Discovery Day: Make The Most of It

Synopsis:  The final step in investigating a franchise system is to attend their Discovery Day (DD).  It’s a valuable, make-or-break experience.  To make the most of it, prepare well, consider it a final interview, dress for success, put any open questions on the table before you arrive, and fully engage with everyone you meet.  DD is mostly about fit, culture, trust, confidence (goes both-ways).  Gather final decision-data while presenting the best version of yourself.  Make them “want” you on their team.

What’s Discovery Day All About?
Having substantially completed your investigation (evaluation) of the franchise system, if you’re strongly inclined to join this franchise system, the next step is to attend Discovery Day (DD).   It’s the final step before making a go/no-go decision.  Think of it like being brought home to meet the family before getting married.  The DD experience will affirm your feelings, all that you’ve heard/seen, identify any remaining “red flags” and enable them to be resolved… or not. 

DD is more about assessing fit, culture, core values, getting clarity on any remaining questions, in a live setting.  And it goes both ways – the franchisor’s sizing you up too.  You should expect (and want) healthy scrutiny to be given to your candidacy, as you’d want them to do with all others. 

You’ve put substantial energy into learning about, building a relationship with, this franchise company.  So, let’s maximize the value of your time at DD.

Prepare:
Review the findings of your “validation” efforts, along with other notes you’ve made while assessing this franchise.  Prepare a list of questions to bring with you.  Be ready to pose them, either in a group setting or when one-on-one, to key leaders/functional team members.  Here are a few examples to get you started:

  1. What is “A Day in the Life” of an owner like? 
  2. What are the common traits among their top performing owners?
  3. What are the challenges or frustrations I should be prepared for as owner?
  4. What’s the franchisor doing to help franchisees boost profitability?
  5. What’s their vision for the company?  Where do they see it five, ten years out?
  6. What being done near-term to mitigate effects of market disruptors (Amazon, etc.), and create/maintain competitive advantage?

Discovery Day Logistics
Book your travel (air/hotel) to DD immediately upon accepting the franchisor’s invitation.  The franchisor should be able to give you clear guidance on airport, ground transportation and hotel accommodations.  Franchisors typically send out agendas 3-5 days ahead of DD, detailing specific start/end times, location(s), attire, food options.  You likely meet the leaders of each key function, as well as company c-suite leaders.  Your current contact is unlikely to be your contact after you become a franchisee, so ask to meet the key contact(s) on whom you’ll depend for pre-opening/on-going support.

The Key Questions to Ask Yourself
DD is somewhat akin to a final interview with an employer.  You’ve done a lot of research (e.g. web, phone, reading, competition, etc.), so now it’s time to get a feel for the people, the culture.  The key questions to ask yourself:  Do I trust them?  Are they competent?  Am I comfortable calling these folks “family?”  I expect that at the end of DD, you will find the franchisor to be comprised of reputable, trust worthy and knowledgeable people committed to serving you, and helping you become successful.  If this isn’t the case, then you’ve prevented yourself from making a costly mistake. 

Your Goal:  To Be “Awarded” The Franchise
Best-in-class franchisors “award” franchises vs. “sell” them.  Let’s consider why.  They owe it to every other franchisee to be discerning.  Franchisor’s have a primary responsibility to protect the brand, to grow it in a healthy manner.  When deciding whether to award you the franchise, the franchisor is seeking to understand whether you have the ability, skills, willingness to follow the system and to represent the business in a professional and positive manner.

Quality franchisors don’t award a bunch of franchises hoping that some of them will be successful. A business that closes tells the public that something about the concept isn’t working, and consumer form a negative opinion about that product or service.  Also, and of extreme importance to a franchisor, by law they must list all failed franchises in their Franchise Disclosure Document. A franchisor with a substantial list of failed units has a hard time attracting new potential franchisees. 

Finally, in most cases franchisors makes money based on royalties, which are a percentage of the franchisees’ total revenue. Therefore, the more successful the franchisees, the more successful the franchisor.  This is one of the reasons why the franchise business model has grown to be such a large portion of the US economy. 

Recommendations for Making Your Discovery Day A Raging Success:

Dress to impress:  Attire should reflect well on you – be polished, professional.

Be likable:  Dale Carnegie, in “How to Win Friends and Influence People” suggested using the following six methods to come across as likeable:

  • Be genuinely interested in other people
  • Smile
  • People like the sound of their own name
  • Be a good listener
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
  • Make other people feel important and do it sincerely

Have industry knowledge:   Having industry knowledge will show that you’ve done your homework and you understand the customer base and competition.

Show you can follow a system:   Franchisors aren’t looking for someone who will reinvent the business.  If you are trying to improve the concept, you are not working on your own business. This is a red flag to a franchisor. Don’t tell the franchisor that you plan to deviate from their tried and proven system.  Do tell them they you are impressed with how thoroughly they’ve documented each and every step, and that you plan to follow the system to the letter.  And you had better mean this, otherwise franchising really isn’t a good fit for you – you won’t be happy, your success will be compromised, you may end up in a costly conflict.

Be ready to share your “why”, and your business savvy:  Be prepared to discuss “why” you’re strongly considering joining this franchise system.  Have your professional elevator pitch on-hand, as you may be asked to provide highlights of your past business experiences, and how they relate to running your franchise. Some key areas to cover:  managing people, customer service, sales, marketing.  Be yourself – don’t try to be something/someone you’re not.  If you don’t have the necessary competencies, you should be prepared to hire someone who does.  

Fit in:   Although last on the list, make no mistake – this is important.  You have to be comfortable working with the franchisor’s team, and likewise the same goes for them.  Although DD is just one day, you will gain meaningful insight into the human nature and communication style of the franchisor’s team members.  Likewise, they will do the same.  This will happen over breaks, during meals, side conversations, one-on-one conversations – every minute is an opportunity – use it!

Final Thoughts:
Assuming the franchise system checks all the boxes for your Evaluation criteria (i.e. financial, industry, lifestyle, geography, etc.), the working relationship needs to be “built-to-last”.   DD gives you the strongest impression of the franchisor’s people, and the way they will relate to you, that you can get.  If the franchisor doesn’t meet your expectations, you simply won’t move forward.  Likewise, the franchisor will also be evaluating you and if you don’t measure up, they won’t risk their business on you.  DD’s purpose is to inform each party and enable more informed decision-making.  Enjoy your DD experience and make the most of it.

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Special Note on Competitive Situations:  From time-to-time, multiple candidates can be vying for the same territory.  After all the work you’ve done towards finding a franchise you want to invest in, don’t let the opportunity slip out of your hands because of inadequate preparation.  With the right attitude, basic research, you’ll ensure that DD ends with the franchisor shaking your hand saying “Welcome to the family!”

About the Author: 

Phil Harvey, franchise consultant and founder of Prosperity Services, is an accomplished franchise industry veteran and trusted franchise advisor.  He consults with first-time and serial entrepreneurs alike, helping them find, evaluate and select the right franchise to achieve their goals.  To learn more about Prosperity Services or Phil, visit his LinkedIn profile.

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