IFA supplier forum--the first place to look for suppliers and advisors: welcome to the IFA Supplier Source Book.Whether you are a franchisor or franchisee, whether you have years and years of experience or are brand new to franchising, when you need to find a supplier, the first, and only, place to look is the IFA Supplier Source Book.
On the following pages you will find the resources you need to assist you in beginning, growing, managing, re-engineering or supporting your business. The 550 IFA Supplier Forum members represent 48 different industry sectors from accountants to vehicles.
Although they come from vastly different disciplines, Supplier Forum members share a strong common bond: their passion for franchising. Suppliers are an integral part of franchising. They have seen first hand, and often have been directly involved in creating the opportunities for success that franchising offers to both franchisors and franchisees.
They also recognize that the growth of their business depends on a strong environment for franchising and they work actively to support IFA and to promote franchising by donating time, energy and money. Working with an IFA Supplier Forum member delivers many benefits above and beyond the actual product or service:
When you work with an IFA Supplier Forum member, you have a partner committed to franchising. Supplier members donate their time to prepare presentations and speak at conventions and seminars, write articles providing insight and information, and often will take time out of their day to simply talk with those interested in franchising.
Tariq Farid, CEO of Edible Arrangements and IFA's 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year, recalls his first exposure to IFA Suppliers, "When I was thinking of franchising Edible Arrangements, my first step was to contact the IFA. I was put in touch with a franchise consultant who spent a tremendous amount of time on the phone with me providing basic information on the ins and outs of franchising, how it works, what to watch out for in designing and developing a franchise program--everything I needed to know to get started. The information he provided was invaluable. Since then, whenever I need advice or am looking for a supplier, I turn first to IFA members."
To properly launch a franchise requires expertise in several areas. Suppliers will collaborate and combine their knowledge for the good of a common client. Gabriel Bottazzi, CEO of Bijoux Terner, provides an illustration. "As a new franchisor, we sought advice from several IFA supplier members and have put together a team of consultants, lawyers and franchise salespeople to get our franchise started. I expected them to be knowledgeable, but I have been impressed with their willingness to work together and with our staff to launch our franchise program and to help us learn about franchising. We have begun professional relationships that will last well into the future."
Advocates for Franchising
Suppliers not only promote franchising, but they are advocates as well. They contribute to FranPAC, the association's political action committee, and lend their voices to the Public Affairs Conference by taking time away from running their businesses to join franchisors and franchisees in visiting Capitol Hill each September.
Nothing demonstrates the strength of supplier support more than their actions during the 2008-2009 recession. "There are plenty of banks that were willing to lend money during the good times. However, when the economy slowed down, we found a strong advantage in working with an IFA Supplier member," said Dave Schaefers, CFE, vice president, development, Driven Brands. "Their understanding of our business and franchising helped facilitate our franchisees getting loans. And, they've gone above and beyond by becoming advocates with Congress for policies that will stimulate small businesses."
The Supplier Forum also rose to the challenge with the creation of WednesdayWise webinars. Each month suppliers provide timely and valuable information designed to help companies get through the recession. Topics range from obtaining financing and renegotiating leases to taking your concept into international markets and are presented free of charge to all members of the IFA.
Knowledge of Franchising
No matter what business you're in, there is an added management component called franchising that makes operating your business different than operating chain of company-owned units. Suppliers who understand franchising are in a better position to provide you with solutions and programs that can be effectively implemented throughout your system. "The ability to hit the ground running was important to us in selecting an advertising agency to brand the franchise opportunity and develop a program for franchise sales" said Grant Kreutzer, franchise recruiting director, Jack in the Box Inc. "We interviewed IFA Supplier members because they understand franchising and the difference between marketing the consumer product and selling the franchise investment. The presentations we saw were on target and the agency we selected was up to speed and working side by side as a part of our team in short order."
Support for IFA
Suppliers work alongside franchisors and franchisees to keep IFA strong through donations of time, talent and money. They are active in the organization, volunteering to serve on IFA committees and task forces, sponsoring programs and receptions and supporting the annual convention by buying exhibit space, convention sponsorships, and sharing their expertise through participating in presentations and roundtables.
Developing a Strong Supplier Relationship
Franchising is built on relationships. Just as it is important for franchisees to select the franchise that offers them the best opportunity for success and for franchisors to select franchisees that are best able to make a positive contribution to their system, it is equally important to select suppliers that are best able to meet your expectations.
