Maximizing Your Franchise Expo Experience

This is it, the next step in your American Dream may be in that room! You’ve registered, collected your name badge and are ready to get to work as an eager franchise seeker at the International Franchise Expo. You walk through
the doors and realize just how big the task at hand is.

In front of you is a grid of over 400 exhibitors, mostly franchise companies with some suppliers mixed in. The goal is to walk out with as much quality information as you can gather as you plan the next big stage in your career.
That matrix of exhibitors includes some household names, but a lot of the booths George Knauf “The goal is to walk out with as much quality information as you can gather.” you will walk by have names you may not be as familiar with. You may find that these brands that are new to you are where some really interesting opportunities lie to grow a brand in your area. Each exhibitor will be trying to draw you in so that they call tell you about their opportunity. For some it will be to simply make eye contact and say “hello”. Others will approach the day with the skill of a seasoned carnival barker. They have paid a considerable sum to be there and every person that walks past their booth without talking to them is a lost opportunity to add a franchisee.

The early temptations will be to stand in line for the frozen yogurt, ice cream, pizza and other food samples. Keep in mind, though, you probably know what all of those foods taste like and standing in line limits your time and the number of people you will be able to talk to. If you are interested in those concepts it may be well worth skipping the line and go straight to their sales people to get some questions answered.
To sort the field a bit, since it will be hard to have an in depth conversation at every booth, you will want to have a good idea of what your model looks like.

You Model Quick Check (not a complete model, but a few highlights):
• Are you very management minded or a sales pro?
• What kind of employees would you be comfortable working with?
• How many people are you comfortable managing?
• Do you want to have weekday business working hours or are evenings, weekends and holidays acceptable work days for you too?
• Will you be running the business full time or looking for something where you can be hands-off?
• How do you want to grow your portfolio over time, brick and mortar or territory based?

It is a pretty natural inclination to begin sorting by those concepts that you have had consumer experiences with. For
most potential franchise owners that will make more restaurant brands in the room familiar than probably anything else. Keep in mind your model as you start sorting. The experiences you have had as a consumer may be very different than the role of the owner. Look at concepts that fit how you enjoy working.

Working the room
I always suggest to my candidates to work the room in an organized fashion so they don’t miss anything, go row by row and walk the length of those rows, sometimes great companies are late registrants and have booths in the back of the room. Given the sheer size of the expo it may also be a good idea to get a copy of the exhibitor floor plan and circle anything that is on your personal hotlist. I also tend to work with my candidates to get them connected to funding sources to get some idea of what kind of funding they would have access to for starting their business.
In addition to stopping at the booths with brands you recognize, stop at some with names that are new to you. This is an exploration and learning process, take advantage of being able to talk to these franchise sales teams face to face.

Off you go to explore
As you look at the rows, the prime spots for exhibitors to lease tend to be at the front end of rows and often towards the entry doors or center of the room. You may see exhibitors that leased multiple booth spaces for grand sales displays or to do demos of food or other items. Those large booths get a lot of people to come in and sign up to talk to one of their salespeople, but don’t limit yourself to those alone. Having done a number of these shows in years past myself, I can tell you that it is not just the big booths, free food or gift giving displays that are worth
stopping at.

My challenge to you would be to suggest that you stop at maybe two booths (or more) in each row you might be inclined to pass on and ask them how they fit your model. Maybe you find a perfect fit that you weren’t expecting.

Conversation starters when stopping at an exhibitor’s booth:
• Are you looking for new franchisees in my desired area?
• How many franchisees and committed locations/territories do you have in my area now and how many are you planning to have?
• Who are your target customers and how do you acquire them?
• What does a day in the life of one of your franchisees look like?
• Tell me about your optimum franchisee, do they fit my model? (then tell them about your skills, strengths and how you want to work)
• Are you registered in all states? (If not, why not)
• What are your total start-up costs and do you make an earnings claim in your disclosure document?
• Tell me about your training and support systems
If you are able to work past preconceptions, keep your model in mind and not get tied up in lines for samples you ought to be able to gather some great info. While only a small cross section of all available brands are here, it is a great starting point.

I hope to meet you at the show. Introduce yourself if you see me!

Mr. Knauff is a highly sought after trusted advisor to many companies; Public, Independent and Franchised, of all sizes and in many markets. His 20 plus years of experience in both startup and mature business operations makes him uniquely qualified to advise individuals that have dreamed of going into business for themselves in order
to gain more control, independence, time flexibility and to be able to earn in proportion to their real contribution.
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