these sentiments:

Franchising has been called the most dynamic business arrangement since the emergence of the corporation a century ago. It is heralded as a 'dominating force' in the distribution of goods and services and the wave of the future for the U.S. marketplace.

This was true more than 30 years ago and remains so today. Franchising has lived up to these high expectations and remains a dominating force today:

• There are currently over 760,000 franchised business outlets

• Total annual economic output of $2.3 trillion

• Franchised businesses provide 21 million American jobs (15.3% of all U.S. jobs)

• Economic activity from franchising accounts for 11% of the private sector economy.

• Franchises now cover the world and some of the largest franchise systems are developing more units in foreign countries than they have in the U.S.

(Source: Economic Impact of Franchised Businesses: Volume 2 (2008) (International Franchise Association Study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers) (IFA Report))

A truly remarkable record by any standard – and that’s why so many people are interested in purchasing a franchise. But just because franchising has enjoyed a rosy reputation does not mean that every franchise system is successful and that every franchise buyer has succeeded. They have not.

For instance, during the years since franchising became the rage, there have been many times when honest, hard-working people have simply been duped by scam artists. An early example illustrates the point.


A middle-aged couple was interested in starting a side business while keeping their regular jobs. They were intrigued by an ad in their local newspaper reading:

Earn Big Money While Keeping Your Regular Job-Invest In Your Own Vending Machine Franchise Business.

The ad went on to promise that, by establishing a vending machine business, you would be on the road to independent wealth in no time.

When they followed up on the ad, the seller of the opportunity assured them that by making a $20,000 investment in the machines and start-up inventory, they could build the business step-by-step into a successful empire. In addition, by joining the We've Got Your Franchise System, they would share in the proven format and techniques that were the keys to success. He showed them pictures of his luxurious warehouses in a neighboring state filled with rows of brand new machines just waiting for a home. He presented them with lists of potential locations in their area where his demographic studies showed people would just kill for vending products. And finally, he used the big hook: Oh, and by the way folks, this is a no-lose proposition. If you don't succeed, I'll return your investment. No questions asked. They were sold.

The eager buyers wrote the check and sat back to wait, excited by the prospect of beginning their new venture. In a few weeks, as promised, the seller delivered the vending machines-but there was a small problem. The machines appeared to be second-hand, not nearly as glamorous as the bright, shiny ones shown in the sales pictures. When the buyers called the seller to complain, he quickly apologized. He told them he meant to call them ahead of time as there was a temporary shortage of new machines, but they could get started with these and as soon as the new ones arrived he would replace them. He also told them that he had included their Initial Route Slip in with the paperwork for the machines and they should begin securing their locations immediately.

Temporarily satisfied with this explanation, and still pumped at the thought of having their own business, the buyers rose at the crack of dawn to establish their locations. To their dismay, the first turned out to be an old, closed gas station. At the next, a small country grocery store, they were told by the owner that he charged $20.00 a month rent and they had to purchase all the products to stock the machines from his store. And on they went throughout the course of the day, decidedly discouraged by their lack of success. They did manage to place two machines at the small grocery store and were able to get the owner to go for a 2-for-1 rent deal.

As they pulled into the driveway that evening, the phone was ringing. It was the seller, who wasted no time reassuring them. He was certain they had had a tough day. He said sympathetically, the first days are always the toughest. Buoyed by his interest and astute knowledge, the buyers were able to place their other eight machines during the course of the next two weeks. Over the next month their machines generated revenues of $100.00. After paying the rent to the grocer and figuring their inventory costs, they calculated their profit for the month to be $13.13.

Knowing this was a bad omen, they decided to get their money back and look for something else. When they called the seller, an electronic operator informed them that this is no longer a working number. When they complained to state officials whose jobs were to help bilked investors, they learned that they were not alone. Twenty-five others had fallen for the same routine and were out $20,000 in exchange for a few worthless vending machines.

The message is clear. Even though franchising has gained a reputation as the preferred method of doing business in America—if not the world—all franchise opportunities are not created equal. Success is not around every franchise corner. The same Committee report referred to earlier noted that many of the abuses and failures seen in franchising come from an informational imbalance that exists between franchisors and franchise buyers.

