The Franchise King®

fdd item 19

A few things in franchising need to change.

I’ve offered my suggestions before.

I’ll continue to do so; I’ll even write about Item 19, and why you should ignore it. 

You’ll benefit from them.

So will the franchise industry.

(This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy).

Bold Letters

In bold letters-right on the top of one franchise website:

Avg. Annual Revenue of Franchisees Open 3 Years = $231,497

Looks good-I’d love to make $230,000 a year. Wouldn’t you?

Of course, I have no idea if I’m even a good fit for a franchise that specializes in making homes that are for sale look nice. But, who cares if I don’t have an eye for interior design? Look how much darn money I’ll make!

The middle portion of their website has some nice graphics including awards they have won, and a couple of videos. Giddy franchisees are also pictured.

Then, in microscopic font-on the bottom of their website:

“The ‘Avg. Annual Revenue of Franchisees Open 3 Years’ is the average annual revenue for the year ended December 31, 2012 for franchisees in continuous full-time operations for 3 full years as of December 31, 2012. There were 25 franchisees in operation for 3 years as of December 31, 2012 who operated in 39 territories. The average annual revenue is based on information received from 15 of those franchisees who operate in 25 territories because the remaining 10 franchisees were not in continuous full-time operations during the entire 3 year period. Of the 15 franchisees, 7 franchisees (41%) met or exceeded the average annual revenue. There is no assurance you’ll do as well.” 

Go ahead. Read it over. I’ll wait.

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The Next Franchise

Chem-Dry, a carpet cleaning franchise, displays the following Item 19 earnings claims on their website:

$250,297- Average annual revenue per franchisee

$111,184- Average annual revenue per franchise

$20,858-   Average monthly revenue per franchisee

That information is also bolded and it’s front and center on the “How Much Money Can I Make” section of their website.

Underneath that section-in normal font:

“We surveyed all of our franchisees (1,082 franchise owners operating 2,039 franchises) and received responses from 211 franchise owners who operate 475 franchises.

 Average annual revenue per franchise owner: $250,297 (70 of 211 franchise owners, or 33 percent, exceeded this average)

 Average monthly revenue per franchise owner: $20,858 (70 of 211 franchise owners, or 33%, exceeded this average)

Average annual revenue per franchise: $111,184 (66 of 211 franchises, or 31%, exceeded this average)

For more information, see Item 19 of our Franchise Disclosure Document. Your results are likely to differ from the results described above and, for a number of reasons, these results should not be considered as the actual or probable results that your Chem-Dry business will realize.”

Once again, read their earnings claims over again if you’d like.

Go ahead: Read the Item 19 earnings claims from those two franchisors…their financial performance representations-again and again. Over and over until your eyes hurt…over and over again until the electrical activity going on in your brain reaches its peak.

Not that it matters.

It Doesn’t Matter

I don’t care if a franchisor provides Item 19 earnings claims…earnings information.

And, you shouldn’t either.

You need to ignore the earnings claims and revenue figures that are being displayed online by more and more franchisors.

You don’t need to know how much you’ll make as a franchise owner.

Well, not yet.

That’s because owning a franchise can’t be just about the money.

Let me rephrase that; it shouldn’t be just about the money.

I’ll show you why.

Making Big Money

It’s fine if you want to become a franchise owner-and make big money.

Joe Stokar, one of my early mentors, once told me that “profit isn’t a dirty word.”

Do you agree?

And if you’re willing to risk some of your own money in order to be your own boss, I’m assuming that you’re not looking at your new venture as a non-profit opportunity.

But, if you’re only doing it for the money, your potential 12-15 hour days are going to get real old real fast.

Really Joel?

Really.

Clicking Around

Let’s say that you’ve started searching online for a few franchise business opportunities to explore. You start clicking around, and end up locating 5 opportunities that seem interesting.

You read through a few pages on each the franchise websites, and like what you see. Three out of the 5 franchises that you’re interested in even display their franchisees average revenues-in bold font.

Average revenues- $345,230

Average revenues- $228,900

Average revenues- $550,125



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Out of the three, which franchise opportunity will interest you the most?

