The exciting journey from franchise candidate to franchise owner will include lots of time gathering valuable information about franchising opportunities. With more than 3,000 franchise brands available today, a thorough understanding of how a given franchise system matches up with your applicable skills and lifestyle design is crucial to your success.
For most franchise candidates, that process goes into hyperdrive during your discovery day.
A Franchise Discovery Day is a candidate's greatest opportunity to take a deep dive into the inner workings of a franchise system. It's a face-to-face meeting, often held at a franchise’s corporate office, allowing franchise candidates the chance to meet with the franchise officers, marketing, operations and real estate teams and learn the system at a deep level. Candidates are able to get a genuine feel for whether or not the franchise culture is a match for them.
Not everyone goes to discovery day. It's one of the final steps in a candidate's franchise journey, often taking place once the candidate has gone through an in-depth process to learn more about the franchise system. That process includes several calls with their franchise development representative to learn what the franchise is all about before being invited to a discovery day.
Franchisors make sure all necessary executives from the franchise are available to meet the candidate on their discovery day. Franchisors recognize how important this day is, so they only invite candidates who are serious about opening a franchise unit and a good fit for their system. Just as it's a vital opportunity for franchise candidates to learn about the franchise system under consideration, it's crucial for the franchisor to learn more about the candidate as well.
That's why franchise consultants like me place so much importance on ensuring that franchise candidates are thoroughly prepared to maximize their discovery day. We'll spend lots of time determining the right questions to ask and the best ways for them to present themselves. A discovery day is a one-time opportunity for a franchise candidate, so they need to be certain they've done their due diligence to get the most out of their visit.
Whereas each system has unique questions franchise candidates need to ask at their discovery day, here are several that should always be considered.
What does a day in the life of an owner look like?
This is an important question not only for the franchise executives but the franchise owners as well. By this point in the process, candidates and their franchise consultant will have explored exactly what a candidate wants their life to look like as a franchise owner. Are you at work at the crack of dawn, or do you get to have breakfast at home with your children before going to the office? Are you expected to be at the office during all business hours, or will you have a management team handling the day-to-day operations? What is your daily role in the business? Do you spend most of your time working on back-of-the-house operations, or are you heavily involved with customer engagement? Are the hours flexible or set? Are you expected to work on the weekend? Holidays? How much of your work needs to be done on location?
All of these types of questions should be asked when learning about the day in the life of an owner. Someone who values being at their children's sporting events probably doesn't want a franchise that requires them to work evenings and weekends. Someone who likes being hands-on may feel restless with a system that expects a manager to do most of the work. A candidate who values a lot of personal time may feel trapped in a business that requires his presence during all operational hours.
What traits make a difference between the top and average performers?
Notice an important difference in this question compared to, "What do you look for in a franchise owner?" Asking what separates the good from the great makes the franchisor think about the question deeply, and may unearth some interesting answers. You might discover that the best franchisees in a given system spend a lot of time getting engaged with their community through sponsorships and charitable outreach. You may find out that the most successful franchise owners have a knack for making lots of sales calls. Perhaps the top performers are the ones who go the extra mile when it comes to customer service. Whatever it is, knowing what the cream of the crop does in order to stay on top allows you the opportunity to self-examine and decide whether or not you exhibit the necessary traits.
What are the challenges or frustrations I should be prepared for as an owner?
No matter how perfect the fit a franchise system offers a candidate, there are going to be challenges. Perhaps the customers for a given business are generally very needy and require lots of attention from the owners. There may be a seasonality issue with the business that forces owners to work in booms and busts throughout the year. Staffing and turnover in many businesses is a constant issue that requires regular attention. Determining a marketing plan to reach specific markets could be difficult. Generating repeat business may be an obstacle. Whatever it is, discovery day is the time to learn what those challenges are and make sure you're up for dealing with them.
How will I be trained?
One of the most important reasons that candidates decide to select the franchising route over an independent startup is to have the unparalleled support system franchises offer. Ensuring that the training program of a given franchise matches your needs is crucial to your success as a franchisee. Is training only offered at the corporate office, or does the franchise offer training on-site? Is training entirely at the launch of your franchise, or is it an on-going program? What are the resources available to you as a franchisee? Does the corporate office have 24-hour support team availability? Are there local franchise officials in your region, such as an area director, regularly available to offer support? What kind of peer support can you expect from other franchisees? When a new product or service is launched, what does the training program look like? Which areas of managing the franchise do you support initially? Which ones regularly?
A franchise candidate with a strong background in accounting but no experience in marketing may want a system with a good advertising plan in place. A business that thrives on a good location will want to make sure a real estate selection team is strong. Candidates who like the feeling of constant support may want a more established brand with lots of processes in place, while a candidate with a more entrepreneurial streak may be happier with a franchise that allows their franchise owners more input.
What is the vision for the company?
Ever been asked where you see yourself in five years? It’s reasonable to ask the franchisor that as well. What is their growth plan? Is the franchisor in it for the long haul, or are they hoping to sell the franchise to another company in the near future? What steps are they taking to ensure that their franchise stays relevant? How are they incorporating technology to stay ahead of their competitors? What’s in place to protect the company from an economic downturn? A new competitor? The online marketplace?
Franchisors should have a big picture in mind and be able to explain their vision easily when asked. They should be able to recognize their company's strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Following your discovery day, you should have a clear picture as to whether or not a franchise system is the right fit for you. Planning to ask questions like these, along with the company-specific questions provided by your franchise consultant, ensures your discovery day will give you all the information you need to make that decision.