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Franchising remains a viable option in N.J., consultant says

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    Jack Armstrong may be one of the only people who can see the silver lining in being stuck in traffic.

    “I look at all of those drivers as potential customers,” said Armstrong, one of four principal owners of the Franchise Network Group. “Those are people who probably wish they were more in control of their lives.”

    Armstrong left a career in magazine publishing to join FranNet, a business that works with clients interested in owning a franchise by helping them learn about the 3,000 choices available. In addition to being chairman of the board, he owns the company’s New Jersey location, based in Metuchen.

    Formed in 1987, FranNet’s consultants help match entrepreneurs with the best business opportunities for them based on their goals, skills and interests. The Louisville, Ky.-based company has more than 55 offices in five countries. The services are free to clients, because the franchisors seeking candidates pay the fees.

    In the New Jersey market, Armstrong said there are three types of franchises that growing. One involves the demographics of senior citizens and children, with businesses revolving around senior care, day care and tutoring. Recession-resistant businesses do well in any economy, as do companies that help with fire and storm recovery — these, he said, have thrived since Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. The third trend seen in the last few years are companies that have a semi-absentee owner.

    “People are nervous about their jobs and want to start a business on the side,” said Armstrong. “Massage and hair-care businesses are doing well, in that respect.”

    In New Jersey, the density of the population dictates where franchises open; 85 percent are located north of Monmouth and Mercer counties.

    “New Jersey still has a fair amount of wealth and people can afford to invest in a franchise,” he said.

    Armstrong looks for prospective clients at job fairs and outplacement firms, where those who have lost jobs due to downsizing may look at the possibility of being self-employed. He attends SBA and veterans’ seminars, and has seen interest from immigration lawyers.

    “People who have had businesses in other countries often want to establish a business here, and the idea of franchising appeals to them,” he said.

    In 2008, Armstrong’s son John left a career at Morgan Stanley to become owner of FranNet’s New York City location.

    “My son always wanted to work in investment banking, but ended up hating the pressure and 24/7 time clock,” he said. “He came to work here and bought the New York City territory. He loves it and we enjoy working together.”

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