One of the most common reasons businesspeople cite for investing in a franchise opportunity is the level of support that a system provides its unit owners. From marketing help to training and assistance finding a location, franchisees have the benefit of entering the market with a built-in support system that wants them to succeed.

However, the level of support can vary from franchise to franchise, often depending on the system's size. In fact, according to an article by Entrepreneur magazine, there are generally three main differences between big franchise companies and small ones in terms of franchisee support.

First, the size of a franchise system will affect the people with whom franchisees directly deal. In smaller companies, franchisee support personnel will typically be more senior members in the organization who will be more dedicated to doing whatever it takes to resolve issues. This can often result in more personal relationships.

Larger companies, however, may have more resources to deploy in taking care of any franchisee issues, such as greater specialization among support staff, which means more expertise and experience.

Secondly, larger franchise systems typically have bigger budgets than smaller companies do. Greater access to funds could result in third-party support, outside training programs and materials, computer programs and other technical assistance. On the other hand, small franchise companies, while having to make do with essential items, often take a more direct path to get franchisees what they need - and in a hurry.

"Either one of these approaches to resources can work just fine for a new franchisee. The secret is to call other recent new franchisees and find out if everything they needed in relation to their new unit opening was available. If they're happy and successful, then you probably will be too," Entrepreneur writes.

The last difference can come in a system's flexibility concerning rules. According to the source, larger franchises typically have a more rigid, well-documented structure of rules, which can come with a significant amount of red tape. Most smaller franchises have fewer restrictions, giving franchisees more room to experiment and make suggestions.

"It's obvious that there is no right or wrong answer in terms of whether large or small systems are better. What is an absolute is that you need to do your research on any franchise system to find out if the existing franchisees are happy with the support they've gotten or if they feel there were gaps," the source concludes.

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