Whether you are buying your first franchise or your twenty-first, one of the first steps you must take after signing many documents is to find a location for your new enterprise.
As many experienced franchisees have learned, the franchise corporation is helpful in providing training, guidance, and design specifications for the new business in the form of a prototype requirement document. However, franchisors are not going to hold the new franchisees hand throughout the entire process. One area where responsibility lies solely with the franchisee is finding, negotiating, and securing a location for the business.
An important part of securing a location for a new franchise is understanding the requirements for building out that space. In many instances, franchisees may have limited knowledge of those requirements beyond the recommended square footage they are seeking.
Finding a 1,500 square foot space in a perfect location is great however just looking at a space will not provide you a full picture of the possibilities challenges and pitfalls of that space. Particularly as it relates to the specific needs and requirements of your franchise.
For this reason, it is critical that franchisees invest in a thorough site survey prior to investing in commercial property. Perhaps the most import product of that survey will be an As-Built Drawing. One might assume that commercial or retail properties come with a detailed set of architectural and engineering documents for the franchise to utilize as they move through the process. Unfortunately, in our experience, the majority of commercial or retail properties do not keep a good record of architectural and engineering documents for the spaces they are leasing.
In the event that the location you have selected does have drawings available to review, those drawings may not represent exactly what is existing in the space. During construction of a space things change from time to time from the initial design intent. Those changes may not be reflected in the set of documents on file with the building management.
An as-built set of drawings is the set of architectural and engineering drawings in most cases submitted by the general contractor at the end of a project. The set of drawings not only captures the original design intent for the space but also captures those items that have been revised during construction. For example, if a space was designed to have ten electrical outlets and, during construction, the franchisee asked for five more. The as-built drawing should reflect the addition of those five new outlets.
Having a comprehensive plan of a property is critical in determining if and how the elements, features, and necessities of your specific franchise will fit in a space. If you are opening a restaurant and need gas lines for stoves and ovens, you need to know if those lines already exist and where they exist to determine if the location is appropriate. If you are opening a salon, you need to know where the plumbing is in order to determine where to locate your hair-wash stations.
As a franchise owner, you likely have the vision to walk into a location and imagine how your new business will fit. But without the As-Built, you are not seeing the entire picture. And investing in a property without first having as-built drawings in hand would be the same as walking around a car and buying it without looking under the hood. You could be handed the keys only to find out that it won’t start because the engine is missing pistons, the wiring is frayed, and the muffler is filled with holes.
With as-built drawings in hand, new franchise owners can make the most informed decision about a property, and potentially save thousands of dollars that could be wasted on selecting a problematic location. Unexpected construction costs, lost time and delayed openings may be the result of not fully understanding what it is you are buying.
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