FORTUNE Small Business:

What are the steps to buying a franchise?

Four things to think about before cutting the check.

By Keith Cupp
Coach and consultant, Executive Mentors and Trainers, Seattle

(FSB Online) -- Dear FSB: I want to purchase a franchise with Williams Chicken Corp. in Dallas, Texas. I am currently in school pursuing a B.S. in management. Where should I start?

- Veronica O'Neal, Dallas

Get small-business intelligence from the experts. Here's a chance for YOU to ask your pressing small-business questions, and FSB editors will help you get answers from the appropriate experts.
Your name:
* Your e-mail address:
* Your city:
* Your state:
* Your daytime phone #:
* Your questions:

Dear Veronica: I advise clients who want to buy a franchise to take the time to find one that fits their plans, personal interests and financial profile. Here are some key questions to ask.

1. How does the franchisor make its money? Are its goals aligned with those of the franchisees? In this case, when Williams Chicken Corp. makes its money, do its franchisees - and vice versa?

2. Does the franchise have reasonable start-up fees? How high are the margins it charges on materials it sells to franchisees? How do its markups compare to those at similar chains?

3. What is the company's marketing program? Is it working effectively at all of the chain's locations?

4. What are Williams Chicken franchisees saying about their experiences, when it comes to revenue, profits and working with the franchise company? You can find out by requesting a copy of the franchise company's Uniform Franchise Offering Circular. The UFOC will provide you with the name of current franchisees and their contact information.

You may have to set up several meetings with executives at this franchise chain and at others you are considering to gather information. Once you have the answers to these questions, you will have a better idea of the cost of starting your business and be able to project the ongoing operating costs and profits. Considering how many hours you will need to put into running any venture you buy, your research will pay off many times over.  Top of page