Monthly Archives: November 2013

When the Holiday Season is a Franchise’s Busy Season

IMG_1572Some franchises have to take full advantage of the holiday rush to capture the bulk of their sales for the year. Depending on your own strengths and weaknesses, these types of franchises might be a good choice or a terrible one. It all depends on how well you can manage sales and stress as well as how your personal responsibilities align with the needs of the franchise.

In the time leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah, some franchises have to work overtime to provide customers with the gifts they want for family and friends. Franchises in this category include Schakolad Chocolate Factory, Doc Popcorn, and Tasty Image, all of which offer items that make popular holiday gifts.

When your business depends on the holiday season, there’s a lot of stress involved. For two months out of the year, your business is at what feels like more than full-tilt—it can easily become all-consuming and your life outside your business may be nothing but recovering so you can re-enter the fray on the next day. Leading up to those busy times, you’re working as hard as possible to bring in customers, working on strategic planning to increase sales as much as possible during the busiest time of year. All in all, your business centers on the stress of making numbers in a short period of time.

If you love to plan and to execute those plans and you thrive on high-stress situations, this type of business might be a good one for you. During slower times throughout the year, you might take time off to spend with family or travel. If your business is only open during the holiday season, you can do other things with your time, including other business ventures or a full-time job.

On the other hand, for business owners who are looking for a less stressful occupation than the one they’re in now, a high-stakes holiday season might not be best. It’s also not a good choice for parents trying to mix business and hands-on parenting. The business that lets you attend recitals in the middle of a work day in September can mean you never attend a holiday pageant, or even get home in time for dinner during the month of December. If you’re accustomed to intensive charity work or community music performances over the holidays, you might miss them if you go into a business that does most of its trade during the same time frame.

Businesses that depend on the holiday season for most sales have two options: balance the holiday rush with a different focus at other times of the year, or simply shutter up for the off-season to reopen the next year. Depending on what you want to do in your personal life, shuttering up might be the best option — but it might have a negative effect on your business. Franchises that continue business throughout the year, on the other hand, have to strive to make their products and services relevant during the off season.

If you’re considering a business that depends heavily on holiday sales, take a look at what life-work balance you want and how the business fits into your life before you make a final decision.

Credit Cards and Your Franchise Business

iStock_000020861023smallWhen you’re deciding which franchise business opportunity is best for you, you’ll certainly consider the return on your investment. You’ll want to see how much a given franchise is expected to bring in in revenues, and to calculate how long it will take for you to earn back your initial investment.

You can’t just look at revenue, though. You need to be aware of all the costs and look at the profit your franchise will generate, not just the money you’ll bring in. You can ask current franchisees about the expenses they had and create a list of likely expenses, such as rent, staffing costs, inventory, marketing, and supplies.

One of the costs of doing business that you might not think about is the price of accepting credit cards. Modern consumers expect to have options for paying for their transactions and a business that doesn’t accept credit cards will suffer. But you can’t just agree to take credit cards and take down the card information with pencil and paper. You’ll need a Point of Sale system and a payment solution. Some franchise opportunities will include these solutions, and some will not.

There are also ongoing costs.

When you go to swipe a credit card to pay for a purchase, that business will typically pay two fees. One is a base fee for being permitted to accept different credit card types, like Visa or MasterCard. The base fee is one flat rate the business pays per month, not per transaction, so regardless of how many sales they make they need to pay up. The second fee is a portion of the sale, sometimes as high as 8-9%. These fees can really add up quickly and take a large chunk of out of revenue for businesses, including franchise businesses.

Not all businesses pay these fees. Large companies that hold a lot of power can take their pick of credit card processing companies and make them compete for business to the point of not paying some of the fees. For instance, large retail giants like Walmart often don’t pay the markup of a processing fee where they lose a portion of the sale but rather only pay a flat rate. Most franchises aren’t big enough to do this sort of powerful negotiation but some are—when you considering high-cost nationwide franchises with hundreds or thousands of locations you might be able to take advantage of special arrangements for credit cards.

However, very few franchises fall into this category. When you’re looking at different franchises, it’s a good idea to ask about how credit cards are processed and if that portion of the business is left up to you or is part of the franchise package.

Credit card expenses are an unavoidable part of doing business, and they won’t be a deal breaker for your franchise choice. They’re just one of many factors determining whether you can actually generate more revenue per month than all your expenses combined. But don’t forget about them — they’re one of the myriad factors you have to take into account as you make your decision.

Weight Loss Franchises

weight loss franchisesAmericans spent an estimated $65 billion on weight loss last year alone, continuing a pattern of annual increases since 2008. 50% of Americans are trying to lose weight at any given time and the typical American dieter will try 4 times in the year to start weight loss. That’s a huge market.

