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Franchise Licenses and Certification

Updated on April 22, 2015

What's the Difference?

There is a huge difference between a license and a certification. A business license is usually a minimal requirement to operate any business the U.S. They are regulated and granted by the state where the franchise owner plans to operate the business, and usually vary by state. In most cases, the business license is a requirement to obtain business insurance coverage and to satisfy various other minimal requirements set by the franchisor and business-related state and federal government entities. But aside from a business license, there are certifications that one must obtain based on the type of business. Required certifications are set by the franchisor. Following are a few examples of these that are sometimes overlooked.

Specialty Certifications

Food Handlers

Anyone whose job will require handling food absolutely MUST obtain “Food Handler” certification. The National Restaurant Association's ServSafe program is the gold standard for this in the restaurant industry. Even the franchise owner and managers are required to get certified.

Alcoholic Beverage Servers

A separate but related requirement in the food industry if alcohol is served in the business is “alcohol certification”. No, you don’t have to know what ingredients are in the alcohol being served. But you DO need to be aware of the risks and liabilities of serving alcohol on the premises.

Professional Service Providers

Professional service providers include accountants, lawyers, and financial analysts. Most people know that these folks must be licensed and certified. However, in the past few decades, others who provide related services have emerged such as analysts/planners specializing in estates, divorce, and retirement. Even a wedding planner can now obtain certification as such. Another niche is the “pre-need” planner/consultant – one who assists with making financial and other arrangements prior to one’s demise. Yet another niche that has emerged in conjunction with our aging population is the elder care/long-term care planner. It’s no longer limited to a D-I-Y (do it yourself) endeavor.

Dog/Cat Grooming

Find out if your state requires that a person who actually does the grooming (bathing, hair-cutting/trimming/styling, etc.) have a license to do so. NOTE: This is different than getting a license to operate a pet grooming facility. Minimally, a person who actually does the grooming will need to obtain certification from an accredited organization such as the National Dog Groomers Association of America and the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists.

Fitness Providers

Like pet groomers, a person who works as a fitness instructor/trainer may not need a license but they usually must obtain certification to do so. CPR certification is often a minimal requirement. Specific areas are usually set by the franchise owner including certification to operate the fitness equipment/machines properly to prevent injury to the instructor and to customers.

Research and Resources

The internet is a primary starting point to start your research and get more information on the certifications that may be required for your franchise business. You can start with the Small Business Administration ( and drill down to the state where you’ll be operating your franchise. Other options include contacting current franchisees in your state, and your local Chamber of Commerce.

Like licenses, certifications are usually good for one year and must be renewed thereafter. There is a fee and it varies widely by state and industry/business. Hopefully it’s a “no-brainer” that one must successfully complete a training program to obtain the required certification.


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