Do not fall prey to scam artists. Exercise caution in your business affairs-especially if it is your first time. Learn how to investigate a business opportunity so you go into it with your eyes wide open. Guard against emotional decisions by relying on the well-proven ways of Sherlock Holmes-investigate, investigate, and investigate. The process starts here.

This book begins with some basic franchise history and principles, and the distinctions between a franchise, business opportunity, dealership, and distributorship. Next, we explore how to determine which franchise opportunity best suits you. Then, since it is imperative that buyers know how to research the franchise company as well as the opportunity itself, there is a description of the facts you need to obtain and the method you can use to:

• analyze financial and sales information

• review financial performance statements made by the franchisor.

Finally, we discuss how to negotiate the franchise agreement and the factors involved in the ongoing relationship with the franchisor.

To form a successful, ongoing relationship with your new franchise partner, one that has the potential to give you the profit and fulfillment you want, you must be extremely careful that you are making the right decision and handling the transaction properly. This book puts you on the right path.

To maximize the value of this book and your franchise learning experience, three appendices are included:

• Appendix A contains a sample Disclosure Document (from which some non-pertinent information has been deleted).

• Appendix B contains a sample Franchise Agreement.

• Appendix C contains contact information for state agencies that oversee franchise and business opportunity disclosure laws and regulations.

To enhance your franchise education, the appendices are referred to throughout this book.

Abbreviated Glossary

Before we delve into the particulars of buying a franchise, reviewing some of the basic definitions used in this book may also be of value:

Amended FTC Franchise Rule - in 2007, the Federal Trade Commission amended its rule that served as the national minimum for franchise disclosures and prohibitions that was first adopted in 1979. Now known as the Amended FTC Franchise Rule (16 CFR Part 436), the Amended Franchise Rule has modernized and further standardized the disclosures required in a franchise sale; it has replaced the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular disclosure format (defined below) as the preferred disclosure format in the U.S.

Business Opportunity or Business Opportunity Plan - generally speaking, a business opportunity plan is a hybrid of a franchise and a distributorship or dealership arrangement, though some definitions of business opportunity plans do encompass franchises. The most notable differences are that business opportunity plans often do not contain a trademark requirement and the laws governing them focus more on specific types of distributorship businesses, such as rack distributors, vending machine routes, and video machine sales and placement. The vending machine business discussed earlier is a good example of a business opportunity.

Disclosure Document, Franchise Disclosure Document or FDD - a large, multi-page document required by state and federal law that contains 23 categories of information concerning the franchise offered for sale, including all agreements and financial statements. Before the 2007 FTC Amended Rule came into effect, most franchisors followed the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular or UFOC disclosure format which was adopted by the North American Securities Administrators Association and preferred by many states that regulate franchise sales.

Financial Performance Representation or FPR - any representation, including any oral, written, or visual representation, to a prospective franchisee, including a representation in the general media, that states, expressly or by implication, a specific level or range of actual or potential sales, income, gross profits, or net profits. The term includes a chart, table, or mathematical calculation that shows possible results based on a combination of variables.

Federal Trade Commission or FTC – a federal agency that regulates trade and commerce in the U.S. and which adopted the first national franchise and business opportunity regulation. The FTC has enforcement powers to prosecute violations of the franchise and business opportunity regulations.

Franchise – although defined differently in many states, the FTC defines a franchise as: any continuing commercial relationship or arrangement, whatever it may be called, in which the terms of the offer or contract specify, or the franchise seller promises or represents, orally or in writing, that: (1) The franchisee will obtain the right to operate a business that is identified or associated with the franchisor's trademark, or to offer, sell, or distribute goods, services, or commodities that are identified or associated with the franchisor's trademark; (2) The franchisor will exert or has authority to exert a significant degree of control over the franchisee's method of operation, or provide significant assistance in the franchisee's method of operation; and (3) As a condition of obtaining or commencing operation of the franchise, the franchisee makes a required payment or commits to make a required payment to the franchisor or its affiliate.