Below are seven tips for selecting a supplier and establishing a mutually beneficial relationship:
Know what you need and clearly communicate your expectations. Take the time to assess and articulate with as much specificity as possible which products or services you wish the supplier to provide and the service level you expect on your business. Be able to describe your situation and state your goals for the assignment.
If confidentially is an issue, consider two rounds of interviews. In the first round, talk with as many companies as possible to get a general feel of each company's capabilities. Then, narrow the field and in the second conversation provide more in-depth information about your situation and requirements. If you would feel more comfortable, ask suppliers to sign a confidentially agreement so that you can be candid in discussing your needs. Suppliers can better propose programs and solutions and be more precise in their cost estimates if they have a clear understanding of your needs and expectations.
Go for the greater value. The lowest price may not always be the best price and the lowest-quoted price may not always be the lowest-total price. To receive the best value for the dollars you spend, you need to fully understand what services you will be receiving and how changes will affect total cost once the project is under way.
Also consider such factors as the supplier's ability to deliver on time, consistency of product quality, pricing adjustments, the ability of the company to increase price without notification, the company's overall reputation, willingness and ability to work with you on special needs and the ability to grow with you.
For many professional services, geography should not be an issue. Today's technology levels the playing field regarding the service you receive from the advisor down the street or across the country. If you're buying advice, you want the best thinking and problem-solving possible even if it doesn't come from the closest physical office.
Feel confident that you get the attention you deserve once you've said "yes." Will you be the big fish in the small pond or the small fish in the big pond?
Like the people who will do the work. One criterion of an accomplished salesperson is an engaging personality and the ability to persuade. If the person who "sells" you is different than the one who will be working on your business, make sure that you meet and are comfortable with the person who will have daily responsibility for your business. Take the time to explain your needs and expectations for the service you will receive. This conversation will also enable you to assess the salesperson's qualifications and enthusiasm for your business. If you don't feel you can work with him, ask that someone else be assigned to your business.
Check references before making a selection. Whether you ask for the names of people for whom your potential supplier has done similar assignments or go on the supplier's Web site and randomly select names from their client list, take the time to talk with other customers or clients. Verify that suppliers can deliver what they have promised in their proposal and that they have a track record of delivering on time and within budget.
Give and take constructive feedback. It is important to recognize that in any relationship there will be times of disagreement and misalignment. If left unchecked, small problems can become large irritants and disrupt or ruin a working relationship. Most of us find it enjoyable to deliver a congratulatory message on a job well done, but it is also necessary to identify and communicate issues that need to be addressed to make the work product better or the process easier. Just as firing of an employee should never be a surprise to the employee, changing suppliers for performance issues should never be a surprise to the supplier.
It is also important to ask for and accept criticism from your suppliers. Ensuring that you are providing proper direction, adequate budget, information that is complete and accurate, and that you are responding to questions on a timely basis will result in a better end product and a more enjoyable work experience for everyone.
Make your suppliers a part of your team. Suppliers are a great source of information about what changes are on the horizon in their industry and about what's going on in franchising. Regular dialogue with your suppliers will keep you current on new products or product enhancements, pricing changes, regulatory changes, best practices and other developments. Having this intelligence and advance notice puts you in a position to plan properly to maintain your competitive edge and capitalize on changes.
Likewise, when you are facing an issue or contemplating a change, bringing your suppliers to the table early in the process can be a direct shortcut to finding the proper solution and reduce the time it takes to implement the change.
In summary, working with an IFA Supplier Forum member not only supports the companies and people who support franchising, but working with IFA Supplier Forum members puts someone on your team who fully understands franchising and is able to provide solutions and advice that can be effectively implemented in a franchise environment. After you have experienced working with one Franchise Supplier Forum member, the IFA Supplier Source Book will be the first and only place you will look for future suppliers.
Kay Ainsley, CFE, is managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates and serves as 2009 IFA Supplier Forum chairwoman. The company provides domestic and international franchise consulting services to clients within the retail, restaurant, business to business and service industries. Ainsley consults with companies on utilizing franchising, both in the United States and internationaly to achieve their goals. She assists companies in setting objectives, developing strategy, and creating and executing plans for establishing or expanding a franchise program, brand building, franchise relationships and the restructuring or exiting of existing programs. Ainsley has been a partner in MSA since 1992.