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Inspired by attending the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA) Forum in Washington, DC., I would like to answer – why every franchise owner should support and engage an independent franchisee association.
1. Independent franchisee associations are communities of like minded individuals who develop mentoring, best practices, and support for their business. The discussions amongst members should be your "morning newspaper", helping you move your business (and instruction) forward.
2. There is power in numbers. I heard it 20 times at the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (Burger King, Subway, Supercuts, Dunkin, 7-Eleven and more) Forum. Being in Washington D.C. year after year and talking with politicians about issues impacting our businesses and families makes a difference. They need our engagement to educate themselves on important issues in small business and franchising.
This is also true within Kumon. In the last month, through the concerted efforts of several franchisees working together, we helped Kumon North America see the value of placing ads in ethnic publications (not in English) and applying a subsidy to these ads. Additionally we were able to negotiate a steep discount and get more value for our money.
3. While franchisors were not in Washington arguing for small business issues (healthcare, taxes, minimum wage, 40 hour work week), franchise associations were! Why? Because we have different priorities. Franchisors go there to talk about issues important to them, as they have the right to do and should do! But we have to work to help ourselves.
The work the International Association of Kumon Franchisees (IAKF) is doing in this political arena is imperative. Through the association you have more power and influence than most people realize. We attended a "Coffee with Corey" Booker at the end of the day for fun. He quoted one of our coalition franchisee reps in his speech from a quick discussion earlier in the day. He did not know anyone from the association was in the audience. We made an impression and he tweeted pictures with us in it!
4. A Congressman who was a former franchisee of a different brand expressed the importance of being in a franchisee association very eloquently. He told us franchisee associations are important because he gets two feet of paper a day to read. He cannot catch the bad legislation that will put us out of business. Franchisee associations have to tell him and other politicians what will hurt their members so they can address it.
This is what IAKF's being a member of CFA does for us as small business owners. Together with other franchisee association leaders, on an ongoing basis, CFA identifies what will negatively impact our business and advocates for us.
Politicians (and probably the general public) do not understand the franchisor/franchisee relationship. They imagine franchisees are part of the 1 percent with DEEP pockets. Raising wages only impacts corporations, right? since that money will come right from their pockets? We help them understand just because we use a large brand name we don't necessarily have a lot of money.
As uninformed as this sounds, it is the opinion of many politicians who have never made a payroll, paid rent or royalty. We spent 15 minutes of every meeting with our representatives explaining we are really small local business owners making a difference in our community (Little League, jobs, PTAs). We really can lose our savings and homes when either a franchise business model is bad or the franchisor makes poor decisions, as well as when politicians make poor decisions that impact our business environment. We, franchisees from all brands, need to educate these people that we are the small guy.
As one politician put it, "If you don't share your voice up here, trust us, someone else's voice will be heard."
5. Economies of Scale: Vendors want to work with us as a group to reduce our costs (and increase their business).
Kumon corporate focuses on how to make themselves profitable - quite naturally! - not their franchisees. This is a typical franchise model. Interestingly, other franchise owners confirmed no franchisor wants one franchisee to be too big and powerful. It is something inherent in the system. When was the last policy given that they made us more profitable? In fact some franchise systems do not allow franchisees to set prices. PAKCO (the franchise association before IAKF) negotiated that right for all of us years ago.
Here are some common reasons that franchise owners give for not joining the IAKF:
1. They are afraid Kumon North America (the franchisor) won't like it. This is true, partly due to a lack of understanding of the value of a franchise association to corporate. Strong brands have harnessed the power of a strong franchise association to move their brand forward. They believe they know what is best for our businesses. Over the past 4 years and all the changes we have seen, it has become very clear what aspects of the big picture they lack - think of branding/marketing wild swings, aggressive expansion strategies and all the CTI minutiae once touted as essential. We have all invested time and money in these initiatives; we have all lost time and money in these initiatives.
2. They feel they don't get enough for annual dues. A board of 4 volunteer, uncompensated members runs a fantastic conference annually, puts up a structure for engagement (forum and yahoo group), runs the legislation arm of CFA, processes membership, and arranges or runs educational seminars on math, reading, common core and business issues, to provide only a few example. We would love to do more. All we need are more resources - your volunteer hours and more financial resources to pay for our legal representation and consultants. Each engaged member only has to give a little and together we could do a lot more. Recruiting more members by forwarding this email is a start.
3. They think Kumon North America will punish them. We are all legally protected to associate with other franchisees. IAKF is the association of record (listed in the KNA Franchise Agreement). More enlightened brands effectively partner with their franchise association to get things done. Any corporate person who gently or not-so-gently discourages you from being involved with the association is actually breaking the law.
4. "We have the IAC (instructor advisory council, a franchisee advisory board) to talk to KNA." Yes we do! The more engaged franchisees, the better! IAKF is not a replacement for the IAC, but a complement to them. We can get things done that they are not set up to do, while we can work with them to ensure they have the "big picture" concerns to work on with KNA.
5. "Too much negativity." IAKF does not restrict posts to public forums as it would limit the scope of discussions and the variety of points of view represented. As a result of a very rough, regrettable period in the history of Kumon North America, there were many negative policies and decisions to be discussed. The discussions were passionate and emotional but as a result of the feedback gleaned from these conversations the association made sure New Jersey-based Kumon North America and Japan's Kumon Institute of Education Co. (World HQ) heard what needed to change in North America. Certain higher level executives who were causing distress were fired and KIE has prioritized a more productive relationship between KNA and franchisees. While we hope KNA's new president Mr. Mino Tanabe will be with us much longer than his predecessors, a strong association can be an asset to a brand during times of change as well as more stable periods. There always will be a place for an association to champion the needs of the franchisees.
6. "They are anti-Kumon or anti-franchising." We, as do you, make our livelihood from the franchising arrangement. We actually want to make changes to the system of franchising to make it more sustainable. Franchisees put the capital and hard work that makes franchising work. We should have a powerful voice on things that impact our business.
Join your franchisee association or renew your membership today. Strong brands have strong associations.