Ed-ShanahanSince joining DDIFO, I’ve encouraged many to join and strengthen the organization even as they strengthen their own prospects for success. Thankfully, many of them have. Others didn’t recognize the need for an independent franchisee association, telling me, “Relations with the brand are good,” or “We don’t need insurance from the brand.”

I’ve preached that an independent franchisee association is in the best interest of all franchise owners—sometimes to no avail. Recently I came across an old poem that speaks to the importance of prevention, “The Ambulance Down in the Valley,” by Joseph Malins (1895). I want to provide some relevant citations here as it may have some application in the context of DDIFO.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed, though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped a duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done, but their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,” some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

Earlier this year, DDIFO undertook its annual review of the 2016 Dunkin’ Franchise Agreement, to ensure that we are aware of any changes and how they would impact franchisees. Our analysis found many significant changes to the franchise agreement and other important documents.

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day, for it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true, but each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff; and the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence, but an ambulance down in the valley.
While some changes will insulate the brand from the new “joint employer” ruling, others are more far reaching and limit your independence as a franchisee.
“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said, “And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much as the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred, quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff, with their ambulance down in the valley.

But the reality is that their unilateral changes went far beyond protecting Dunkin’ from the new joint-employer definition. In fact, in certain situations, Dunkin’ reserved the right to force you to move your location or forfeit your renewal, even if you own your current location. Similarly, the new agreement expanded the brand’s right of first refusal in the case of transfers to include other assets beyond the franchise—assets like your real estate.

Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me that people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause, when they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he, “Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense with the ambulance down in the valley.

In the case of a termination under the new provisions, Dunkin’ said it would pay franchisees the original cost of furniture, fixtures and equipment, less depreciation computed on a straight-line 10-year basis. That’s a lot of money out of your pocket.

“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined, “Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could; No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall? And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence, while the ambulance works in the valley?”

Other provisions in the 2016 Franchise Agreement expanded Dunkin’s options for finding a favorable venue and/or legal precedent in the event of a termination, essentially requiring you to submit to arbitration instead of seeking justice in court. Yet, at the same time, Dunkin’ can elect to pursue any dispute in court if it chooses. And, since the agreement says you have to indemnify the company, you would likely wind up paying their legal costs anyway.

But the sensible few, who are practical too, will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure, and their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen, and while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence on the cliff that hangs over the valley.

The changes cited here – and others – which Dunkin’ Brands made without the input of its franchisee community, or its Brand Advisory Council, have now been shelved while a process is worked out to negotiate future revisions to the document. But it’s important to note, those changes made unilaterally by the brand would still be in effect, and you would be signing that new franchise agreement today had DDIFO not undertaken its annual review. The new document was halted specifically because this organization not only exists to protect franchisee interests; it also identifies and publicizes those changes. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a number of them were also incorporated in other operable documents and hence, are now in force.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old, for the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best to prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff than an ambulance down in the valley.

No doubt, there will be a process developed over the coming months that will involve some franchise owner representation. One of the many questions that will accompany that process is will they want to strengthen the fence or gas up the ambulance.

Ed Shanahan
DDIFO Executive Director