That’s the problem.

The franchise marketing departments that are engaged in advertising those earnings claims-right on their franchise websites-are taking your brain hostage. They are trying to force you to buy their franchises their way. Their way is based on the average revenue-from a sampling of their franchisees.

But, that’s not how to buy a franchise.

You need to do it your way.

You need to take control of the process…in your head-and when you’re interacting with the franchise salesperson.

That’s because choosing one franchise concept over another one-just because you can “make more money” is going to end up biting you right in the…

right in the

You’re Not Really Making More Money

Don’t confuse revenue with profit.

They’re not the same.

Revenue is the amount of money that’s brought in by your franchises business activities.

Profit is the money that your business makes after accounting for its expenses.

Your expenses are going to different from every other franchisee in the system.

That’s because costs for things like real estate, taxes, equipment are going to be different in different parts of the country. In addition, your small business loan rate is going to be different-and that makes your expenses different that the other franchisees who may or may not have a loan to repay.

One more thing; you’re seeing “average” revenue figures. Some franchisees are killing it while others, aren’t.

So, when someone tells me that they’ve read that franchisees of the concept they’re interested in make $240,000 a year on average, they’re not. Some of them are bringing in average revenues of $240,000 a year. Not average profits.

Now that you know the difference, let’s get back to you wanting to make more money.

Of course you want to make more money. Most people do.

Miserable Money

If you had the opportunity to make a lot of money in a particular franchise, but you’d have to work 14 hours a day-7 days a week, would you do it?

I know what you’re going to say.

Joel, I’m sure that I wouldn’t have to work those hours forever.”

Or…

I’d be willing to work really long hours for a couple of years, as long as I’d be able to hire a manger to help out eventually.”

Or…

If that’s what it would take to earn a lot of money, I’m all for it!”

Until you actually have to do it.

It’s kind of like going out and buying a car that you know you probably can’t afford, but doing it anyway.

high-end car

You tell yourself that you deserve it, and that you’ll be able to afford it.

That’s until you receive your 1st of many (figure 60 months’ worth) bills for your $550 monthly payment.

The point is that reality is going to quickly set in with a franchise that you’ll be working 14 hour days in. You could end up living a miserable existence. What if you’re never home? What if (because of the franchise you chose) you end up seeing even less of your family than you did when you were in corporate America travelling all over the country for your job.

And once you’re in-you’re in. You’ve signed a legal document that says so.

And, it can be hell to get out of. Item 19

Franchisors are permitted to disclose franchisee revenues/earnings in Item #19 of their Franchise Disclosure Document. (FDD)

Almost half of all franchisors registered in the US do so now.

But, it doesn’t matter.

And remember, even if they do choose to disclose franchisee earnings, or revenues, they’re only averages. And, you’re a person-not an item on a spreadsheet. You’re not an average. You’re a living, breathing human being that just wants a fair shot at being a successful franchise owner.

Do you feel me?

And of course you never think that you’ll be on the bottom part of that average earnings/revenue scale.

Now, I know that it’s important for you to know how much you’ll make as a franchise owner.

But, there are better ways to find out how much you’ll make. You shouldn’t rely on what’s being advertised on a website or brochure. I’m not suggesting that the information shown on a franchise website or even in the FDD is fraudulent… not at all.  I just want you to verify them with 10-15 franchisees that are in the system you’re looking at.

Just ask the questions that are contained in my eBook-the one focused on franchise research.

And, please don’t listen to some of the more paranoid people in the franchise industry. They’re wrong.

A Discussion On Item 19 Earnings Claims

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a sometimes heated discussion on LinkedIn.

Are we connected yet? Let’s!

Eric Bell asked this question:

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone considering becoming a franchisee?”

Here are some of the answers…

Jim Coen, Franchise Channel Business Development Consultant  

One of the most compelling reasons to invest in a franchise is because franchising offers a “proven business model”, if it’s a brand new concept is without an FPR (earnings claim), how can a prospective franchisee made a valid business decision? Blue sky? Drink the Kool-Aid? “

Dan Durney, Chief E-FRAN-gelist at FranMaster

Just because a franchisor has an Item 19 doesn’t “guarantee” success any more than the lack thereof warrants a “STAY AWAY” for fear of failure approach. The opportunity to earn a living and get a reasonable ROI – in ANY business – is “elusive” when you are LAZY or don’t follow the franchise system.”

