Many environmental health and safety pros want to start a consulting business. The lure of being your own boss and having greater income potential is certainly attractive. But what about the concern that the business may fail? Statistics show that most businesses fail within four years of being started. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own business, but start it in a way that reduces the risk of the business failing? There is a way that this can be done. You can buy into a franchise. There is less chance of a franchise failing than an independent small business. Franchises succeed because they have refined the process that makes the business successful. Consider that lots of people can make a great tasting hamburger, but they can’t beat McDonalds in selling burgers. This is because McDonalds has refined the process — advertising, marketing, purchasing, and so on—that makes it more successful than its competition. Another reason franchises succeed is because a franchise allows you to be in business for yourself, but not by yourself. The franchiser and other franchisees support each other.

You probably haven’t heard of many franchise opportunities in the EHS field, but they do exist. To look for opportunities you need to open up your mind a bit. You should also open up the pages of the January, 1998, issue of Entrepreneur magazine. It lists more than 850 franchises and ranks the top 500 franchise businesses in the U.S. and Alberta, Canada. (There are reported to be more than 5,000 franchise companies around the world.) The franchise rating can also be found on the Internet at

For this review, though, I think the actual magazine is a better way to go because it features a number of important franchise advertisements that are missing from the Internet site.

I found more than two dozen franchises listed in Entrepreneur that would interest EHS pros. Mind you, these franchises are not direct or complete EHS consulting businesses; rather they connect to segments of the EHS field. This is why you should keep an open mind when considering franchise opportunities. In listing these franchises, the number in parenthesis ( ) indicates its "Franchise 500" ranking by Entrepreneur. NR = not ranked.

Enviro opportunities

Environmental pros may want to look at the following franchises:

American Leak Detectors (122);
Environmental Biotech, Inc. (272);
Biologic (489);
Envirobate (NR);
Environmental Waste Solutions (NR);
United Energy (NR);
Planet Earth Recycling (NR); and,
Hydro Physics Pipe Inspection (NR).

American Leak Detectors primarily investigates concealed water and gas leaks. In 1997 the company had 276 franchises. Environmental Biotech, Inc. is a bioremediation business. It currently has 97 franchises. Biologic’s business is in waste elimination. Biologic just started franchising in 1995 and currently has 19 franchises.

Hygiene & health opportunities

Franchises that might interest industrial hygienists, ergonomists, and general health pros include:
The Mad Science Group (232);
Relax The Back Franchising Co. (262);
High Touch-High Tech (500);
Buster Enterprises Inc. (NR);
Airsopure (NR);
Professional House Doctors Inc. (NR);
Better Back Store Franchises (NR); and,
Little Scientist Franchise Corp.

These services cover teaching science outside of schools, providing education to prevent back pain and providing back pain relief equipment, and dealing with growing indoor air quality concerns. The Mad Science Group was ranked one of the top 30 new franchises in 1997. Given that 97 percent of adult Americans are scientifically illiterate and don’t want their kids to be this way, I think The Mad Science Group franchise would be ideal for some industrial hygienists, college professors, or other EHS pros working in training areas.

Safety and fire protection franchises

Safety pros and people interested in fire protection or security have lots of franchises to choose from:

  • If you are interested in the behavioral aspects of safety, the Professional Dynametric Programs (394) franchise may be for you.

  • Want to get into a business to sell safety-related products? Look at CPR (NR) or Fire Defense Centers (NR).

  • Security businesses include Sonitrol (358) and Safe-T-Child Inc. (NR).

  • Safety pros inspect buildings quite often. Why not do it as your own business? Home, buildings, and property inspection businesses get top ranks and include Housemaster (104); The HomeTeam Inspection Service (107); AmeriSpec Home Inspection Service (NR); and National Property Inspections (NR).

  • If you caught the lead article "Working at home raises job site safety issues" in Section B of USA Today on January 29, 1998, then you’ll begin to appreciate why the Safe Not Sorry (447) franchise that deals with home safety issues may be a growing business in the future.

Finding your niche

There are many other franchise opportunities for EHS pros. You can begin your search by starting at the following Internet addresses:, and The last Internet site is for the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers. Links at these sites can lead you to other information regarding franchises. A printed article that addresses the good and bad points of owning a franchise is "Ready-made Businesses," appearing in the November / December, 1997, issue of Self Employed Professional.

If you’re really serious about owning a franchise I suggest that you contact Dr. Scott Shane, director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s DuPree Center for Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development. Looking at his postings on the Internet, Dr. Shane appears to be the leading researcher in the U.S. on the success and failures for franchises. Dr. Shane’s E-mail is

A little self-examination

Running a franchise can provide a hearty dose of job satisfaction, but then again it might prove to be even more frustrating than your present job. Examine yourself closely to be sure a franchise or your own start-up business is really what you want. I mention this because ISHN’s 14th Annual White Paper Report (see January, 1998, issue) indicates that only about one-half of EHS pros enjoy a rewarding sense of job satisfaction. I think this is one reason for the interest pros have in getting out on their own. (White Paper survey results show that 25 percent of environmental managers, 19 percent of industrial hygienists, and 18 percent of safety pros want to start a consulting business. These appear to be pretty high numbers, and either reflect the entrepreneurial nature of EHS pros or dissatisfaction with their jobs.)

I do believe that buying into a franchise as opposed to starting your own EHS consulting shop will lessen the risk of business failure. None of the franchises listed above required special experience or credentials to buy into the business. I’d guess that most of these franchises are not being run by someone as experienced as you are in the EHS field. This could bode well for your success.

I’m also reminded of how flexible EHS pros are in doing all kinds of work. While I suggest you pick a franchise that has an EHS connection, it’s fun to consider what other type of business you would like to own. I wonder how successful I would be running a dating service franchise?