Discovery Day presents a make-or-break moment for many would-be franchisees. Related: Franchise Discovery Day: A Franchiser’s POV For Megan Yu, a visit to the franchise parent company of Signarama, United Franchise Group, in West Palm Beach, Fla., helped seal her decision. Of course, by this time, she and her partner, Andy Yu, her father, had already spent almost six months researching businesses they might open in Ann Arbor, Mich. Casting a wide net at first, they looked at all options, including purchasing an independent business. They chose a franchise because they liked all the support and training offered as part of the deal. “For me it was the one-on-one interactions with the owners that was huge,” Megan said. Meeting other franchisees who shared their own experiences and offered a ready support network raised Megan’s comfort level with this new business. During a carefully choreographed Discovery Day, Megan was greeted by her “host” at her hotel and taken to company headquarters, where she met with current franchisees, technology, and financial support staff. She toured a “brand new, state-of-the-art training facility,” all of which convinced Megan this was the business for her. Franchise Discovery Day will either reel you in with a display of stellar services and support staff or you’ll discover something about the franchisor that sends you to the exit with a feeling of doubt. For example, you may find the CEO has recently changed and you’re not sure about the transition. Or perhaps, you’ll discover you don’t like the support staff. For Megan and Andy, the advantage of a franchise, with all the systems in place to help them through the start-up phase, eventually won out over other options. Megan, 29, who had been working as a manager of a retail store, gave her month’s notice soon after the Franchise Discovery Day. “It boils down to having a world-recognized name and, of course, corporate support,” said Andy Yu, 56, a retired engineer. “We don’t want to get into all these miscellaneous details that will consume all our time and effort.” So, instead of figuring out how to negotiate the best lease agreement, select office furnishings, stationery, and myriad other necessities of their new operation, Yu said, they could spend their time on activities, like sales and marketing, that have more direct impact on the bottom line. They hope to open their new sign-making business by late September. So, how do you prepare? Said Yu: “Do your homework.” Before you even arrive for Franchise Discovery Day, you should:
When it comes to choosing a franchise, it’s not just your perspective that matters. The franchise company has a clear point of view, as well: They want to see if you can follow their system. Watch: How To Start A Business Without The Risk While you go through your research, winnowing down your list of possibilities to one, the culmination of the process brings you to Franchise Discovery Day, where you get an up-close immersion with the franchise company —and you find you’re ready to sign on the dotted line or not. The franchiser has a strong interest in making a good match, as well, since franchising ties you together for the long haul. Both of you have a vested interest in the franchise succeeding —you to make a good living and the franchise company to protect its brand name and maximize its own profitability. While we always recommend in-depth research of your own, once you start to focus on a single business, you’ll find the franchiser has a specific process to prepare you, as well. As Troy Thomas, regional vice president mid-Atlantic region of United Franchise Group (UFG) said, Discovery Day “allows the executives with the franchisor a chance to meet and spend a little time with the franchisees to see if it’s a good fit.” And, on the flip side, he said, Discovery Day “allows the franchisee to gain a complete picture of the support network and the value that is typically unseen by a typical franchisee in the field.” The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based firm owns a range of franchises, including Signarama, SuperGreen Solutions and EmbroidMe. By the time Franchise Discovery Day arrives, Thomas said, a UFG executive will have already had meetings with the prospective franchisee, preferably in person, and taken that person through a “four step process.” If it’s not likely to be a good fit, he said, people discover this as they go through the steps. “If you can’t follow the steps, you probably won’t be a good candidate for following the franchise system,” he added. Explained Thomas: “To be successful, it’s not about reinventing the wheel, but rather following the model.” “The best franchisees come from a corporate background so they understand structure, but they have an entrepreneurial spirit and they want to control their own destiny,” he said. “Of course, entrepreneurial types can also be successful franchisees.” Bottom line: It’s about the system. Thomas said they see hundreds of people a year at a Discovery Day, and everyone who comes through gets individual attention. By the time they arrive, they tend to be very interested. “And the vast majority purchase with us,” he added. As a result of this process, Thomas said most of their franchisees are successful. Thomas, who himself as a career-changer, having spent years in newspaper publishing, believes the advantage of a franchise is that it allows people completely new to a business to hit the ground running. “With an independent business, you have to find all your own equipment, vendors, location, hire employees, learn how it all works, figure out your pricing, and that’s before you even sell a thing —a lot of expense and time,”Thomas said. “A good franchise can take you through that a lot faster and give a head start.” So, while you have your checklist, it’s good to remember so does a franchisor —reassurance that the company is working to create the best possible conditions for success.