The information you will learn by asking questions during validation is far too important to skip. The validation process is a very important step in the investigation of franchise concepts. As a prospective franchisee who is interested in a particular concept, this is your opportunity to speak with representatives of the brand, as well as other franchisees in their system. At this point, you’re still deep in the process of determining whether or not the specific business model is a fit for your goals, desired income, and lifestyle. At this stage in the investigative process, you’ve likely amassed a good deal of information on the franchise brand. If the franchisor is shooting straight, they’ll want to you speak to the other owners in their system, so be sure to ask about the specifics of their validation program.
Once it’s time for the cross-examination (we kid!), here are six important questions that should be on your list:
1. How did you get here?
As someone imagining what it would be like to own a certain franchise, it’s important to ask the other franchisees how they came to own their franchises. You may end up hearing a very similar story to your own, or another’s explanation could describe a completely different path to making the decision to purchase. Either way, go ahead and let your curiosity get the best of you.
2. What are the pros and cons of owning this franchise for validation purposes?
You can shape your validation call the way you like if you never ask a tough question. But that’s not the object of your validation opportunity. You should assume that you’re going to hear a rosy picture from the other owners, but don’t be afraid to ask them to get real with you. Buying a franchise is a big decision. And you need to balance both the good and the bad that you hear. This is no time to be overly timid.
3. How do you rate the training and ongoing support, a key component when going through the franchise validation exercise?
Most franchises can’t boast enough about their thorough training and ongoing support programs. High tech tools at your disposal. A streamlined ordering system. Built-in vendor platforms. A 24-hour helpline. Onsite field support. But until you can verify what their training and support are really like, this is just advertising. To get the right answers, ask the other franchisees to provide you with an example of the brand’s responsiveness in these categories.
4. Are you meeting the benchmarks?
Most prospective franchisees are overly concerned about income. Once you sign the agreement and write the check to the franchisor, you’ll need to start earning it back until you reach the breakeven point. Don’t be afraid to mention that the income potential is a concern for you. These other franchisees, unless they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, went through the same feelings. See what kind of reassurance you can get from them. You don’t need to see their books. Just find out if the benchmarks of income potential are realistic.
5. What is a day in your life like?
Surprisingly, some prospective franchisees get so caught up in the details of their validation sessions, they forget to ask the questions that really matter. If you truly want to own a certain franchise, you should want to hear what a typical day looks like. In fact, you could start with Monday and go right on through the week. Pay close attention to the level of detail you hear. Then, and only then, can you picture yourself in their shoes day-in and day-out.
6. If you could do it all over, would you?
It sounds like a cliché because it is. Don’t forget to ask the existing franchisees if they would do it all over again and buy into the brand. Everyone should say yes, but the important part of this question is the follow-up, “why is that?” Hopefully, the owners you speak to in the franchise validation sessions will each have something interesting to add that helps build a case for becoming an owner yourself.
Those are six truly important questions, but you shouldn’t be constrained to a limit, other than the call itself. Write up as many questions as you want. Take notes so that you don’t miss anything. Use what you heard in one validation call to ask a different owner the same question. Franchise validation can be a wonderful opportunity for prospective franchisees. Done right, it could leave you chomping at the bit to join the franchise family.
Jeff Cheatham is a regular contributor for Entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Creative Content, a full-service copywriting and public relations firm. He’s based in Dallas and works with multiple B2B clients and over a dozen franchise brands to develop proprietary content campaigns for lead-generation and sales development programs.