Franchisor Executive Addresses House Panel on Franchise Operations

Today, a panel of industry, labor and legal representatives gathered in the Rayburn House Office Building to testify before the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The hearing entitled, “What Should Workers and Employers Expect Next from the National Labor Relations Board?” concerned the NLRB’s propositions that may affect the business climate for businesses of all sizes, including many franchise businesses.  Of particular interest during the hearing was the issue of joint-employer status, which if applied to franchising would have drastic consequences.  As Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) noted in his opening remarks, “A standard has been in place for 30 years to determine when two employers share immediate and direct control over essential terms and conditions of employment … This isn’t a new concept, so the board’s recent solicitation [for clarification on the definition of joint-employers] is highly suspect and strongly suggests it’s eager to abandon existing policies in favor of a new standard more favorable to union interests.”

While the Chairman’s concern was shared by many members of the Committee, it was the testimony from Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) and IFA Board Member that drove home the message regarding the harmful effects of joint-employers status on franchising.  During his testimony, Mr. Puzder articulated that the relationship between franchisors and franchisees is one of mutual benefit, but separate operation.  Ranking Member John Tierney (D-MA) posed a series of questions to clarify the relationship, “Do Franchisees generally hire people? … Same with firing? … Same with disciplining?” To all of these, Mr. Puzder delivered an affirmative yes, signaling that the franchisees truly do manage their own businesses at every turn.  To assert that franchisors completely mandate how franchisees run their businesses an insult to the thousands of entrepreneurs who have utilized the resources that the franchising model provides them to go into business for themselves.

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Mr. Puzder went on to note that labeling franchisors as joint employers would drastically alter the employment landscape.  While CKE and its franchisees are responsible for over 70,000 jobs in the United States, joint-employer status would require massive oversight on CKE’s behalf, meaning less autonomy for franchisees and increased costs for the franchisor to monitor the employment process and administrative overhead.  Not only would this convolute the hiring process and discourage expanding employment, but it would also take away the equity franchisees created in their own business.

Joint employer status is an important issue for those in the franchise community, which is why the International Franchise Association will continue to uphold the mutually beneficial business model of franchising.  Rather than cater to special interests and politically-motivated unions, the NLRB should protect hard-working business owners and the thousands that they employ.

Please click here to view today’s hearing.

Franchising Poised for Robust Growth in 2014

Franchise businesses continue to power up the U.S. economy and two just-released reports explain why.

FRANdata’s The Small Business Lending Matrix & Analysis finds that the industry’s perennial lending shortfall – the difference between projected loan demand and loan supply – will likely be cut in half this year, positioning the franchise industry for robust growth. IHS Global Insight’s Franchise Business Outlook reports that franchise industry growth has outperformed the overall economy for the past six years. Both reports are prepared for the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation.

“With seven out of 10 franchise business lines adding jobs faster than the private sector at-large, the franchise business model continues to provide jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for workers and entrepreneurs in sectors as diverse as hotels, auto, business and personal services and restaurants,” said IFA Pres. & CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE.  “One reason for this success is that credit is steadily becoming more available for franchise expansion.”

Here are a few key findings:

  • Franchise demand from both new and existing franchisees is expected to exceed 73,800 unit transactions in 2014. This represents a 12.4 percent increase in demand over 2013 and an 18.8 percent increase over 2012. (FRANdata)
  • To satisfy this demand, franchise businesses will require $29.4 billion in lending. Of this demand, banks will make $28.1 billion available. These funds will provide financing for 70,500 unit transactions, which will create or maintain more than 1 million jobs and support $138 billion of annualized economic output. (FRANdata)
  • Franchise employment is expected to increase by 2.6 percent in 2014, faster than the 2.5 percent growth in 2013 and outpacing projected total employment growth in the United States by 0.8 percentage points. (IHS Global Insight)

Franchises are expected to add 221,000 new jobs in 2014. Moreover, with 2.6 percent employment growth, franchises are adding jobs faster in 2014 than 2013 and outpacing projected total employment growth in the United States by 0.8 percentage points. (IHS Global Insight).

Find an updated Economic Outlook Infographic and release for more details.

