How the most important aspect of the franchise sales process works for the growing education franchise
The franchise sales process is often a long one, with hours of phone calls and exchanges of information over a period of months to determine fit and viability for the candidate. So by the time Discovery Day rolls around and franchisees meet the corporate team face to face, both sides already know just about everything there is to know in terms of background, interest, and financials.
However, according to Lightbridge Academy, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development, Mark Mele, Discovery Day offers a unique opportunity for the candidate, their family or partners to spend time with the corporate team getting to know each other and accessing if they are really a fit for the company.
“To get to this point, we have already spent two to three hours on the phone together already, gone through the application process, sent them the FDD, and reviewed financials, all before we even schedule an in person Discovery Day,” said Mele. “Not only does our management team present a deep dive on the brand, support and services all franchisees will receive as part of the Lightbridge Academy team, but in addition, we are looking for their engagement and alignment. What kind of questions do they ask? Do they feel connected to the brand? Are they truly a fit? Our culture is at the heart of what makes Lightbridge Academy special and Discovery Day gives us the face to face time necessary to see if we want to take the final steps necessary to award a franchise.”
Mele said that all input is an important part of the decision making process. For example, Franchise Sales Coordinator, Celeste Dubois, is a 19 year veteran of Lightbridge Academy, and her impression of the candidate factors into weighing the prospect’s fit with the brand.
“Celeste speaks with candidates early on in the process and her early informational phone calls often time sheds light on what the prospect is actually looking to achieve in a potential business relationship with Lightbridge Academy. Success in franchising depends on a strong relationship between the franchisee and franchisor and we are sometimes faced with the difficult decision to not move forward with a prospective franchisee because we do not believe they will be a cultural fit,” said Mele. “We really know them by the time they get here for Discovery Day, and after we meet in person, we believe there should be an alignment from a business perspective, and culturally, in order for us to offer them a franchise agreement. ”
For Becky Grovenstein, Lightbridge Academy franchisee in Apex, North Carolina, Discovery Day was a determining factor for her and her husband to get a feel for the brand and to determine if it fit with their own values.
“The whole process is really a dance between the franchisee and franchisor,” said Grovenstein. “Prior to Discovery Day, you talk with the franchise development person to go over the basic information, but for us, what differentiated Lightbridge Academy from other franchises was the genuine interaction. It was truly a conversation, not just a presentation or PowerPoint. It felt like more of a real discussion, like we were getting to know the family and see if we would make good partners.”
Mele agrees with Grovenstein’s assessment of Lightbridge Academy’s process leading up to Discovery Day, saying that the brand’s commitment to fit and core values separates their sales process from the competition.
“We are finding out what their connection is to the brand – asking them for examples of how they demonstrate the core values in their lives and seeing if we believe they can create a culture of care within their own center and be an engaged owner,” said Mele. “I’ve been conducting Discovery Days for almost 30 years, and I believe Lightbridge has developed a Discovery Day that is second to none.”
That process of determining alignment takes place over an entire day of immersion into the Lightbridge brand, culture, an overview of the services provided and key areas of the business. Also included is a tour of the Lightbridge Academy child care center which is conveniently located downstairs from the headquarters and also interviews with the franchise company leadership team.
“Discovery Day, gave us the opportunity to meet the management team, and to understand who they are, their values and to tour a Lightbridge Academy center,” said Grovenstein. “I am a music teacher, as well, so it spoke volumes to walk into the classrooms and actually see the Lightbridge education system in action.”
For Becky Grovenstein, the highlight of her own Discovery Day was her meeting with the founder, Guy Falzarano. She felt that he really drove home the family essence of the brand and so did all of the team members she met.
“We got to spend most of the day with Guy, and it was a great way to build trust,” said Grovenstein. “They wanted us to know what they think is important, showed us how to succeed as franchisees and connect with our staff, parents and the community.”
As far as advice for first time Discovery Day participants, Grovenstein said to keep an open mind, watch how people interact with each other and remember to listen.
“All too often we do too much talking trying to impress people,” she said. “Just sit and marinate and listen before you make any judgements. It is a long term commitment and finding the right fit is the key.”