An entrepreneur had a great idea for a grilled cheese concept franchise. He talked lovingly of growing up with his brother and making grilled cheese together when their mom left them alone to make their own dinner. They would come home to find the MYO (Make Your Own) sign on the fridge and instantly they went about making their cheese feast. Over time they got bored with basic grilled cheese and they began to experiment with all sorts of different things they could add. It was one of the strongest memories of his childhood. He thought that maybe he wasn’t the only person who had this experience and that it would make a really happy company.
The one problem he had, that he had almost no business experience. His bigger problem was that he was so unsure of himself that he told literally anyone who would listen about his concept. Looking for validation. One guy in particular came to him through a fraternal group he had joined. He told him about the franchise concept and the guy jumped on it with enthusiasm. Truthfully, we all thought it was a great idea and his idea for rolling it out was particularly brilliant. The guy he told it to, we’ll call him Richard Cranium, immediately impressed him with his background as both an entrepreneur and with franchises. His resume showed that multiple times he was the CEO of companies that brought new products to market successfully. He brought all kinds of his thoughts to the table and really had our hero fired up to work with him. Oddly, though he told everyone about his idea freely, Richard was the first person he asked to sign an NDA. It’s weird how sometimes we know what we know before we know that we know it. In short order, he discovered all kinds of crap about Mr. Cranium and their planned partnership dissolved. Here is where it gets fun.
About six months later, he discovered a company that just opened in his state with the same concept. The owner was no one he knew, but a little internet digging and he discovered that the lawyer who filed the papers for the owner was the spouse of Richard Cranium himself. Further he found that Mr. Cranium was filing the franchise paperwork the whole time they were talking! They released the exact same menu, albeit with the branded names altered slightly. Here is the worst part, in an interview, the owner of the company rolled out the story of making grilled cheese with his brother, as his own story. Makes you want to take an immediate bath to wipe off all of the slime doesn’t it? Is this an unusual story? Alas, no it is not.
When we launched the French Fry Heaven franchise concept we reached out to friends and families. We embraced the nay-sayers and the supportive folks. In our enthusiasm we shared intimate details of our idea with people we probably shouldn’t have. However, when we came across the cheese we quickly learned our lesson and made NDA’s part of our lifestyle. The bitch of it is that you really need the feedback from industry pros, but if you don’t know who is who, you need an NDA to cover your behind. There are Richard Craniums everywhere. Here is a great way to find out who is who (and this works great for hiring too), it’s called the pen test. Hand them a pen and ask them to sell that specific pen to you. Most will tell you about the pen, some will ask you about what you use a pen for (we will talk about them later), but the ones you want to watch out for are the ones who immediately lie about the wonder of the pen. Their default setting is to lie.