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What are Franchise Systems?

Franchise systems are a strategic alliance where a franchisor licenses its trade name and business model to a franchisee. This symbiotic relationship allows for brand expansion and individual business ownership under a proven framework. With support and guidelines from the franchisor, franchisees can thrive. Interested in how this model fosters success? Let's examine the mutual benefits in detail.
Brenda Scott
Brenda Scott

The term franchise comes from a French word which means "freedom." Politically, a franchise is the freedom to participate in government, generally through the right to vote. In business, franchise systems are business models in which a company with a successful product or business system allows other businesses the right, or freedom, to operate under their trade name for a fee. The original business which sells the right is called the franchisor: the person or company which purchases the right is called the franchisee.

It is difficult to find a consensus regarding the origin of franchise systems, though they seem to have evolved in the 1800’s from methods employed by German beer companies who charged a fee to businesses for the right to carry their beer. In 1850, Isaac Singer invented his treadle sewing machine, the first such machine suitable for use in the home. In order to raise the money for marketing and manufacturing, Singer sold territorial rights to individuals and businesses who would market the machines and teach purchasers how to use them. This early form of franchise system enabled his company to expand into the international market just five years later when it opened a plant in Paris, France.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Franchise systems expanded rapidly in the middle of the twentieth century. Inspired by the phenomenal success of Ray Kroc and the McDonald’s hamburger chain, franchise opportunities exploded. Fast food, car repairs, dry cleaning, carpet cleaners, family restaurants, and travel agencies were just a few of the options available. The growth was so rapid that in some cases, the franchisors became so involved with the sale of the franchise opportunity that they tended to neglect the franchisees once the contracts were signed. In 1979, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States issued a Franchise Rule which established minimum disclosure requirements for franchise sales.

In most franchise systems, the franchisor maintains a great deal of control over the product and services offered by the franchisee in order to maintain brand consistency and the reputation of his trademark or product. For example, the franchisor generally has very strict terms governing marketing, product quality, building design and operating practices. An entrepreneur should carefully examine the restrictions of prospective franchise systems to make certain he is able to work comfortably within those constraints.

An investor needs to be aware that buying a franchise from a successful company does not necessarily guarantee his own success. The purchaser must make certain he has the managerial ability required to run a business, as well as the aptitude needed for the particular franchise he chooses. If he has no mechanical aptitude, for example, he may want to stay away from franchise systems that specialize in auto repair or maintenance. He should also make certain that the success of the parent company is not a result of regional issues, that the company has the resources to offer adequate support, and that his local area has not reached a saturation point for that type of business.

When investigating particular franchise systems, a prospective purchaser should consider a number of factors. He should know exactly what is included in the franchise fee; for example, training, operations manuals, guidance in site selection, and territorial rights. The franchisor should be able to provide projections of how much capital the investor needs, how long it should take for the new franchise to open, and when the investor can reasonable expect to recover his initial investment. It is also important to know how many other franchise offices will be sold in the same area, and if there are any on-going franchise fees.

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Discussion Comments


@Suntan12 -I think I would rather buy an established business that is for sale than going through buying a franchise. An established business would probably be more expensive than starting a franchise, but at least I know that that particular business was profitable and they already have clientele.

A have a friend who is a business broker and he actually helps people buy and sell businesses much like a realtor would help people buy and sell homes and after talking to him I think that seeing a business broker is a good idea when considering buying a business.

A business broker can tell you what type of income certain businesses generally bring in and put you in touch with the right business for you. He said that he had a client that came in looking for a particular business but after talking to the client for a while he realized that the client had a passion for animals and suggested an existing doggie daycare type business.

The client was thrilled and today he is still doing well. Many business brokers also have franchises for sale, but they try to find the right business for you and their services are free to buyers. You really can’t lose with them. Before I would consider buying any franchise company I would go to a business broker first because they have a lot of industry information that the general public does not have.


@SurfNTurf- I know what you mean but you can always buy an internet franchise. At least there you won’t have to worry about territories and it your business could probably be run from home which will save you money because you won’t need to lease office space.


@Sunshine31- I agree with you and I also wanted to say that while I also like the idea of buying a franchise, I also think that the franchise development program within your target franchise might offer too many franchises that will make it more difficult for you to make money.

The writer mentioned oversaturation which is a big concern for franchisees because unlike a regular business that you start or buy, with a franchise you give up a considerable amount of control to the franchise company so you have no say if they open another location two miles from yours.

There was a supplemental education franchise that did this and some of the franchisees had to go out of business because they could no longer compete. I think that when the franchise company starts to focus more on the franchise fees and not the existing franchisees this becomes a problem.


I think that franchise business opportunities are a great way for people that want to own their own business but are afraid of starting from scratch.

The nice thing about a franchise is that the franchise company trains you and offers advertising support in order to help you get started. The downside is that they do require royalties which will be a constant expense.

I also think that another possible problem with the franchise system is that if the franchise because involved in a lawsuit or is hurt by some public relations problem all of the franchisees are hurt by association even if they had nothing to do with the matter.

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