A franchise tool launching next week hopes to connect prospective franchisees with franchisors via an online hub that leads hopeful entrepreneurs to the business purchase process—with a little help from social networking.

Tom Hochstatter, cofounder of FranchiseProcess LLC, says the online FranchiseProcess tool helps franchisee hopefuls “get to the starting line of the reward process for a franchise” by guiding them through all of the initial groundwork, like getting finances in order and finding attorneys and accountants.

The process integrates social networking to help the prospective franchisee engage with brands and other professional services along the way.

Hochstatter says entrepreneurs are not interested in getting calls from brokers or having to fill out generic forms on a brand’s website. FranchiseProcess, he says, creates an online environment where brands and leads can meet in the middle to find a perfect fit.

“It’s controlled by the lead candidate or prospect,” Hochstatter says. “We put the lead back in the lead and let them drive.”

To use the service, franchisee hopefuls sign up for accounts on FranchiseProcess and fill out information about themselves. They then create a list of brands they’re interested in franchising and work on achieving certain goals those brands have set forth as part of their qualification.

Prospective franchisees can also create a network of people on FranchiseProcess that help them make it to the point when they’re ready to purchase a franchise.

“By externalizing the process, putting the lead in control, they can now extend invitation and permission to particular constituents that go through the process,” Hochstatter says.

Member brands on FranchiseProcess have the ability to monitor entrepreneurs interested in franchising their brands and can engage with them on the system, Hochstatter says.

An added bonus of the FranchiseProcess system, Hochstatter says, is that by moving through the process, prospective franchisees prove their worth to their franchisor.

“By virtue of following this process, you’ve proven to the brand that you are in fact willing to follow a process, which makes the most successful franchise owners in the first place,” he says.

FranchiseProcess has already partnered with more than 300 brands. Several top quick-serve brands, like Subway, are listed on its site.

Hochstatter says FranchiseProcess wants to ultimately help small business owners. Leads that are unqualified for certain brands are not discarded, but rather are guided to other potential brands.  

“One of the offers we have with our brand is to take those unqualified leads … and cycle them back through our process and be an advocate for small business ownership,” he says.

“Even though they may have come in looking for Subway, they may end up with a Jiffy Lube franchise, because it just made more sense for them once they went through this qualification.”

FranchiseProcess officially launches February 8.

By Sam Oches

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Subway