It’s also a very competitive market. It would be hard to count the number of diet books, diet products, and fitness-building methods American consumers have to choose from. While most people can lose 5% to 10% of their body weight (and become healthier by doing so), it is rare for anyone to experience significant lasting weight loss. That means that weight loss programs can expect to have repeat customers. A franchisee who can help customers find their way through the maze of conflicting weight loss claims and develop good relationships can expect to have grateful customers.

January is fast approaching and we’ll see again the annual glut of Americans who resolve to lose weight. More will try again as bikini season approaches, so this is a great time to start the process of opening your own weight loss franchise business.

Here are some weight loss franchises worth highlighting:

  • Elements Fitness : A full-service lifestyle brand for women, Elements Fitness focuses on a physical activity approach to weight loss. With personal trainers and a state of the art workout club, customers learn to change their habits to change their bodies through activity. The women-only model appeals to many women, and they offer “a complete turnkey business kit” — no prior knowledge or experience is needed.
  • Balance Diet: From the same company as Elements Fitness, Balance Diet takes the other side of the weight loss approach by teaching customers how to eat healthy for their genetic makeup using an at-home test to find out what approach works best for customer’s bodies. They have corporate workplace wellness programs, mobile options, and a personal business coach for each franchisee.
  • Ellipse Fitness: An all-in-one approach to fitness and nutrition, Ellipse Fitness focuses on a class-only structure to their membership where customers participate in fitness and nutrition classes to change their bodies and their lives. Franchisees benefit from a low-equipment investment model that doesn’t require a “big box” gym investment in exercise equipment. There is also a lot of support upon startup, from help finding a location and staff members to 90 days of training and support for the owner and key staff members.
  • In-Shape MD : A medical approach to weight loss at this franchise focuses on hormone replacement to change the way customer’s bodies process food and react to exercise. Monitored by medical professionals, In-Shape franchisees can even operate this franchise as part of another medical business, like chiropractors’ offices, day spas, and even physicians’ offices. This franchise focuses on anti-aging, targeting the large Baby Boomer section of the weight-loss market.
  • Max Muscle: A supplement-based routine meant to help customers lose weight and build muscle, franchisees sell premium supplement products and provide educated support for customers.

There are thousands of approaches to weight loss. Finding one that you’re comfortable with, and which will resonate with your target market, is the key to weight loss franchise success.

Just One Franchise: KidsPark Play Centers

childcare-franchiseWe love to spend time with our kids, but parents also need time off. Finding a good babysitter can be a challenge, and the good ones are often booked far in advance and charge premium prices. With families so often spread across the country, asking grandma to mind the kids is impossible for many young parents, and daycare centers require an ongoing commitment.

Getting an opportunity to take a class or go for a hike, a chance to do some volunteer work, or some couple time can require prior planning and it can also get expensive.

KidsPark has an alternative. KidsPark is much like a daycare cente,r but parents can drop off their children whenever it’s convenient for their schedule and pay by the hour. Instead of paying by the week or month as is required at a typical daycare center, parents can get the few hours they need to do tasks without children (or just enjoy some alone time). Centers are typically open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight, allowing parents much more time to use KidsPark than conventional daycare services. Prices are very affordable, starting around $7.50 per hour for the first child in the family, typically less than half the cost of a babysitter.

KidsPark started 25 years ago and has built up a reputation for reliable, flexible childcare over a quarter of a century. One thing that’s changing for KidsPark franchisees, however, is the opportunity to reach out to the community to bring special experiences to children in their area. KidsPark started a new program within the last few years called Sparkler Grants. These grants provide area non-profit preschools and schools up to grade 3 with the funds necessary to go to special events, like a trip to the museum or a play. These micro-grants do two things—they help area children and expand the reach of KidsPark. When parents of participant children learn about KidsPark after their children enjoy a fun special event, KidsPark is reaching a new layer of possible clients.

Franchisees have a wide range of clientele because of their flexible childcare model. Some children come from families with stay at home parents who just need a few hours every now and again. Other children come from families with working parents and stay throughout working hours, which might not always coincide with conventional daycare hours. Other families supplement their normal daycare with KidsPark to give parents a night out on the town. Most parents need a helping hand every once in a while, even if other family members are usually available to help with childcare. KidsPark gives families the flexibility they need for the real world on their schedule.

On top of a wide base of customers, KidsPark franchises offer programming that engages and teaches children with activities throughout the day. Since the KidsPark approach to childcare is hourly, they adapted the conventional daycare approach to fit the needs of their business model—children can enjoy activities throughout the day with other children and learn together with certified childcare professionals.

Children and parents alike love KidsPark and franchisees can benefit from KidsPark’s creative approach to marketing and giving back to the community.