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MCP
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All of the improvements you mentioned cost extra so if you are heading into a new business be prepared to have enough cash to fix it up first and then start making a profit. If you are buying a franchise it should be reasonably established (good brand, steady client base etc) otherwise it will be cheaper just to open a similar business next door and try your luck.
Do you have experience in the industry that the franchise is located – do you know the location well enough?? If the location is good then there will either be a similar nearby or about to open – franchisers do a lot of research regarding location (traffic flow, average household income etc etc), that is why when you see a McDonalds there is always a Red Rooster or Pasta Cup nearby!!!

It seems like you have already identified a few elephant traps so beware the fine print.

The only way to tell what is really going on with the business is to look at the recent set of financials – you may need to sign a confidentiality agreement and if you are not financially minded it may be best to get you accountant (or a really good business analyst) to look over the figures.

Good luck