This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the 43rd Annual Franchise Forum. As only one of two Iowa lawyers participating in this year’s Forum, it was an all virtual event for the first time in its history. The Forum is essentially the franchise lawyer bar association meeting. Every time I participate I love hearing the insights from other franchise lawyers across the country.

Again this year, I was reminded of the stark contrast and perspectives between predominantly franchisor lawyers and their predominantly franchisee counterparts. I practice in both segments quite often so I feel as though my ingrained biases don’t run quite as deep. And while my practice involves substantial work for franchisors these days, it did not take me long at this year’s forum to understand why franchisees and their lawyers become frustrated.

One franchisee lawyer shared his views on franchising during the pandemic. In his experience many franchisors have been willing to help franchisees by making certain concessions and providing some royalty and other relief. However, he also said that he had experienced a franchisor who simply told its franchisees, “you’re on your own!”

Imagine yourself as a franchisee in a franchise system that tells you you are on your own. That’s cannot be a good feeling. Most franchisees I know set out to buy a franchise because they are looking for a proven system, guidance and support when times get tough, and hopefully a business model that can stand the test of time. But it is a great lesson that I have talked about many times on this blog. Franchises are not all the same. There are good franchises and bad franchises. The key is to do your homework BEFORE you make the investment. Don’t assume a franchisor has a wonderful franchise system and business model just because it appears on certain lists and runs lots of advertisements. Dive deep into research. Conduct extensive interviews of the executives on your own. And interview franchisees.

I recently reached out to a franchise business on my own accord to see if it was a business I might want to purchase. It was a great exercise to go through the process myself. In the initial conversations the franchisor told a compelling story. However, as I continued my research, those initial positive thoughts began to diminish and I determined that it was not in my best interest to move forward as I learned more about the franchise system. It is OK not to move forward with a business opportunity. When you are investing your life savings¬† you better make sure it is the right opportunity for you. Franchise businesses do fail. Profits are not guaranteed. Set yourself up for a better chance of success by choosing a franchise that won’t tell you that “you are on your own.”