The school holidays are over and now it's a mad rush to...
Researching franchises anywhere can be tough with all the variety you've got to choose from. In Canada alone, there are more than 1,000 brands operating, according to the Canadian Franchise Association. Most people start off their Canadian franchise quest with Google searches, review websites and franchise associations, but these methods all have distinct limitations you need to know about.
Internet searches are many people's first course of action, but while Googling "Canadian franchises" will get you millions of hits, that's not really going to do a lot for you. You've got a lot to work with but no real starting point, and separating fact from fiction here can be a real challenge.
Review websites can be a great help for general weeding because you'll get to see some snapshots of people's experiences, but you've got to keep in mind that not all review communities will be equal. Some places will have strong moderation and members who are dedicated to being objective, but other places will have more of a "Wild West" feel, with paid shills, scammers and bots cluttering up the information.
Finally, there are franchise associations. The archives on these websites can be helpful, along with the general information, but sometimes you'll find things that really aren't much more than links to franchisor websites. While franchisor websites are something to consider, they're not the best jump-off points when you are looking at different brands in the same industry since they are all going to present themselves in the most positive light.
In general, your independent web research is just your starting point. Online information is a great way to narrow down your fields of franchise interest at first as you can use what you find to create a list of associations, advisers and brands that are interesting to you. Once you've got that down, it's time to do some in-person work. Attend conferences and trade shows in your area so you can meet with other franchisees and franchisor representatives to ask your questions in person. If you're really stuck, you can consider the use of a franchise consultant to help you hone in on opportunities.
With such a big investment on the line, it pays to do your Canadian franchise research right. While the web is a good place to begin, remember that it's only the start of your research phase.