IFA Members come together for IFA’s Second Annual California Franchising Day at the Sacramento Capitol

On March 4, IFA brought together over 25 member franchisors and franchisees for our second annual Franchising Day at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Among the brands represented were, California Closets, CKE Restaurants, The Entrepreneur Authority, Franchise Services Inc., FranNet, Glass Doctor, Home Instead Senior Care, Interim HealthCare, IHOP, McDonald’s, Mr. Rooter, Plumbing Md, ARCO ampm, Instant Imprints, The UPS Store, Marriott, Yum! Brands, Schlotzsky’s and more.

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The wide array of brands and industries represented at the event helped drive the message to policymakers that franchising has a significant economic impact in California, which continues to thrive in the current regulatory climate due to the partnership that exists between franchisees and franchisors.

Mark Justice, EVP & COO, MR. Stax, Inc., an IHOP franchisee based in Valencia, echoed the importance of being engaged in IFA’s advocacy efforts. “An eye-opening experience! Not only did we influence and educate our state’s lawmakers about the franchise business model, we walked away with a better understanding of the political process in California.”

Attendees heard from several Committee Chairs and leadership from both parties in the morning as well as Nancy McFadden, a top advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, before breaking into smaller groups for more than 40 meetings with individual legislators throughout the afternoon. The meetings were a resounding success.

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Chris Mesker of The Entrepreneur Authority in Sacramento explained, “It was clear to me that our legislators were interested in learning how franchising is really geared for the small business owner vs. large corporation. Getting the opportunity to educate them on the business model and economic impact was a huge step in having them understand how vital we are to the fabric of California. The impact we made was very apparent. It was a great day and I can’t wait to be involved moving forward.”

During the meetings, attendees shared stories about their businesses and the importance of  franchise businesses in California and the nearly one million jobs they create. In a proactive approach, IFA and its members made the most of their time with legislators, advocating on behalf of this proven business model.

“Without the face-to-face legislative interaction with the IFA and its members, many legislators and their staff would have no exposure to franchising and a limited understanding of this small business employment engine,” said Don Conger, of Financial Services, Inc., the franchisor of Sir Speedy and TeamLogicIT, among other brands based in Mission Viejo.

Driving this message home was Don Higginson of The UPS Store in San Diego. “The jury is out on franchising. This business model has been around nearly 50 years now and has flourished under the current regulatory system.”

In conjunction with the event, an op-ed by IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira and Mr. Rooter of Sonoma County franchisee Saunda Kitchen appeared in Fox & Hounds, entitled “Franchise Business is a Team Sport”. The op-ed provides a unique look into how franchising allows entrepreneurs to go into business for themselves, but not by themselves with the support of a franchise system.

Moving forward, IFA will continue its outreach and engagement in California inviting legislators to in-district meetings and roundtables this spring and summer.

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The slippery slope of government intruding on contracts in franchising…and beyond

 

 

This week, Maine is set to hold a hearing on so-called “Fair Franchising” legislation (LD 1458). This legislation, like many others, opens up a Pandora’s Box of ambiguity in contract terms that threaten the basic and proven tenets of the franchise business model, which is all about maintaining the brand, and would leave both the franchisee and the franchisor liable for potential litigation down the road.

The result?  More franchisors and franchisees will be fighting lawsuits versus working together to grow their businesses, add jobs and make the U.S. economy stronger.  Meanwhile, consumers would have a less consistent experience at franchise locations.

The International Franchise Association is working to educate lawmakers in Maine (and elsewhere) about why LD 1458 has damaging provisions that would harm the franchising industry and the 74,100 jobs it supports at 3,674 franchised locations in Maine, which pump $7.4 billion annually into the Maine economy.  Now is a good time to remind folks why IFA is fundamentally opposed to further government regulation of franchising.  The word “further” is a key point here, as the franchising industry is already highly regulated by government at both the state and federal levels, by commercial contract law, state investment law and nationally by the Federal Trade Commission.  Additional regulation is not only bad for business, but it’s bad for the free enterprise, market-driven system that our great nation was founded upon.

