Franchising is a curious business model: It’s all about uniformity and system, but we don’t share a common vocabulary. Case in point – “Discovery Day.” This is a term that means many different things within the licensing process.
Discovery days are not unique to franchising. As Geoff Seiber, CEO of FranFund (and formerly of FranChoice) noted, this was how real estate was developed in Florida during the 1950’s and ‘60’s. The prospective buyer, who had already gotten excited about the opportunity, was flown in to verify the plot was not a swamp and then hand over a check. This is how discovery days were used when first introduced to franchising and there were no electronic means to do one’s due diligence. A prospect would read the then UFOC (FDD), call a few existing franchisees and perhaps call the franchisor with some questions. Then, the prospect would arrive at the franchisor’s office where there would be elaborate presentations about the company. At the end he would meet the CEO and sign the agreements.
But, as with all good things, there is adaptation, and in this case, there was adaptive splintering. Some call them Discovery Days, Decision Days or, Seiber’s term, “Confirmation Days.”
Each brand used the discovery day idea differently – for some it was an introduction to the brand and the first “face-to-face” meeting. The prospects were seeing the FDD for the first time that day. That was not very popular because 1) the accompanying presentations didn’t make a lot of sense without the contract language behind them and 2) franchise executives wasted a lot of time entertaining looky-loos and tire kickers.
Jamie Martin, of Process Peak, reports that 98% of their clients don’t have discovery days: the sales process is one of discovery on the part of both the franchisor and the prospect. When they have completed the pre-determined process and mutually agree they want to continue, they have a “Join the Team Day” and there is the expectation of a check that day. This combines the original intent with the investigative power of the Internet to efficiently choose those candidates best suited for a franchise with the human touch for final decisions.
Not all systems are that structured – they are built on their culture as much as on their economics. Susan Black Beth, COO of Super Wash Carwashes says, “Discovery Days are important to us because of our family-business culture. If a prospect is not comfortable seeing my dad give me a hug and a kiss because it’s the first time he’s seen me that week, then Super Wash may not be the place for them. Additionally, if all they want to talk about is how excited they are to be getting into an “all cash business” then they’re probably not for us. We consider discovery days to be the dating period and the time after the signing of the Agreement to be the marriage. My goal is that the franchisees love us more during the marriage than they did when we were dating.”
There are those who believe that Discovery Day is a way to build rapport and/or confirm the prospect’s commitment to the process. Manish Adhiya of Franchise Mind Corporation stresses that the face-to-face meeting is important for the rapport, “It just cannot be replaced with Skype or other electronic communications.” He also admits that when he was working with another brand their pack and ship centers were readily available for most prospects, so they were sent there to experience the center and ask questions of the franchisee in lieu of a discovery day.
When I worked with Great Clips, there were no discovery days. The franchise development manager and a regional staffer vetted all the prospects and the rest of decision was handled objectively, weighing criteria and cultural points.
Jeff Sturgis of Franchise System Advisors has developed systems for the leading brands in the country and he advises they are used judiciously. “This should be the capstone of the sales process and demonstrate the prospect’s commitment to the brand.” He suggests the discovery day be scheduled ¾ of the way through the process. Your franchise process determines the scheduling of the day. If the prospect has to acquire a leased location in advance of signing the Franchise Agreement, then the day must scheduled earlier in the process so all parties are sure they want this relationship before money is spent and leases are signed.
Every system has variables: That’s what makes them unique and attractive to a wide range of people. All those variables must be weighed when crafting your licensing process and will determine if you have a visit with the franchisee, what it will be named and when it will be scheduled. Discovery Day, Decision Day, Confirmation Meeting, or Join the Team Day – each name should reflect the intention of the event so your staff and the prospect clearly understand what will happen. When we have conversations and share best practices within the franchise community we have to be sure to define our terms so we all gain a richer understanding of how complex and diverse our uniform systems are. See, we can discover new things every day!