Monday, January 16, 2006

The Franchise.

Ever wondered what it would be like to be your own boss? If you were your own boss, you'd be able to take as much time off as you wanted, and you'd be able to give yourself a raise whenever you felt like it. All things considered, doesn’t it make sense for anyone with any ambition to quit their job and start their own business?
Question is, what kind of business? Obviously it has to be one with next to no start-up costs, as little paperwork as possible, and absolutely staggering returns on a minimum of investment and effort. But where does a Canadian entrepreneurial go-getter go to get such a business?
They go to the London Franchise and Business Opportunities Expo, that's where.
Every year, Prestige Promotions brings this event to the city. This year it was held at the London Convention Centre, and I was there.
There were 28 exhibitors at the exposition, all of them brimming with enthusiasm and optimism. Even the guy selling financial planning businesses could barely contain his excitement over the riches to be harvested from this "anything but dull" field of endeavour.
After a few minutes at the event, it became clear that the only thing that stands between a Canadian self-starter and unlimited success is lack of imagination. The expression that was heard more than any other was "Each transaction will bring around 25 per cent profit!" Next to that was "This is the most incredible business opportunity you will ever encounter!" followed by: "There is absolutely no risk!"
So what kinds of businesses are no risk, have 25 per cent return on investment, and are the most incredible business opportunities you will ever see? Well, there were more coffee-vending franchises than you could shake Juan Valdez's donkey's tail at. And there were machines that would print on anything. One exhibitor was printing pictures and words on the shells of walnuts! Who wouldn't want a machine that can do that?
Yuk Yuk's was there - you know, the stand-up comedy people. They weren't selling stand-up comics, exactly. What they wanted people to buy were little machines about the size and shape of a condom dispenser, only these machines dispense jokes. Slip a loonie into one of these devices, and it will tell you four jokes. There are jokes for kids and jokes that are triple X rated. The idea, apparently, is that these machines will be located in bars and restaurants. Then, when conversation starts to run dry, somebody could scoot off to the machine, memorize a couple of ice-breakers, come back to the table and become the life of the party by telling these jokes - provided he could remember them.
This is how it might work:
You’re sitting at the table, and the conversation dries up. "scuze me,” you say, “I'll be right back..."
Minutes pass. You return.
"Say, have you heard the one about the Canada goose and the squirrel?"
The people at the table all turn to look at you expectantly "No, gosh, please tell us!"
"Well, it appears that this Canada goose goes into a bar and orders a glass of... no, wait, that was the squirrel... Yeah, that's it. A squirrel goes into a bar and orders a Canada goose, which is a kind of drink, and the bartender says.... Shoot. Now I've forgotten. Hang on a sec, I'll be right back. Anybody got a loonie?"
OK, so maybe the joke machine franchise needs some getting used to. But if none of this years’ franchise ideas caught the visitor’s fancy, there is always next year. Maybe they will bring in the lady who will show you how to make coffee tables out of caskets – I think she calls them coffin tables. Surely that franchise would get you out of your dead-end job.
Still working on the Canadian Dream, I’m Otte Rosenkrantz.
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