Extending your brand into foreign markets: international franchise expansion can be an immensely rewarding adventure or a brand-busting disaster, but usually something in between.

Author:Fertman, Don
Position:INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
 
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After 25 years of developing what has become a major franchise brand outside of the United States, the following points focus on our major lessons learned based on our hands-on experience in 98 countries.

Finding the Right Partners

As many franchisors have experienced, the initial temptation is to sell franchises to any prospect with a healthy checkbook and a dreamy outlook. However, experience also tells us that our brands and trademarks are precious commodities and should not be awarded casually. Here are some of the qualities to consider when choosing local partners.

* Passion for the Brand. If the partner does not love the business, he is not the right partner. The partner must live and breathe the business and it must be the main, if not only focus. Partners with large holdings in various businesses might have tremendous investment potential, but danger lurks in becoming a "stepchild" holding if your concept does not generate immediate results.

* Familiarity with the Territory. It's important for the local partner to have made the contacts, established the relationships and walked the streets of the area he will be building. Local experience can sometimes make the difference between success and failure.

* Understanding the Market. Different than territory familiarity, the partner's comprehension of your customer base and demographics and how well that will play in the marketplace is key to launching the brand. Although everything may look good on paper, a gut-level understanding of the population's needs and motivations, preferably by having lived there for an extended time or better yet, being a native of the country, will help to infiltrate the collective consciousness and provide brand acceptance.

* Experience in the Business. Having some experience in a related business is helpful. Experience in your business is ultimately essential, as an understanding of both the big picture and the nuances of the business model will help get the job done.

* Entrepreneurial Spirit. Risk takers and business builders are most important for first-to-market franchisees and developers. While a conservative approach may work in some instances, it can more often lead to roadblocks and slowdowns in brand expansion.

Franchising Climate

Consider the level of understanding of franchising as a business model on a local level and plan accordingly. Additional education may be needed in the company's seminars and sales materials to familiarize prospects with...

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