Just as he’s pondering whether he has what it takes to conquer this mountain, an apparition—one that could easily have been created by J.K. Rowling—appears and makes Mr. Wannabe a very tempting offer. The apparition says that for a small fee (nothing is for nothing even in fantasies), it can transport him over Mount Start-Up and deliver him straight to a business of his own in the village of Business Bliss. Mr. Wannabe is very tempted, but hesitates as he wonders: Is this too good to be true? Could I be rushing in where angels fear to tread? And who is the apparition? 

Back in the real world, we know that Mr. Wannabe’s apparition is a franchisor—a franchisor who, for a fee, promises avoidance of most of the blood, sweat and tears associated with independent start-ups. And in the real world, seldom is anything in business as cut and dried as it may first appear. This is particularly true of franchising, which brings with it special elements that demand clarification and understanding. And the first thing to understand is that franchising is different from independent small-business ownership in that the franchisor exercises influence through a franchise agreement.

So who is this franchisor?