To be sure, going into business is inherently risky.  However, without risk, there would be no opportunity for success.  When a person starts a business of any kind, there is a risk of failure, and there is perhaps a greater risk that things won’t work out exactly as planned or envisioned.  Is that fair?  One could argue that it depends on your perspective.

With franchising, due to the contractual nature of the model, there are adequate opportunities for both parties to assess through due diligence the risk before a contract is executed.  The franchisor can evaluate the prospective franchisee and ask questions about if he or she is financially qualified, will be a good operator, and will follow the franchisor’s operating system.  The franchisee gets a detailed disclosure document with information about the franchisor, its business history, and its financials.  The franchise contract spells out the obligation of both parties to each other for the term of the agreement.  At the end of the day, both the franchisor and franchisee can make the decision to sign the agreement or not.

So what are some of the consequences of these so-called Fair Franchise bills?  With regard to Maine, there are several provisions that are very problematic and damaging to the franchise industry.  For instance, franchisors could not terminate, cancel, or fail to renew franchisees for refusing to take part in promotional campaigns for the products or services of the franchise that promote profitability.  That means non-compliant franchisees could benefit from advertising funds contributed by other franchisees who are following the system.  Franchisees also would be exempt from selling approved products from approved suppliers, which could jeopardize consistency and quality affecting the integrity of the brand.  We hear from franchisees that they want the brand protected as much if not more than the franchisors as it has a direct impact on their success.  These negative consequences hurt both the franchisor and franchisees.

In most cases, the root cause of tensions in franchise relationships is due to communication and transparency breakdowns.  Franchisees who feel they are being treated unfairly are encouraged to leverage the many mechanisms in place within the overwhelming majority of franchise systems to work together with the franchisor to resolve issues.  Franchisors ought to be transparent and consult with their franchisees when implementing a new relationship with a vendor, or implementing a new policy across a system and show franchisees why it will ultimately help them.

Franchising works when franchisees are profitable.  If franchisees don’t make money, franchisors don’t grow their system, don’t expand their royalties, and they certainly don’t create the jobs this country desperately needs.  In most systems, communication is very good between franchisees and franchisors.  IFA encourages all of its members to abide by its Code of Ethics, and while not a self-governing body, we believe the best course of action when tensions or disputes arise is through a private dispute resolution, before any legal action is taken.

An IFA-commissioned task force of leading franchisees and franchisors formed last fall is working toward the completion of a core set of principles that it believes franchise businesses should abide by to stave off conflict.  Fundamentally, their intention is to avoid conflict from the get-go by promoting transparency in franchise agreements and trust in franchise relationships.  If things do go wrong, mechanisms should be in place that are understood at the beginning of the contract phase by both parties to address the concerns.

IFA will continue to work to identify best practices to better the industry.  Litigation should always be a last course of action.  Government intrusion in a private right to contract is unnecessary, and will only result in unintended consequences for both franchisors and franchisees.

For more information about the consequences this legislation could have on the economy in Maine, click here

NLRB Allows Deadline to Pass, Will Not Challenge Employee Rights Poster Ruling

Last May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had overstepped its authority and infringed upon employers’ free speech rights when it issued a regulation requiring employers to put up a poster in workplaces with an unbalanced and biased overview of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The employer community prevailed in this suit, brought by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW). It also prevailed in a suit brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the Board’s petition to reconsider its decision that the NLRB lacked the authority to require the poster.

Last Friday, the deadline for the NLRB to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the DC Circuit’s decision passed, effectively ending the debate on the issue that sparked outrage from the employer community.

“The IFA is pleased that the NLRB has declined to challenge the appeals court’s decision to invalidate the employee rights poster requirement,” IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira said in a statement. “The NLRB was wise not to appeal a decision that swiftly and unambiguously rejected the Board’s aggressive overstepping of its authority in requiring an unbalanced workers’ rights notice that deprives employers of their free speech rights and misguides the workers it was designed to inform.”

Although the employer community is still at odds with the NLRB over other significant regulations and decisions, it appears that the threat of the employee rights poster has been neutralized. IFA remains committed in its advocacy for workforce policies that benefit both workers and employers, and stands prepared to protect the franchise business model from such ill-conceived and damaging labor regulations as those promulgated by the NLRB.