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I love this quote that appears in today's Quotables block on the front page. It reminds me of many stories that I have reported in this journal and the bravery it takes to put up the good fight.
None of these knuckleheads [franchise owner-operators] were willing to speak out in the beginning. No one wanted to put their nuts on the line nor crosshairs on their back. Now that they finally had to throw in the towel, a few are coming out. — Fred
Fred (a pen name), now a former franchisee, wrote an email in frustration to Blue MauMau this morning about the silence of his fellow franchisees in confronting and changing bad practices of their franchisor until it was too late. He explains that repurcussions of not having proper checks and balances with a wayward franchisor is that while the franchisor employees look for new employment, there are franchisees who have lost their businesses and homes. And financial failures are one of the leading cause of splits in marriages.
There can be many venues for franchisees to initiate change in a system. Of course, it is up to them to build these structures to look out for their own interests because if they do not, no one else will.
A better franchise system can be pushed through traditional franchisee advisory boards in which franchisee representatives are elected. The key word here is that an advisory board is only able to give advice to a franchisor who wants to listen.
On the other hand, strong independent franchisee associations can engage a franchisor and confront it. These groups have been known to facilitate friendlier franchise agreements. They have been behind the scenes in getting franchisor CEOs fired in order to change strategic direction. They have even facilitated ownership change in a franchising firm — i.e. new owners who are friendlier to companies in the chain (the franchises). Some lobby state and federal governments for fairer laws. Nowadays, smart associations are increasingly involved in recruiting and giving guidance to franchise buyers and new franchisees.
There are franchisee cooperatives, in which franchisees take over whole functions for the chain — e.g. supply chain, marketing or information technology.
These franchisee groups don't have to go it alone, or recreate the wheel. There's help. There are umbrella groups of franchisee associations that help provide training to individual associations. After all, leading a group of independent-minded business owners is like herding cats. It takes real skill. These umbrella groups also provide vendor, media communications, legal, and in some cases, lobbying firepower for the besieged, overworked and underfunded leaders of franchisee groups who need to accomplish the seemingly impossible. One of the best things about these groups is that they provide an exchange of best practices from mature, independent franchisee associations as well as new start-ups.
The effectiveness of all of these structures depends on franchisees who are willing to stand up, as opposed to just minding their own shop and hoping for the best.