Franchisee – a person or entity who purchases a franchise

Franchisor – a person or entity that sells a franchise.

Plain English – an attempt by franchise regulators to require Disclosure Documents be written in simple, non-legalistic language so they are understandable by people who are unfamiliar with franchising.

North American Securities Administrator Association or NASAA – state securities administrators were the first franchise regulators and most are members of NASAA which, according to its website, was organized in 1919, and is the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection. NASAA is a voluntary association whose membership consists of 67 state, provincial, and territorial securities administrators in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and Mexico. NASAA adopted the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular disclosure format (defined below) before the FTC entered the picture.

Uniform Franchise Offering Circular or UFOC – first conceived and adopted by NASAA in the mid-1970’s, the UFOC was the preferred disclosure document format until the 2007 amendment of the FTC Rule. The UFOC format and guidelines set the foundation of today’s Amended FTC Franchise Rule disclosure format.

Chapter One

Why Buy a Franchise?

Most people buy a franchise because they feel it is less risky than starting a business from scratch. They recognize that their work experience has not prepared them with the knowledge or skills needed to begin and run a business of their own. In addition, many are unwilling to spend time, effort, and money reinventing what is already available.

Franchising is also attractive because, to some extent, a franchise is a cooperative-a community of common interests-from centralized national advertising to common products, operating procedures, and quality control standards. Because of the protective nature of franchising-with its intensive training programs, written standards and procedures, and national name recognition-people who otherwise would not have risked entering the business world have taken the leap and opened their own businesses and done well.

Government statistics bear this out. Although it has been the subject of debate, the chance of surviving in a small business is greatly enhanced by membership in a franchising system. The failure rate is reported to be far lower than that of small businesses unsupported by a franchising parent.

Originally, franchises that repackaged existing products and services were some of the most successful franchise systems. (Think of how many hamburger places existed before McDonald's helped make fast food a way of life.) Tomorrow's success stories will probably come from capitalizing on new ideas and new technologies.

There seems to be no limit to where and how the franchising concept is applied. Real estate, clothing, sports equipment, computer goods and services, packaging services, business services, and lodging are only some of the hundreds of businesses that use franchising to distribute their goods and services.

International franchising is the next wave. As franchise systems saturate the United States, they look for new opportunities in new markets. Using modern communication and computer technology, franchisors are able to cast a wider net without boundaries.

The following sections describe some of the elements usually responsible for a franchising system's success and some of the reasons why buying a franchise can be a sound investment. These are the primary building blocks for a successful franchise system and potential franchise buyers should place them at the top of their list of elements to investigate.


What most franchisors are selling is a defined and proven business format or method of operation. Although some offer a unique product or service, many franchisors have simply come up with a new way to slice bread. The founder of Dunkin' Donuts was quoted as saying:

"Howard Johnson's didn't invent the ice cream cone.

Colonel Sanders didn't invent fried chicken. I didn't invent coffee and doughnuts. We just did it better, we had a passion for building a concept."

It has been said that the simpler the idea, the better the franchise. What each of the business leaders mentioned by Dunkin' Donuts founder did was develop a proven, recognizable format that was easily duplicated. They standardized the presentation of their products and the services that went along with them. This is the essence of a proven format in the world of franchising and at the top of the list of reasons for franchising's success. Many of the original franchises began with people who operated their own independent business, refined it, and demonstrated-to themselves and others-that it could be successful.

A defined format is what is passed on to franchisees and strictly enforced. It is what creates a positive public image and identification. It is the prime building block of a successful franchise.

Today, while many systems still have grass root beginnings, franchise-making has become big business. Major corporations buy and sell franchise systems like pieces on a huge chess board. But at the heart of every successful franchise system, you will still find a proven format.


Another reason franchising has found such a solid niche in our modern economy is that it caters to specialized needs. Many American consumers no longer want a muffler installed by a service station, a hamburger from a diner, a pizza from someone who will not deliver it within 30 minutes, or their hair cut by a local barber. Specialists, it seems, do it better and the

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