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Franchisees provide insights on the challenges to political advocacy: franchising's high-achieving, multi-unit franchisees share views on key topics.

Question: Why is it so hard to get franchisees involved in the advocacy effort to protect their business model?

Tamra Kennedy owns and operates nine Taco John's franchises in Minnesota and Iowa. Her 30-year career path took her from secretary to owner via working nights in the restaurants while studying accounting and managing the bookkeeping for the previous owner. Find her at

KENNEDY: "I believe there are three obstacles that stop franchisees from jumping head-first into the fray of political advocacy for their business. First, and foremost, is the formidable belief that you can't make a difference. Business owners struggle with even the smallest requests at the city level for things like sign permits, conditional zoning, and local event sponsorships. Rules are set--and if a variance to the standard is requested, it is increasingly difficult to persuade or change the official stance. With statewide law, the ability to influence policymakers seems remote. Federal regulations seem so far out of the circle of influence that many owners scoff and say: "That's politics--nothing we can do."

Second is the lack of concise, pertinent, actionable information available to franchisees. Franchisors don't often lean into this conversation. Local news outlets cover 'noteworthy' events--for example, strikes for minimum wage increase--but don't often offer stories by and for the franchisee community. As a community, franchisees need to organize and communicate beyond our own specific brands. We need to utilize organizations, like I FA, and teach ourselves how to navigate the political conversations that are swirling around us. We can have an impact if we begin to use our collective voice.

Third is the lack of time. With any business, the owner devotes most of the 'business hours' to day-to-day activities: sales, marketing, HR, finance, inventory, etc. What's left is spent on accounting, data analysis, and planning. Where do you squeeze in, "contact my government officials to discuss my thoughts regarding joint employer activities at the state and federal level?" Assuming you had the time to research the issue and form an opinion, of course.

Speaking as a multi-unit franchisee who attended her first IFA event after 14 years as a franchisee, I can advocate that you need to find 3-5 days per year to work on your business--big or small. The people you meet, the information you collect, and the actions and activities that you engage in will surely help guide efforts for your own business model. And, perhaps, your involvement with likeminded business owners will begin to demystify the process of advocacy for small business. Every voice makes a difference--knowing who to talk to helps as well."

Tom Baber is the owner of IHOP and Money Mailer franchises located, respectively, in Union and North Plainfield and Somerset and Mercer Counties, N.J. Find him at

BABER: "I see two very significant factors. One, a lack of time to handle anything more than running the business and a truly difficult time deciphering which threats are real. The environment for business in general has been quite difficult going on seven years now. Of course, the 2008/09 recession is an overriding factor, but while that particular downturn was historic, recessions have come and gone before. Yes, this one has lingered and the recovery in many parts of the country can be considered weak, however this is not the overriding factor that led to less franchisee engagement in advocacy. When I think about the last seven years or so, the recession comes to mind along with the impossible banking situation that led to almost a freeze in borrowing. Then we had years of Obamacare uncertainty (and still do in some ways). Then card check and other labor issues. Now the National Labor Relations Board has found a way around the lawmakers and right into the pockets of franchisees, while now pretending to be defending us. This comes on top of many states and cities making it more difficult to do business in a variety of ways. It is not that franchisees are complacent, they are just overwhelmed. They are striving to survive, or if at all possible, grow in a very difficult environment--one that takes so much more time and effort than before.

Even if franchisees are doing well, the business environment and attitude about business owners, especially as created by the government, keeps them from feeling secure. The workload created by the environment has increased, leaving not enough time for personal and family issues and therefore, time for little else. The IFA is doing a tremendous job but the message is not yet resonating because the amount of information coming at franchisees overall is incredible. We need to find a way to engage the huge number of franchisees to fight a battle we can ill-afford to lose. The threats are real and need to be considered very seriously. The urgency does not seem to be translating.

They are striving to run and hopefully grow their businesses in an increasing difficult environment--one that takes so much more time and effort than before. Add the increased "noise" from our 24/7 world, the business environment and attitude about business owners, which the government has helped foster, personal and family issues which should always be a priority, and it is little wonder franchisees are overwhelmed."

Azim Saju is a graduate of Davidson College and the University of Florida College of Law. Fie subsequently practiced law for 10 years focusing on civil litigation and appellate work. Currently, he is a principal at Hotel Development and Management Group, which owns and operates 10 hotels throughout Central Florida. Find him at

SAJU: "First, they do not see an immediate tangible impact in terms of a line item increase on their expenses. For example, on the NLRB joint employer issue, this is an issue which will have significant future impact to us.

Second, the operational demands of a single unit operator, especially, are significant. The day-today operational demands are so consuming that most operators do not have time to focus beyond this.

Third, most of us are inundated with emails and an 'ocean of information' from so many different organizations (IFA, AH&LA, Franchisor, AAHOA, Franchise Advisory Councils, etc.). In this regard, the issue for all of these organizations is how to improve the alignment and messaging so that the messages are fewer, more succinct and very relevant. Also, grassroots in-person outreach in smaller/regional type meeting settings might also result in more interest as opposed to larger conventions in larger cities.

Finally, the messaging needs to be focused on issues that are "perceived" as impactful by franchisees. In this regard, my experience has been issues pertaining to the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and financing are most likely to gain maximum traction."
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Comment:Franchisees provide insights on the challenges to political advocacy: franchising's high-achieving, multi-unit franchisees share views on key topics.(MULTI-UNIT FRANCHISE INNOVATORS)
Publication:Franchising World
Date:Aug 1, 2015
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