Mr. Robert Purvin, chair of the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers, sits down with Blue MauMau to discuss the importance of franchise owners to band together to form an independent franchisee association to act on their behalf. The AAFD, a trade group representing the interests of some 50,000 franchise owners of numerous franchisee associations, stresses promoting a collaborative franchise culture between franchisor and franchisee.
Purvin states that he is a believer in the franchise model. “When it works right, the franchise model is free enterprise at its best,” he declares.
BMM: What are the benefits of participating in an independent franchisee association?
Purvin: I have to say that there are franchisee associations and there are franchisee associations. Some can be destructive, while some can be very constructive. Just to say any association is a panacea would be a mistake. There are risks to forming an association. Your franchisor may be dead set against it, no matter what you do. There are franchise systems that literally prohibit franchisees from talking to other franchisees — if they learn that you contacted somebody else to ask, “What’s going on?”, there are repercussions.
But generally speaking franchisees coming together for the purpose of sharing their passion for the brand, to improving the brand, to engaging the franchisor in constructive dialogue for their own benefit but also for the benefit of the franchisor is a wonderful thing for everybody concerned. But when a franchisee association comes together, packages themselves as a valuable asset of a franchise, markets themselves to the franchisor as a valuable asset, engages the franchisor in the way that I encourage, which is to engage the franchisor by understanding the franchisor’s pain, and becoming a solution for the franchisor’s pain in exchange for the recognition of needs that the franchisees have. In that context clearly, any franchisee that participates in that association is going to reap benefits.
BMM: Aren’t many franchisees often motivated to band together because they’re angry, there’s a crisis, and they want their problem resolved right away?
Purvin: Yes, when a group comes together in crisis, the resolution of that crisis dominates. It may resolve well, it may resolve poorly, but it will resolve. If that association’s sole underpinning is that crisis, it won’t last.
The AAFD thinks associations are valuable tools and should last. Early on we try to demonstrate to all of our groups the value of coming together.
One of our chapters came up with the idea, which we have communicated to other chapters, something we call the Member’s Advantage. It’s a very simple thing where we do conferences — usually teleconferences. We invite franchisees to come. But they have to pay admission. The admission is that they come with an idea, a problem, a question, something that they want to share with their fellow franchisees, and dialogue with them to try to solve. They can share a new idea, they can try to solve a problem, but everybody who comes to the call has to come with their admission payment, and they have to pay it when they sign up. We go through on a two-, two-and-a-half- hour call. Depending on how many items there are, we have. 3 to 10 minutes to discuss it. If the item has merit, the group votes and they put it to a task force and they go to work on it. I frequently suggest to franchisee groups to invite the franchisor to this call as a listener. This is the franchisee’s hour. But the franchisors can get as much worth out of it as the franchisee groups do.
When we do that call, everybody on that call comes away knowing the answer to your question. 90% of the people on that call say, the dues we paid to join that association was fully earned in the last two hours. Because they will get 10-12 ideas. The item is put into a queue to achieve resolution. So the power of the network is that together everybody achieves more.
Franchisees often say, “We want to light the torches and storm the castle.” When groups come to me they typically tell me, “We want to hire lawyers, we want to file a lawsuit, we’re mad as hell, we’re not going to take it anymore.”
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