Franchise opportunities offer prospective unit owners several benefits, including a tried-and-tested product, marketing strategy and brand that has been altered and perfected to suit the changing marketplace. However, one of the most important aspects to a unit's success is a bit harder to quantify: its franchisees.

Established franchisees can be the crucial component to help new owners get up to speed. By sharing their expertise, knowledge and resources, franchisees can help new members get a leg up on the competition, as well as be perfect partners for new innovative projects, writes

To ensure that a franchise system will offer the collaborative and supportive opportunities prospective franchisees are seeking, investors should make sure they investigate existing franchisee relationships. An interested individual should ask franchisors for recent examples of projects franchisees have teamed up on and how well franchisees as a whole communicate and work together.

For example, Ollie Parker visited at least two different franchise location before deciding whether to open a Speedpro Imaging studio, explains AllBusiness.

"That helped me better understand the business," Parker told the Web site. "But more importantly, it helped me develop relationships with other owners so that when I have a problem, there is a wide range of talented and experienced owners I feel comfortable calling."

When franchisees work together, it is a good sign that the franchise system is growing in brand and market presence.

In these meetings, prospective franchisees should make an effort to get to know current unit owners and continue to stay in contact with them after signing a contract. They will be able to provide new owners with indispensable advice and assistance. Additionally, some franchisees hold monthly or bi-annual meetings with other unit owners to discuss things such as pricing, staffing and purchasing.

Franchisors also offer tools to foster just such relationships and ensure they stay in place. Parker benefited from Speedpro Imaging's "buddy system," which connected him with Scott Schoner, a New Jersey-based franchisee. While Parker searched for a location and acquired the necessary equipment, Schoner helped him process nearly 50 orders.

"I would not have been able to start my business without Scott’s help," Parker adds.

Franchisees should make sure to take the time to learn from one another. If one franchisee has begun attracting a higher-paying clientele, fellow unit owners should consider spending a half day at his or her business to understand these customers' needs. Working with fellow franchisees can help new owners race through the learning curve and experience success more quickly.

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