I would recommend that you think of the other franchisees as your best opportunity to insure that you are making a good decision. You should contact a minimum of 8-10 of the franchisees the very first week you are doing research, and talk to them. Have a series of questions ready to ask them. You are not only trying to discover how well they do, and how they rate their franchise experience, but also WHO they are, compared to who you are.
One very key element in doing your franchise research is to confirm that most of the franchisees are doing well and would join the system again. You should also make sure you seek out and find some franchisees who are doing extremely well and also some who are doing extremely badly, or have failed. You want to make sure that the business is not only a good business in general but that the people who do well in it run the business the way you would. If you find that you would run the business more like the people not doing well, disqualify that system from your search immediately.
While franchisors will often tell you the names of successful franchisees, they may be hesitant to tell you the names of those who are struggling and failing. Don’t let that discourage you. Ask the other franchisees who they know is NOT happy. Chances are that they know each other and will be willing to give you names. When they do, also ask if they have an opinion as to why that particular franchisee isn’t succeeding. Sometimes it can be as simple as bad management, or bad location. If not, keep using the list until you find some. Remember just like a job, not all people do business equally well.
When you interview the franchisees, ask any questions you like but be tactful and discreet. Make sure the time is convenient too. After you have spoken to several franchisees, go back to the franchisor with questions. Once they have been answered, call more franchisees and verify the answers. If you are satisfied with the answers, make appointments to spend time with at least 2 or 3 to visit them in their in their locations.
Use this time to really get a sense of the business. Go back if you need to, but make sure you understand the operation, and that you are comfortable and confident in your ability to manage the business successfully.