By Mike Martuza
You're thinking about buying a franchise but really don't know how to find a good one from among the more than 3000 available. In an attempt to narrow the choices you look at several publications that do yearly "best" franchise rankings. One of the first things that you notice is that lists change significantly every year, and that no two publications seem to come up with lists that are similar.
Most of the publications take great pride in their rankings and utilize very knowledgeable people in trying to put out a meaningful product. But the criteria by which they are judging the franchises can be very different. Think of these "best" lists like a movie critics review - what you are reading is the opinion of one person or one organization, not a certifiable fact.
These lists are imperfect at best. They may be great at pointing out possibilities for you to investigate, but they should never be the basis of your actual buying decision. None of these publications knows which companies are a great fit for your skills, budget and goals.
If you are looking for a growth opportunity, you may favor one company; if you are looking for a long track record and safety you might favor another. If you want great support you might find one franchise more to your liking than another, whereas if you are looking for a business that provides you with a flexible schedule you might want other companies once again.
It's always nice to get input from outside sources and industry experts so I would not discourage anyone from utilizing all available resources when making such a significant decision. I would caution that you want to use these lists in the proper way; I suggest adhering to the following five guidelines:
1. Remember that these lists should not be taken too seriously and that not all lists are created equal. Lists provide insights and directions…not solutions. Look at the criteria used by the publication to determine how franchise companies are ranked and who is doing the ranking. Also look at the number of franchise companies that have been considered for the list.
2. Look for consistency. Companies that are on one or more lists, year in and year out have demonstrated not just short-term quality, but ongoing strength. This may be the most important aid you can get. Consistency is very important, as companies that appear on a list once or twice and then disappear may not have the stability that you are seeking.
3. Look for industries that seem to have a lot of companies represented on these lists. Those industries may be good areas for growth and opportunity.
4. Investigate other companies in the industry. You may find that the company that is the best fit for you is not on the list.
5. Find out if a publication will only include a company on their list if that company is also an advertiser in the publication. If the answer is yes, you must question whether that list can be objective.
It's important for you as an educated reader and investor to realize that lists are there for you to use, but not to rely on. Whatever you do remember that the ultimate decision of which franchise to join is yours, and good solid research is your best ally in making a good decision. Lists might be a good starting point, but that is all they should be. Don't let them become more than one small factor in your decision making process.