Eric Meyer, VP, Franchise Development/Real Estate, American Driveline Systems

Sometimes, people buy things they feel good about. They are not duped into it, they just feel right. I believe that most franchise development people want quality people in their system and are not trying to slam deals all the time. They have an obligation to the prospect to offer the most current, accurate information available at the time. With or without an Item 19 it truly does not matter. What matters is the person feels they are passionate about the concept, they can be successful, and their desire to do it. Also, the prospect needs to ask current franchisees what their experience has been. If they say great things, the person buys regardless of an item 19. If they say bad things the person most likely will not buy, regardless of the item 19.”

And, then Jim Coen and I had a little back and forth…

Jim Coen

To say a FPR-an earnings claim doesn’t matter just doesn’t make sense to me, Joel.

Joel, you are on the buyer’s side and you are not making a broker’s fee for referring that client, correct? Then why would you stick out your neck for a franchise system that doesn’t provide a FPR when the buyer you are working for needs to earn a $100K a year. Your role is to help them find a franchise that has a reasonable chance of providing that income or ROI. If they don’t care how much money they make, they just want to fill their time, then you are right a FPR doesn’t really matter.”

Me

Jim, respectfully-and you know I like you, I really don’t care if a franchisor provides earning information in their FDD or not. That’s because I’m focused on making sure that the people that choose to work with me (and, you’re right; I don’t receive any commissions from franchisors. I am not a broker…haven’t been for years) have the facts they need to make an intelligent decision of whether or not to buy the franchise that they’re focused on.

Earnings, shmernings. I want them to get to the heart of the matter, and they’re only going to be able to do that if they get their noses out of the FDD and start calling existing franchisees. That’s where the rubber hits the road. I want them to have human interaction. I want them to get a feel for things. The data is important.

But, if the franchisor that they’re interested in is showing (in their FDD) that average unit sales are $1.3 million in year two, but my client doesn’t want to be working 16 hour days…he didn’t think that he would have to until further investigation, well, that darn earnings claim really doesn’t matter much.

The whole picture needs to be pretty, Jim. Not just the data.”

Finally, this from Eric Meyer

Sometimes, people buy things they feel good about. They are not duped into it, they just feel right. I believe that most franchise development people want quality people in their system and are not trying to slam deals all the time. They have an obligation to the prospect to offer the most current, accurate information available at the time. With or without an Item 19 it truly does not matter. What matters is the person feels they are passionate about the concept, they can be successful, and their desire to do it. Also, the prospect needs to ask current franchisees what their experience has been. If they say great things, the person buys regardless of an item 19. If they say bad things the person most likely will not buy, regardless of the item 19.”

As you can see, an industry debate on whether or not earnings claims are important or not-and should or shouldn’t be part of a franchisors sales/marketing process, rages on.

I vote on keeping the debate going…and front and center.

I don’t want to see earnings and revenue claims advertised. Doing so forces would-be franchise owners to only base their decisions on the numbers.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about franchisors disclosing their earnings claims as a marketing ploy on their websites and in their brochures? Should they be doing it?

Do you think that it would be possible to get sucked into an “opportunity” based on earnings claims and revenue claims alone?

What else needs to be changed in the world of franchising?

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franchise article written by joel libava
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joel libava

I'm The Franchise King®, Joel Libava. I help prospective franchise owners avoid bank account emptying mistakes.
For 23 years, I’ve been showing people how to make smart, informed decisions on franchises to buy, and I can help you, too!
P.S. I'm not a franchise consultant/broker.

Joel is Highly Principled
There are many people in the franchise business who claim to to be experts in the field. Unfortunately many of them lack both knowledge and integrity. Joel, however, is without question one of the most qualified and principled people I know, in or out of his industry."
- Greg Reynolds, Retired Outplacement Counselor
"Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it."
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