How to make the best of visiting a franchise expo
Visiting a franchising expo for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. Therefore it is vital to do the necessary planning and preparation to get the most out of your attendance. It is worth setting specific targets so that you can measure the success of your visit to the exhibition after the event.
One of the main benefits of attending an exhibition such as the International Franchise Expo to be held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 10 to 12 April is that you can meet a large number of useful people, all under one roof.
To make the best of your visit to a franchise expo you must ensure that you do the necessary research on the industry as a whole and the sector you are interested in particular, prior to attending the expo.
In this regard franchise websites such as whichfranchise and that of the Franchise Association of South African (www.fasa.co.za) are invaluable to undertake a comparative study of the various franchise concepts available in South Africa.
The first step would be to do an in-depth analysis of the different kinds of franchises on offer, before determining which franchises fall in your price range. By researching all the necessary costs involved in purchasing and setting up a specific franchise, you would be able to considerably cut down your list of possible franchise choices.
Then, before the expo visit individual franchises’ websites, request information, and find out if the company is interested in opening units in your area of choice.
Next, narrow down your list to those franchises that you are really interested in and compile a set of questions that you would like to ask the franchise operator with regard to this particular concept. It is vital to ensure that your list of questions is comprehensive enough so that you are truly able to determine whether the franchise business you choose will be a good match, not only for your available finances, but also for your skills set and personality.
Planning is key
It is important to know exactly what you want to get out of your expo experience to ensure that you discover franchise opportunities that best match your needs.
It is a good idea to arrive early on the day you have selected to attend the expo, so that you have enough time to look at all the different concepts and thoroughly go athrough all the franchises, asking all the questions that are necessary to gain a comprehensive impression of the various businesses.
When you arrive, make sure that you collect a show catalogue with a list and description of exhibitors, stand numbers, as well as the floorplan so that that you can navigate the show easier.
A franchise expo provides you with the opportunity to meet face-to-face, on a one-on-one basis with experts in franchising. For this reason you also have to go with the intention of speaking to franchisors and not just looking at the concepts.
Take this opportunity to introduce yourself to the relevant players, tell them about your interest in the business, and ask to set up a meeting time when you can talk to them uninterruptedly for 15 to 30 minutes.
Another way to make good use of your time is to attend symposia and free seminars offered by the expo organisers. Talks by important industry figures, workshops, seminars and panel discussions will be informative and useful. These events are also ideal environments for networking. Introduce yourself – everyone is wearing a badge and is there to talk business.
Not only is it an important learning forum to learn about the industry, you will also be well placed to meet experts and talk to business owners face-to-face in one place and on neutral ground about how to start, grow and succeed at your chosen franchise, and even about how to franchise your business concept.
Talk to the experts and learn to minimise any risk. There are new franchising opportunities launching for the first time in addition to mature business systems that have franchising opportunities available nationwide.
Here are some more useful tips to help you find a concept that best suits your career goals, skills and lifestyle at a franchise expo.
Do your research
Plan ahead and find out a little bit more about the exhibitors at the expo. Visit their respective websites and read any articles that have been written about them. In this way you can find out what they have to offer and in which areas they are planning to expand.
Put together a list of which franchises’ stands to visit and what specific questions you want to ask. Although it may be too time-consuming to research all exhibitors, it would be a good idea to narrow down the list a number of good potential options
Although exhibitors are ultimately at the expo to sell business opportunities, their first objective is to talk to as many potential franchisees as possible. They want to provide as many interested visitors with as much information on their business opportunity as they can.
As every prospective franchisee is unique, you have to ensure the franchise you choose best fits your specific lifestyle. Important factors to inquire about include: investment and royalty costs, hours of operation, as well as training and support.
If a specific franchise appeals to you, but you don’t have the necessary experience in the specific industry you should ask about the availability of training.
Don’t get distracted
With many exhibitors vying for your attention, make sure you are not diverted by concepts that are not really relevant to your search. In addition to brochures and other promotional material, franchisors will often give away clever gimmicks to draw you to their stands.
Don’t let these attractive give-ways keep you from staying focused on the task at hand. Remember why you’re attending the show. If you are serious about investing in a franchise, then get down to business at the event. It is important not to spend too much time with one brand – you have more franchisors to speak to, so ask the crucial questions and move on.
On the other hand, while you’re walking down the aisles keep your eyes and mind open. You may discover new opportunities. Many prospective franchisees visit an expo thinking they will buy franchise X and instead bought franchise Y because it was a better fit.
However, only gather information and material from the companies that truly interest you – otherwise you could walk away from the event frustrated and confused. It’s also a good idea to bring along a pen and notepad because by the end of the show, you’ll have talked to so many people it will be impossible to remember who is who. And remember to keep your expo catalogue or show guide as it has handy summaries of information on all the exhibitors.
Time management is important at an exhibition. Therefore, you should not feel pressured to get all the necessary information and face-to-face time with prospective franchisors at the expo. If you’re really interested in a concept, set up a meeting with one of the sales managers for further consultation. This way you can talk to them one-on-one without feeling rushed and you can ask more in-depth questions.
Get professional advice
One of the most vital factors in attending a large franchise expo is that you will be able to speak to and ask questions of a whole host of individuals who are experts in their field. In addition franchising exhibitors, there will also be exhibitors representing companies that deal with taxation, banking and financing, accounting assistance, site selection, legal aspects and marketing, etc. that will be able to give you advice on all aspects of the decision making process.
Another important aspect of making the best of a franchise expo, is following-up after the event. Look through all the information that you have acquired during the expo, and decide what is relevant and useful, read the disclosure documents and make plans to follow through accordingly.
Continue your dialogue with those franchisors you are interest in and use the contacts that you have made at the expo to follow up, and finally take the necessary time to make the right decision. Speak to your bank and legal advisors to see what options are available and don’t forget to talk to your family and friends because they know your strengths and weaknesses and can look at the opportunities you’ve chosen to pursue with a fresh pair of eyes.
Information that can normally take days to collect, through interviews, appointments, meetings and discussions can be researched in a matter of hours if you capitalise properly on all the opportunities available to you at the next franchise expo you plan to visit.