I recently had the distinction of reviewing a franchise agreement for the very first prospective franchisee in a franchise. My review revealed there were still many issues to work out in the agreement and with the system in general to make it reasonable for the franchisee. But the potential opportunity was very intriguing to the prospective franchisee due to the financial success of the underlying business. Sometimes it is difficult to balance the legal issues (what I know from past experiences with franchises that have failed) v. prospects of financial success (i.e.the potential for a significant return on investment particularly with a new or inexperienced franchisor).
So what’s a lawyer to do?
In this case, we’re working with the franchisor to make some improvements to the agreements and system. We are asking that they provide us the proper information, disclosures and details. There must be some willingness on the other side to do this. In the early stages I think it’s absolutely critical for a new franchise to listen to that new prospective franchisee for input. It doesn’t mean the new franchisor should just give in to a franchisee. We were prepared to discuss the business case for how our suggested changes would benefit both sides.
So the dialogue is critical particularly with new or inexperienced franchisors. The framework of discussions should be more than what is best for the potential franchisee, but also, what is helpful for the entire franchise long term. If a new franchise won’t work with you on negotiations then it may very well be in your best interest to walk away from a deal. You don’t need to be the guinea pig. Let someone else take that risk. Be willing to walk away. Your savings may depend on it.