Buying a Franchise vs Starting a Business

Buying a Franchise vs Starting a Business

Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey presents a pivotal decision: buying a franchise or starting a business from scratch. Each path offers distinct advantages and challenges. A franchise can provide a proven business model and brand awareness, potentially reducing the risk and time to profitability. Alternatively, starting a business from scratch offers unmatched creative freedom and the possibility to innovate, though it may come with higher initial uncertainty and risk.

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Which Path is Right For You?

The ultimate decision will likely boil down to your personal preferences, goals, and risk tolerance. While some individuals are drawn to the structure and support system of a franchise, others thrive on the independence and challenges of creating something entirely new. This choice can significantly impact the financial strategies, operational dynamics, and overall trajectory of one’s entrepreneurial endeavors. You must determine which path is right for you.  

Research and education are an indispensable part of this decision-making process. Entrepreneurs must equip themselves with the knowledge to evaluate the nuances of each path, understanding the implications on financial investment, market entry strategies, and long-term growth potential. 

Entrepreneurs must also reflect on their own ability, style, and preference.  Launching a new business venture is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. It requires a thorough assessment of one’s personal strengths, weaknesses, and entrepreneurial vision. Whether it involves following a proven system within a franchise or navigating the uncertainties of starting a new business, the path chosen will pave the way for unique challenges and rewards.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a franchised business or start a new business from scratch must align with your entrepreneurial mindset, financial goals, and desired level of autonomy.

Evaluating Your Entrepreneurial Path: Franchise vs Independent Business

Gauging your Risk Tolerance and preference

Risk tolerance is a critical factor to consider when deciding between buying a franchise and starting a business. Franchises often come with a proven business model, potentially reducing risk associated with starting a new venture. This can appeal to those who prefer a more predictable path to entrepreneurship.  While risk can never be eliminated in business, risk may be mitigated by the franchise’s established systems and market presence. Franchising is often a great option for new and seasoned entrepreneurs because many of the kinks have already been worked out. 

Of course, there are always tradeoffs when making important decisions like this. While the proven systems and processes may mitigate risk, they also limit personal freedom and may reduce the upside (for example, paying royalties is the cost of operating a franchised business). Starting a business from scratch embodies the essence of entrepreneurial risk. It offers no guarantees and carries higher risk, but it also provides the potential for significant rewards. This route is suited for individuals who are comfortable with uncertainty and have the confidence to navigate the challenges that come with building a business from the ground up. 

Assessing risk tolerance involves a honest self-evaluation of how much uncertainty one can handle, both financially and emotionally. It also requires considering the potential impact of business failure on one’s personal life and financial stability. Understanding this aspect of one’s entrepreneurial personality is crucial in making an informed decision between the relative safety of a franchise and the uncharted waters of starting a new business. 

Gauging Your Desire for Creative Control vs. Structured Guidance

The balance between creative control and structured guidance is another important consideration to take into account when deciding between franchising versus developing a new business. Buying a franchise often means adhering to a proven business model and creating a marketing plan that aligns with the franchisor’s established strategies. In fact, this is one of the main selling features of a franchise. However, this can limit an entrepreneur’s ability to implement original ideas or tailor the business to personal visions. There is often little flexibility in franchising in terms of supplies and equipment used, products sold, advertising, and the manner and process of doing things. 

On the other side of the spectrum, starting an independent business offers complete creative freedom. Entrepreneurs can innovate, experiment with their offerings, and pivot their strategies as they see fit and when they see fit. This path is ideal for those who value independence and have a strong desire to bring their unique vision to life. 

Determining which approach is right for you requires an honest assessment of your own desire for creative autonomy versus the comfort of following a structured, proven path. While a franchise provides a roadmap to success, it may feel restrictive to those who wish to explore uncharted territories. Conversely, the freedom associated with starting an independent business comes with its unique challenges, known and unknown. 

Gauging Your Ability to take direction from the franchisor

Franchisors and consumers expect a unified image and experience systemwide. This means franchisees must be prepared to follow systems and processes, without a great deal of variance or input. 

The franchise agreement conveys the right and the obligation to follow the franchisor’s model. The franchisor will set the standard and establish the rules for operating a franchised business under the franchisors trademark. For many, the structured guidance and support of a franchisor provide a welcome framework for achieving success. However, for those who prioritize independence, the constraints of a franchise agreement may prove to be too limiting.

Find the Right Brand to Mitigate Risk and Maximize Your Chance of Success

The franchisors brand recognition, support, and systems and processes play a critical role in the success of a franchise. Success in franchising requires finding the right franchise for you at the right time in your entrepreneurial journey. 

Brand Recognition

Brand recognition can significantly reduce the risk associated with starting a new business by providing an established customer base. This brand awareness means customers are more likely to choose a familiar franchise over independent businesses, leading to faster profitability.

However, there is often a sweet spot and emerging and established brands offer different benefits and challenges.  It’s crucial for potential franchisees to assess the strength of the brand and market saturation. A strong brand can indeed pave the way for success, but too many outlets in a particular area can dilute the market. An emerging brand can also provide higher upside with greater means to expand. Understanding this balance is key to leveraging brand recognition effectively in the franchise versus starting an independent business debate.


One of the greatest advantages to franchising comes from a support network. The best franchisors develop a great concept that is easy to replicate and they follow an effective strategy for helping franchisees launch and address the challenges of an ongoing business.  Franchisees don’t go in alone. In addition to the franchisors support, franchise owners often support each other.  This may be in the form of a franchise association, advertising cooperative, online forum, or by simply exchanging ideas at corporate gatherings.  The key is to align the level of support you need with the level of support provided by the franchisor.  

Systems and processes

Developing a great concept typically doesn’t occur by happenstance.  Success often takes trial and error. Franchisors document their systems and processes to take the guess work out of many of the day-to-day issues that business owners face. Further, the franchisor is responsible for the strategy initiative of deciding how, when, and what the business does. Great franchisors will have world-class systems and processes in place to take shorten the learning curve.  Picking a franchisor with a winning formula may be the difference between success and failure.  

Conducting Due Diligence

When considering a franchise, its important to be diligent in your search for franchisors and your review of each franchisor. One of the benefits of franchising is that franchisors can only offer a franchise by disclosure of a franchise disclosure document in substantial compliance with federal and applicable state law.  The FDD is a useful tool for providing prospective buyers with vital information, like knowledge about the franchisor, its leadership, the terms of the franchise agreement, and the contact information for current and former franchisees.  Exploring the disclosure document with the assistance of a competent franchise attorney should be an integral part of considering any franchise opportunity. 

Meet the Author

Derek A. Colvin

Derek is a graduate of Penn State Law and Old Dominion University. He started his legal career in public service as a prosecuting attorney before entering private practice. He currently serves business clients as a partner at Waldrop & Colvin, the law department for your business.  He is laser-focused on delivering efficient and effective solutions for business legal needs.  As a seasoned litigator set on thinking critically and communicating effectively, Derek is well-suited to advise and protect your business as an independent owner,  franchisor, or franchisee

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Derek A. Colvin offers a free 15 minute consultation. You can  call or email  Derek Colvin directly or you can schedule a video conference today! 


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