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How Long Does It Take to Buy a Franchise?

By Scott Suryan

Once you decide that franchise ownership is right for you, you’ll likely be anxious to get started. After all, the sooner you purchase your franchise location, the sooner you can achieve your goals — like becoming profitable, building a legacy for your kids, having a more flexible schedule, and controlling your professional trajectory. However, buying a franchise doesn’t just happen overnight. Opening a franchise takes time, even before you sign on the dotted line. Here’s a general timeline of what you can expect from start to finish. 

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Research Franchisors 

Approximate Duration: Varies by person 

Selecting the franchise you want to buy can take a good deal of time, but it can also happen very quickly. It just depends on where you are when you start the franchise discovery process. Some individuals start with a wide net and need to do research in several different industries. Others know exactly what industry they want to work in and just need to speak with a few different franchisors. Even if you know the franchisor that you want to work with, you may still spend a few weeks talking with the franchisor’s sales team and existing owners to discuss expectations.  

Typically, potential franchisees spend a few weeks to a few months in this research stage. Having conversations with different franchisors and franchisees can help you understand the industry and the franchise in much better detail. While you get to know various franchisors, they will also do their due diligence to get to know you. They want to make sure you are a good fit for their company just as much as you want them to be a good fit for you. 

RELATED CONTENT: 5 Questions to Ask before Investing in a Franchise 

Complete the Franchise Application 

Approximate Duration: 2 hours 

Typically, franchisors will ask that you complete a franchise application to learn more about you and confirm details, like the desired territory and your financial status. You may even complete this step as part of your initial research. The franchise application is a screening mechanism to determine your level of interest and your qualifications. So, you can think of it like a job application. These applications vary in length, so it could take you a few minutes to a few hours to complete. 

Review the Franchise Disclosure Document 

Approximate Duration: Minimum of 2 weeks 

Once you’ve completed the franchise application, the franchisor will provide you with their Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), which provides validated information about the business — including financials. Based on rules set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), franchisors must provide the FDD to you at least 14 days before you are asked to sign a contract or pay a fee to the franchisor. That gives you a 2-week window to review the document before taking next steps.  

As you review the FDD, you may want to consult a franchise attorney. It is important to note this attorney is separate from any legal team you may speak to from the franchise because they work for YOU. During the 2-week waiting period, the attorney can thoroughly review the FDD and point out any apparent red flags.  

Attend a Discovery Day

Approximate Duration: 1 to 2 days

To learn even more about a franchisor, you will be invited to meet their team at a "discovery" or "meet the team" day. Typically, these meetings are held on-site at the franchisor headquarters, but some franchisors may offer digital meetings depending on the circumstances. You will have the opportunity to meet with team members at the corporate office. This is a great time to ask questions about the business model and even the FDD.

Obtain Financing & Documentation 

Approximate Duration: Minimum of 4 weeks 

The FDD outlines costs and fees associated with joining the franchise, including royalty fees. These fees vary by industry and by franchisor. You will need to prepare your financials so that you can pay the initial franchise fee. This process can take some time and will depend on your individual situation and personal finances. For example, it will take longer to secure a bank loan than it would if you were paying the franchise fee out of pocket or borrowing money from family. 

RELATED CONTENT: Top 5 Low-Cost Franchise Industries 

Sign the Franchise Agreement

Approximate Duration: 1 week

Now it's time for you and the franchisor to sign the franchise agreement. This agreement outlines your duties as a franchisee and the responsibilities of your franchisor. It will also contain the specific territory that you are buying. Before signing the agreement, you may want to review it again with your franchise attorney. You may decide to negotiate a few items with the franchisor, which can add additional time to this step of the process. Your franchisor may set a time limit to signing the document, so make sure you sign in time or ask for an extension. 

You will also need to pay the franchise fee, which can take a few days to transfer to the franchisor. Once they receive the funds, they will sign the franchise agreement. 

Open Your Franchise 

Approximate Duration: Varies 

Now it's time to prepare for opening! The type of franchise you open is what will have the biggest impact on how long you will need to go from signing your franchise agreement to opening your doors. For example, home-based franchises don't require a physical location, so you don’t need to worry about securing a lease. A franchise that needs an office location, such as Caring Senior Service, will need some time to find the right space, while a franchise like a restaurant may require even more time to both find a space and complete all the construction necessary to open. You may also need to apply for state licensing requirements, which can increase your waiting time.  

Other things to consider before opening:

  • State licensing
  • Permits
  • Insurance requirements
  • Training
  • Hiring staff
  • Marketing

However, your franchisor should have a streamlined system in place to help you open your business with minimal downtime. 

While every situation and franchisor will be different, you can generally expect it to take 6 to 12 months from researching your options to opening a franchise location. While this can seem like a very long time when you are eager to start your business, in the grand scheme of your new career, it is a small price to pay. To get started on your journey to franchise ownership, contact our team today. 

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Text alternative of Timeline to Buying a Franchise

Research Franchisors

Duration varies

Determine the industry that would be the right fit, and research franchisors you may want to work with.

Complete the Franchise Application 

2 hours 

Fill out the required forms for potential franchisors. These gauge your level of interest and qualifications. 

Review the Franchise Disclosure Document 

Minimum of 2 weeks 

Review the franchisor’s FDD, which provides validated information about the business, with your attorney. 

Attend Discovery Day 

1 to 2 days 

Meet with a franchisor and their corporate team during virtual or onsite meetings. Ask questions and learn the culture.  

Obtain Financing & Documentation 

4 weeks 

Secure a bank loan or prepare your personal financials so you can pay the franchise fee.  

Sign the Franchise Agreement 

1 week 

Sign the franchise agreement and pay the franchise fee. The franchisor will also sign the franchise agreement. 

Open Your Franchise 

Duration varies 

Get ready for opening day with training, licensing requirements, hiring, marketing, and more! 

Tags: Franchise Ownership