People like black and white answers to their questions. Unfortunately, the question as to what is involved in selling a franchised business is not one where a one-size-fits-all answer will suffice. It fully depends on what the franchise agreement and any amendments state with respect to the rights and obligations relative to a potential transfer of ownership.
Some of the things that you are likely to find are:
First Right of Refusal: In many cases the franchisor has a "first right of refusal" to buy your franchise upon whatever terms and conditions you have negotiated with an independent party. The existence of such a clause means that few buyers will be interested in pursuing your business, as they run the risk of doing all the investigation and review and then being left on out of the picture. Anyway, you need to know whether or not the franchisor has such a right and, if so, if the company intends to exercise it.
Right of Approval: Most franchisors have the right to approve a successor franchisee with respect to financial, business and other qualifications. These "rights to approve" typically have teeth in them to the extent that the agreements state that any unauthorized transfers of ownership terminate the franchise agreement. In many cases, the approval is also accompanied by additional conditions, such as obligation to enlarge, upgrade, open an additional location, etc.
Transfer Fee: Most franchise agreements require an 'approved successor owner' to pay a transfer fee to the franchisor. In most cases, it is not a large amount and is generally considerably less than the fee paid by the original franchisee.
Training or Other Requirements: The backbone of most franchises is 'standardized methods of operation', and therefore many franchisors require that new, inexperienced operators agree to attend and complete franchisor-sponsored training before they are permitted to assume ownership.
Term of the Franchise Agreement: Few franchise agreements are in place forever, with most having expiration dates, and some having options for renewal. Therefore it is very important to have either a relatively long term left on your franchise agreement when you go to sell, or to already have renewal options negotiated and in place, and transferable to a new owner.
These are some of the primary issues that you will have to understand and possibly deal with in the sale of your franchised business. You should also find out if your franchisor actively resells franchise locations and what the track record is in doing so. Some franchisors have good programs in that they are typically always advertising for brand new franchisees and thus have prospects for existing franchises. However, the reality is that most franchisors are far more interested in the sale of new locations (with large front end and real estate related fees and profit potentials) than they are in the resale of an existing location.
About The Author: Steve Fitzgerald is a business broker in the San Diego area assisting business buyers and sellers throughout Southern California. You can reach Steve by phone at 858-320-0474.