Franchising is more than chains like McDonald's. Sometimes, it's an expansion strategy, a license, a partnership, or a joint venture.

Let's play a word association game. When I say "franchise," you think ___________.

Many of you are saying "McDonald's." Certainly, McDonald's is the model for franchising's success in America. When you hear the word "franchise", many of you think of restaurants, and while it is true that the food service industry makes up a large portion of the franchise marketplace, franchising has made its way into nearly every sector of the economy. As a business model, franchising has extended into over 70 different industries. Currently, according to a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers's study on the impact of franchising, franchising accounts for 14% of private sector employment in the United States. Why then is franchising so confusing when it accounts for such a large part of the U.S. economy?

At several points during my career as a franchise consultant and also helping businesses explore expansion, I have had entrepreneurs come to me looking to find a way not to franchise by calling their expansion strategy something else, a license, a partnership, or a joint venture. For these entrepreneurs, it is often just a misunderstanding of what franchising is that leads to the confusion. They see it perhaps as being a negative, and feel that franchising is only for certain kinds of businesses. Sometimes, the requirements of being a franchisor appear from the outside to be too cumbersome. In reality, it is usually easier legally to be a franchisor than to latch onto a business opportunity where each state would require different legal documents. I often have to tell these business owners that the fact of the matter is that, if three specific conditions exist, it doesn't matter what you call it; it's a franchise.