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How the government can help you: as a specialist in the development of franchises internationally, I have been utilizing many different advertising and marketing methods to identify and recruit master franchisees, but the services provided by the U.S. government have proven particularly effective. (International Development).

The Department of Commerce is a valuable resource for me and there are several different programs available to franchisors. Most recently, I participated in the "Virtual Matchmaker" program. Although I am a strong believer in visiting target markets to gather updated market information and meet prospective investors face-to-face, time and budget restraints do not always make this possible. With the Virtual Matchmaker program, the department, operating through the U.S. embassies in your target market will invite qualified investors to attend your video-conference presentation.

This activity is an excellent substitute, if you do not have the time available to visit all target markets. Commerce Department personnel will act on the briefing material you provide to identify qualified investors and invite them to attend the video conference. Each franchisor has 15 to 20 minutes to present their opportunity and this is followed with a question and answer session. I consider this activity the next best opportunity after personal meetings.

Trade missions are another valuable marketing tool. With the collective appeal of 12 or so U.S. franchisors, foreign commercial staff can schedule multiple meetings with qualified investors. At the same time, we also organize market briefings to provide updated market intelligence, valuable to all franchisors. Usually the embassy in the target market will make all of the arrangements to host meetings and presentations and so all you need to do beyond briefing the embassy personnel is simply purchase your airline tickets and make hotel reservations. These missions are newsworthy events and we have often enjoyed media coverage--difficult to obtain when traveling independently. The costs are often lower too as hotel accommodations are often available at embassy rates.

The "Gold Key"

Customized meetings are also available to individual franchisors through the Department of Commerce "Gold Key" program. Even though I have negotiated several hundred master franchise agreements worth millions of dollars, I never stop learning about new and ever-changing markets.

No matter how experienced you are in international franchise development, it is often difficult to schedule appointments with target corporations that fit your profile as "the perfect partner." However, when the U.S. Embassy calls and invites your prospective investor to meet you at the embassy, the results are usually better.

The first Gold Key program I participated in was in one of my favorite international markets where I have introduced many franchise brands. Out of the eight meetings scheduled, I appointed a master franchisee and finalized a transaction within 60 days. I know that it would not have been possible to expedite this transaction had I not enjoyed the valuable assistance of the embassy commercial staff.

For those who are unable to take the time to visit a market or maybe uncertain about prospects, another program available is the International Partner Search. I am currently undertaking one of these in Australia for a non-franchise client seeking an exclusive distributor. The Commerce Department staff in Australia has a good database of candidates for my client industry segment and I see this as a valuable prelude before visiting Australia to interview candidates.

I also find certain foreign franchise "expos" very effective, but when exhibiting alone, one can get lost amidst the large, beautiful exhibits built by foreign franchisors. By joining a "U.S. Pavilion," the collective appeal of several franchisors provides more prominence at a lower cost at these expos. Adding a Department of Commerce Matchmaker event adds even more value. Today, I rarely exhibit independently since I have found the U.S. Pavilion approach far more effective and less expensive.

I have learned that there are good and bad expos and few are consistent. However, in an effort not to miss an opportunity, I will often participate in a "catalogue show" organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The U.S. Commerce's Commercial News publication is another useful resource to promote franchising. It has a long shelf life and reaches every country. As a result, I have received inquiries from countries I had never even considered as franchise markets. For example, last week I received an inquiry from Djibouti.

No Guarantees

Although I am very supportive of this valuable resource, experience has taught me that there are no guarantees. Proper and thorough briefing of the department's commercial staff is essential for good results. An accurate and descriptive profile of your ideal partner is important, as well as financial data clearly indicating the level of required investment. Making certain that the commercial staff you are working with are fully briefed on your concept is vital to achieve success. Some categories of business are easier than others. For example, if you are in the QSR or fast food sector and wish to appoint an experienced multi-brand operator, they can easily be identified. If you are seeking an investor engaged in a synergistic activity, such as education, retail, automotive or the service sector, this is helpful for embassy stag, but if you are simply seeking an entrepreneur, some advertising may be required. This can be arranged when planning activities such as a Gold Key program.

Certain commercial officers are enthusiastic about franchising and the results achieved by working with them are superb. Conversely, there are certain posts that are poor, as the personnel simply do not understand or want to engage in the franchising sector.

Overall, with the right preparation and advice, any franchisor wishing to expand internationally should utilize this valuable resource.

Mike Minihane, CFE, is president of Maret Corporation, Inc. of Westlake Village, Calif. He can be reached at 805-379-2868 or via e-mail at minihane@adnetsol.com.
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Author:Minihane, Mike
Publication:Franchising World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:925
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