Franchise Success by Asking THE Most Important Question
When it comes to selecting vendors, making purchasing decisions, bringing on partners or investors, hiring staff, weighing lending options, or building new locations, what we don’t know is often what comes back to bite us – sometimes in a big way.
Hindsight is 20/20 – This sentiment has been echoed for decades because it is as applicable and relevant today as it ever was. When things are going well, Hindsight is nowhere to be found – and no one is looking for it! When things go awry, Hindsight and Murphy (of the Murphy’s Law persuasion) are often found hanging out together, wreaking havoc in seemingly every area of your life. If only we could have known how to prevent Hindsight and Murphy from ever beckoning our doorsteps in the first place!
In the future, maybe we can. What if there was one question that, when asked, might thwart Hindsight and Murphy? It can’t be just any question – it has to be THE most important question.
Few people would argue that ‘How much will this cost?’ or ‘How long will this take?’ are important questions to ask. But is either one of them THE most important question? ‘Will I be covered for this?’ is also a good question, and so is ‘What are the additional costs I will incur down the road’ but by themselves, neither of these would likely be considered THE most important question either. Is there even such a thing as THE most important question — one that gets to the truth, begs transparency, creates trusted advisor opportunities, and is applicable in practically every purchasing decision, partnership/investor decision, new hire decision, borrowing decision or build-out situation?
It seems to me that there is…and here it is:
“What questions am I not asking that I need to know the answers to?”
Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, hear me out. I recently wrote an article titled ‘Sounding the Alarm on Development Timelines for Franchise Locations’. We’ll use this article as the litmus test.
To give you a quick summary, a prospective franchisee asked a franchise concept how long it would take before they would be open for business. The concept’s representative painted an appealing answer by prefacing their response to include only a small portion of the overall development timeline (in this case, specifying “90 to 120 days from the date a lease is signed” vs. the more realistic timeframe of “9 to 12 months from today”). In this example, the sizeable due diligence portion that usually accompanies the building of new locations was omitted because the truth would likely have elicited fear and brought an abrupt end to the conversation.
Had the prospective franchisee asked THE most important question, they would immediately be better equipped to make an informed decision.
‘What questions am I not asking that I need to know the answers to?’ could then have been answered more thoroughly: “The question you’re not asking that is important for you to know is that it will likely take six to nine months from today before you are able to find a location, negotiate the lease, sign the lease, and actually take possession of the space. Once you get to that milestone, it will be another 90 to 120 days until you will officially be open for business. This means that you will need enough money on hand (or included as part of your lending application) to keep yourself afloat for up to a year, possibly longer.”
‘What questions am I not asking that I need to know the answers to?’ is a great tool that pulls back the curtain and gives more of a behind-the-scenes look at areas where knowledge is often hard earned though costly trial-and-error mistakes.
THE most important question doesn’t require you to have extensive knowledge about a particular subject in order to receive its benefits. In fact, asking THE most important question opens a door that allows for a trusted advisor to shine their light and help you succeed.
Of course there are other ways to ask THE most important question which also get at the heart of looking under the proverbial hood of the car:
- What do I not see that I should be looking for?
- What will come back to haunt me?
- How could this turn out to be a bad deal for me?
- What additional information (or parts, or components, etc.) will I need?
- What hidden fees will no longer be hidden once I sign on the dotted line?
The point here is to craft questions that will reveal important details that you may not even know to ask about. We’ve all seen or heard stories that go something like this: “Why didn’t you tell me about that?” “Because you didn’t ask.”
Is this a foolproof way to avoid every Hindsight or Murphy sighting? Probably not – but you have to admit it will definitely lead to better dialogue and more informed decisions. Give it a whirl and let me know what you find out.
To your success…