(Example page from a Franchise Disclosure Document FDD. There’s a list of the 23 items an FDD contains toward the end of the post.)
Today’s franchise buyers are hit with a lot of information.
And if you’re currently on the hunt for the right franchise to own, you know exactly what I mean.
Secondly, once you start inquiring about specific franchise opportunities…filling out “Request More Information” forms, offers of “Free Help Finding A Franchise” start magically appearing in your inbox. Of course those emails are in addition to the franchisors you contacted who are reaching out to schedule introductory calls with you.
Finally, once you start having conversations with franchise representatives, you’re going to get access to their Franchise Disclosure Documents (FDD’s). Have you seen one yet? Just wait.
Franchise Buyers And Franchise Disclosure Documents
The Franchise Disclosure Document is important. Really important.
It’s so important, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), suggests that franchise buyers “read the entire Franchise Disclosure Document before entering into a formal agreement with a franchise company.”
Suggested Reading: “A Consumer’s Guide To Buying A Franchise.”
But do you need to read the FDD?
No And Yes.
Franchise Buyers Do Not Need To Read The Franchise Disclosure Document
That’s not a typo.
You don’t need to read the FDD.
Franchise Buyers Must Read The FDD
That’s not a typo either. On the contrary, I did it for a reason.
You don’t need to read the FDD the second you get your hands on it. Why not?
Because the FDD has nothing to do with why you like the franchise concept you’re interested in.
For example, I’ve never worked with a franchise buyer who told me “Joel, the reason I like Dicky’s Barbecue Pit is because I saw their FDD, and now I want to open one in Buffalo right away.”
A gentle tip from The Franchise King®:
Do not buy a franchise until you know EXACTLY how to do thorough research.
Learn how here
Start At The Beginning
When you first start learning about a specific franchise business opportunity, find out what you can about the concept. Allow the franchise representative to tell you about the business. Get details. Then find out what your specific role would be as a franchise owner. If you’re still interested after you’ve learned those things, keep going. Buying a franchise…getting all of that franchise information-is a process.
The Franchise Disclosure Document Is A Document. Period.
My dad always told me that “The FDD isn’t the business. You’re not buying a document-you’re buying a business.”
In other words, you need make sure the franchise opportunity you’re interested in buying makes sense for you, is affordable, and it will allow you to use your best skills to operate and grow it.
Provided you feel the franchise can help you reach your personal and professional goals, go ahead and dig into the FDD. Read it from cover to cover. Then, write down any questions or concerns you have and share them with the franchise representative you’ve been talking with.
Important Franchise Buying Tip
When it’s time to move forward with the opportunity, you need to hire a franchise attorney to go through the FDD with you. She’ll point out things that you may not understand or know about, along with any red flags she sees.
A Gentle Reminder
Again, don’t waste your time reading the FDD right away. Wait awhile. Learn all you can about the concept. Listen to what the franchisor has to say. Follow the process that the franchise rep has set up for you. Then if you like what you hear, reading the Franchise Disclosure Document is the next natural step.
What Does The FDD Include?
The US Government requires franchisors to list the following 23 items in their FDD. They are:
- The Franchisor, its Predecessors, and its Affiliates
- Business Experience
- Initial Franchise Fee
- Other Fees
- Initial Investment
- Restrictions On Sources Of Products And Services
- Franchisee’s Obligations
- Franchisor’s Obligations
- Patents, Copyrights and Proprietary Information
- Obligation To Participate In The Actual Operation Of The Franchise Business
- Restrictions On What The Franchisee May Sell
- Renewal, Termination, Transfer And Dispute Resolution
- Public Figures
- Earnings Claims
- List Of Outlets
- Financial Statements
An FDD Can Freak A Franchise Buyer Out
I’ve worked with more than a few franchise candidates who, after reading through the franchise information contained in the FDD, told me that they’re not interested in becoming franchise owners. For them, seeing all the things franchisors require their franchisees to do, all the rules that are in place, (to protect the business model and maintain brand consistency) all of a sudden seemed way too restrictive for them.
To that end, please remember that the business model of franchising is a rigid one.
It demands serious rule-following. You need to follow specific procedures that every other franchisee follows, system-wide. Can you imagine what this franchise would be like if all of their franchisees did their own thing?
The bottom line?
If you’re not comfortable with a rule-based system, don’t bother looking at franchise ownership. You’ll end up being frustrated and you could potentially become a former franchisee.
Finally, you do need to read the Franchise Disclosure Document.
Just do so at the appropriate time.