Are your Franchise Prospects Thieves?

You have waited for a long time and invested a great deal of money in the process of franchising your business. It is only natural that you are excited when you talk with people who are interested in your opportunity. But, be careful that your enthusiasm does not lead you to reveal too much about your business. Although it does not happen often, it is a sad reality that there are some people who want to steal your idea and have no intention to join your system.

Selling franchises, especially for a new franchisor, can be tricky. You need to find the balance between providing too much and not enough information. It is critical that you create and follow a systematic approach to your franchise sales process. Paranoia and over enthusiasm can both have the unpleasant consequences normally created by extremes. A system will keep these emotions in check.

People who want to steal your idea simply do not see value in what you offer as a franchisor. They normally have an overinflated ego and believe they can do your job better than you. This experience is more common for new franchisors whose brands are still building. Prospect with dubious intentions tend to be more entrepreneurial and probing in nature than most franchisees. They ask many questions and demand numerous details.

Watch out for questions similar to the following:

  • How did you choose this location?
  • How did you get it built?
  • Who are your suppliers?
  • What are your inventory levels?
  • Where did you get the equipment? How much did you pay for it?
  • How do you get your customers/clients?
  • How do you make this or that (referring to a product)?

These are all good questions and you should answer them in a general manner. However, the more the prospect presses you for particulars, the less you should offer. Make sure that you reinforce the fact that the details will be covered during training and go over the level of support you provide to your franchisees.

People truly interested in your franchise opportunity are more likely to be concerned with how you are going to train them more than about how it is really done, at least at this point. The questions people ask, more than the statements they make, reveal a lot about them. Listen to your prospects carefully and pay attention at how they ask their questions. Stay within your presentation and do not just follow their lead at all times; yet make sure that you address their concerns as clearly as possible without revealing your trade secrets. Remember is all about balance.

Working from the premise “if they want to steal my concept, let them’ is arrogant and can cause you many unnecessary headaches. As a franchisor you have the responsibility to protect your concept not only for you, but for all your present and future franchisees. Creating and following a franchise sales process is the best way to ensure this protection.

Do you agree?


  1. Great article and an reminder to listen for that insistance that indicates too many answers spoils the broth. Ok, that doesn’t make sense but I will be doubly aware of the things people ask and what I answer. I am new at this and want to make the whole sales pitch on the phone.
    Thanks for the heads up.
    Jon at Edgemaster Mobile Sharpening.

  2. Good post and a very real problem.
    I remember once (while a franchisor) we had a prospect not only gather as much info as they could, but had an employee go to work as a manager for a franchisee to learn our system inside and out. As luck would have it, the franchisee went into the knock off location while on vacation and saw their ex-manager running the joint. The lawsuit was most satisfying.

    On the other hand, it’s the franchisor’s sales job to sell the value they provide. If they don’t provide tangible ongoing value, expect to be knocked off.

    On the still other hand, you’re better off with a knock-off artist outside your system rather than inside. Most don’t really get it and inevitably fail.