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Bombthrowers and Lapdogs: When Franchisees Fight Each Other

Bombthrowers and lapdogs are the perjoratives usually flung in a fight among franchisees like that described in today's article on the Choice Hotel Advisory Council.

Franchisee advisory councils are franchisor-supported.  In a good system, they can work very well, providing a collaborative framework to air franchisee and franchisor concerns and to look for business solutions that advance the franchisor's and franchisee's businesses positively and fairly.  In a lousy system, they can mask problems and promote actual or perceived favoritism toward advisory council leaders. 

When this happens, the result is that franchisees either hash things out through debate and the democratic process of electing advisory council leaders, or the dissenters form an independent association (which now needs to be recognized in the franchisor's FDD).  In the debate, the current leadership often deprecates the dissenters by referring to the dissenters as bombthrowers and the dissenters often label the current leadership as lapdogs -- a classic no-holds-barred democratic brawl.

I don't know anything about the Choice Hotel problems other than what I've read.  But it seems that the injection of AAHOA as an issue is unfortunate as it unnecessarily raises a racial issue.  And AAHOA is a superb organization in terms of representing its members -- it's doing exactly what it should be doing.  If there are issues or there is a difference in approach (say, confrontational versus collabortional), talk about issues and the attitude, but don't talk about memberships as if this were the 40's and you're looking to weed out members of the communist party.

When systems face these breakdowns, it is in everyone's interest to discuss the business issues and approaches openly and fairly.  The franchisor needs a system that works harmoniously, and not one where franchisees are battling each other by labeling the other bombthrowers or lapdogs.  If the problem is that the dissenters represent miserable sob's who reflect a tear-down mentality, then franchisee leaders should explain that to the members and trust that the franchisee owners as a whole will figure that out.  If the problem is that the dissenters are raising real issues that the current leadership is ignoring or papering over, then they need to raise those issues rather than personally attack the leaders. An independent franchisee association may or may not be part of the solution but that too is an issue that should be discussed openly.

These situations are not only problems that need to be solved, but also opportunities to better the system. It may take extraordinary leadership or a consultant or a mediator to realize the opportunity, but good systems will make it happen.  Lousy ones will crumbe in mutual recriminations about lapdogs and bombthrowers.

 

 About the Author:  Peter Silverman is a franchise lawyer, mediator and arbitrator. You can reach him at psilverman@slk-law.com. Read his biography page.  Any thoughts he offers on Blue Mau-Mau are his personal opinion and are not legal advice.

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About Peter Silverman

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PETER R. SILVERMAN is a partner with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, focusing on commercial litigation and alternative dispute resolution.