Cliff Clark | Crain's Atlanta

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Cliff Clark

Background:  

Cliff and his wife Diane opened the first Discovery Point Child Development Center in 1988. As a seasoned professional educator, Diane had a passion for helping children and saw a need for high-quality child development centers for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old. Cliff brought his strong business sensibility, and they opened their second facility two years later, which launched a franchise operation that has grown to nearly 50 centers across the Southeast. The company is headquartered in Duluth, Ga., with locations in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Tennesse. 

The Mistake

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. And I always strive to learn from them when I do. What I want to talk about here, though, is decidedly not a mistake but more a realization.

When my wife and I opened the first Discovery Point center in 1988, we never planned to have dozens of preschool franchise centers bearing the Discovery Point name. Our initial goal was simply two centers. That was always Plan A. There was really no Plan B. One day at a time was the only plan, and it still works that way. Our focus was simply to provide the best childcare possible.

As we opened the first center, we focused on developing efficient and effective processes and workflows. I knew accounting, advertising and construction while my wife, Diane, knew all about education and kids. Those were challenging days, for sure. It was hard work—seven days a week—and risking everything, every day. But I look back on them fondly. And as we opened that second center, it was so rewarding to see our dream taking shape.

We ran those first two centers with a very sharp eye on the books. We had a firm grip on our profits and losses and we could see a sustainable path to success. We were content. The impetus to franchise was born out of our customers seeing how well our centers were running and starting to inquire about how they could get a “piece of the pie.”

Figure out what works and do it again and again and again.

The Lesson

One lesson that had always stuck with me from my past business experience was that if you wanted to be successful with anything, you had to do a lot of it. In one respect, that means practicing your skills to improve your performance, but in business, I always viewed it as simply doing more. If you can create a repeatable, efficient, successful business model, then you can replicate that success again and again.

I saw the opportunity to apply this method to Discovery Point. We knew how to make two successful centers, so we set out to make that model for success repeatable and to meet the demands of our customers who wanted to join in that success.

We’d never had a “Plan B” for Discovery Point. But I always say, never accept that anything cannot be done. Find a way to make it happen. So with that mindset, we made the franchise model happen. And it has grown in ways my wife and I could never have imagined.

Our focus never changed—we still aim to provide the best childcare possible—and that’s what has allowed the franchise to grow. We put our expertise in education, construction and business to work and as a result, Discovery Point franchise opportunities became a reality.

But we do not grow our franchise group just to increase numbers. The goal is not simply more of them. We strive to ensure that our franchisees are well supported, that each owner has the same passion for quality child development as we do and that each is put in a position to be successful with their business.

Figure out what works and do it again and again and again.

Follow Discovery Point on Twitter at @discoverypoint.

Photo courtesy of Cliff Clark.

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