How Do You Avoid Double Talk When Interviewing Existing Franchisees?
By Dr. John Hayes
One of the most important steps in the due diligence process of buying a
franchise is to interview existing franchisees. I recommend that you interview
as many as possible and that you visit at least one and spend at least part of a
day exploring the franchise opportunity. After working in a franchise for a day,
or a weekend, you might decide it’s not really for you!
Franchisors are usually eager to encourage prospects to speak to franchisees
and sometimes they will attempt to direct the process, even though that’s
technically against the law. A franchisor can’t tell you who not to talk to.
That doesn’t mean the franchisor won’t try to influence who you talk to.
Who should you interview?
When you receive the Franchise Disclosure Document, you’re armed with a list
of existing and past franchisees and you should contact them randomly as well as
purposely. For example, you might call every 10th franchisee, and in addition,
you might find out which franchisees are similar to you in background, skills,
and size of market, and purposely interview them.
My list of 92+ Questions To Ask Before You Invest In A Franchise will be
helpful to you . . . it’s been downloaded (or mailed) to countless thousands of
franchise prospects through the years, and distributed at many expos, too.
Ask the same questions of all franchisees
It’s a good idea to ask the same questions of all the franchisees you
interview — you’re not going to ask 92+ questions, but there will be at least
half a dozen that you’d want to ask each franchisee. For example: Given the
chance to buy the franchise again, would you do so?
Expect to get double talk
In spite of your best intentions and planning, you’re going to get some
double talk from franchisees. Experts like Jeff Johnson at the Franchise
Research Institute refer to it as “false positives” and “false negatives.”
It’s difficult to avoid double talk.
Franchisees often suspect that their franchisor is paying attention to what
they say to prospective franchisees. Franchisors have been known to ask
prospects, “Who told you that?” when prospects report that they heard something
negative about the franchise or the franchisor. If a franchisee thinks their
feedback will get back to the franchisor, they’re not likely to tell the truth,
especially if the truth is negative. If they think there will be consequences
for telling the truth, they’ll respond to a question with a “false positive.”
Instead of telling it the way it is, they’ll fudge a bit to say that something
is “pretty good” or “okay” when it’s actually not.
Perceived competition produces double talk
On the other hand, some franchisees want to avoid what they perceive to be
competition from other franchisees. So when a prospect calls a franchisee in
Detroit, for example, and the franchisee thinks the prospect wants to open a
unit in a nearby market, the franchisee is likely to respond with “false
negatives” about the franchise opportunity. They’ll do everything they can to
dissuade another franchise from opening in their territory.
You really can’t do much about the double talk, except interview more than
just a couple of existing franchisees. When franchise prospects tell me that
they talked to one or two franchisees it always makes me nervous because they’re
limiting their ability to get to the truth. If you studiously interview multiple
franchisees, i.e. a dozen, and you track their answers to your specific
questions, you can improve your chances of cutting through the double talk.
One way to avoid the double talk
Jeff Johnson will tell you that you can avoid the double talk by investing in
a world-class franchise company. And he knows who they are because he’s
identified them after surveying their franchisees. His survey includes almost
two dozen questions that will filter out the double talk and get to the truth
about a franchise opportunity.
Unfortunately, most franchise companies have not submitted to Johnson’s
survey. Many are fearful of what their franchisees would report. But there are
currently 21 franchises that have won the designation of certified world-class
company. Now that’s not reason enough for you to buy one. You should buy one
only after you’ve done your due diligence and determined the franchise company
makes sense for you. If it comes with Johnson’s world-class designation, you can
feel that much more confident that you’ve avoided the double talk.
Since 1979, John Hayes has worked in the franchise community as a consultant,
franchisee and franchisor. He is the author of several franchise-related books
and countless articles that have appeared in media worldwide. Dr. Hayes has
served for many years as an advisor to franchisors, franchisees and small
business owners internationally. He is the author or co-author of 18 non-fiction
books including the Franchise Pre-Investment Checklist, Franchising: The Inside
Story, Start Small, Finish Big, You Can’t Teach A Kid To Ride A Bike At A
Seminar and Get It! and The Secrets of Cultivating the HomeVestors Millionaire
Mindset. To contact Dr. Hayes visit