IFA Educational Foundation Announces new CFE scholarship program



John Reynolds, CFE, President of the IFA Educational Foundation and Shelly Sun, CFE, CEO & Co-Founder of BrightStar Franchising, LLC  announced today the establishment of the CFE Women’s Executive Scholarship Fund. This scholarship is funded through the generous support of BrightStar Franchising, LLC. The stipend will be for $2,500 to be applied toward the tuition for programs offered for ICFE credit. The scholarship will be awarded to a woman franchise executive currently enrolled in the CFE program.  The total amount of the scholarship must be used within a 3-year period.  Amounts not used are returned to the scholarship fund. 

“We are tremendously grateful for the support and leadership demonstrated by Shelly Sun and BrightStar in funding this scholarship opportunity,” said John Reynolds.  Shelly Sun added that “The Certified Franchise Executives (CFE) program was so beneficial in my franchising education and taught me how to do franchising right.  I was struck by the small number of women leaders in franchising and felt it was appropriate as a woman and a CFE to help other women achieve their potential.”

For information about the scholarship visit www.franchise.org/cfe.aspx.

IFA member speaks to the House Small Business Committee


As the Washington Post reported, IFA member Jamie Smith, franchisee of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Greater Baltimore testified on behalf of IFA yesterday on the rising cost of gasoline.  Speaking to the House Small Business Committee Jamie focused on how the high costs are having an adverse impact on the bottom line of franchise small business owners. 

“Since opening my operation in 2010, I have seen a 29 percent increase in fuel prices, at a time when my sales and revenues have declined,” said Smith in his written testimony. “As a small business owner, I cannot leverage economies of scale to absorb cost increases like larger corporations. Absorbing these costs drastically affects my bottom line. I ask American policymakers to immediately invest in strategies for increased energy production, greater use of our existing resources and promotion of alternative energy options like natural gas and hybrid electric vehicles.”

While the majority of the hearing was dominated by testimony as to the cause of the rising fuel prices, Mr. Smith pointed out that the government inaction is overlooked in its role in exacerbating and prolonging the problem.  “Right now, with the gridlock and the red tape, what’s not happening is making sure there’s a plan in place to help the economy, help businesses, and help families”, he said.”

To view the full testimony click here and to see the full hearing video click here.

The secrets to a successful franchise



Franchising is part of a multi-billion dollar industry and for many entrepreneurs’s the chance to open their own business is a dream.  Mary Caraccioli, host of Mary Talks Money, a syndicated program, recently spoke with two franchise owners of Buffalo Wild Wings and IFA Board member and franchise attorney Lane Fisher about the secrets to the franchise business model. 

Bobby Pancake and Steve Wheat began at the corporate level of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, but soon realized their dream of becoming their own boss and owning their own stores.  They put together a business plan and with the support of Buffalo Wild Wings opened their first store in Delaware. 

With plans to open five stores in five years, the partners turned to the U.S. Small Business Administration to help finance their first three locations.  “If you’re just starting out as a start-up you are probably going to need the back of an SBA or another institution”, explains Pancake.  In charge of 500 employees now and exceeding their original goal with recently opening their 6th store, the partners were invited to speak with President Obama in Washington to discuss small business issues.  “We talked about raising the loan limits of the SBA, which would be beneficial to us as well as others in the industry,” Wheat states. 

Lane Fisher, Partner at FisherZucker, agrees the franchise model is a a thriving industry, given the growth the industry experienced in the last decade, outpacing growth of non-franchised businesses.  “Franchisees have access not only to a business model that works, but a recognized trade mark of the brand,” Fisher says. “The franchisor offers skills, education and marketing to help the franchisee succeed.” 

Fisher points out that “you should find a business that is going to compliment your own skill set” and IFA’s website (franchise.org) has a variety of self tests that can help determine if franchising is the right choice for you.   

For more information about franchising visit IFA’s website by clicking here. 

To view the full clip from the episode click here.

CEO of FASTSIGNS International learns from her employees on UNDERCOVER BOSS


Catherine Monson thought leaving her friends and family behind in Southern California in 2009 to assume the role of FASTSIGNS International CEO would be the hardest venture she would ever endure.  But as Catherine assumed the identity of Louise and went undercover in her own company on CBS’ Undercover Boss she soon discovered it “was a lot harder than my real job.”   

FASTSIGNS International is an industry leader for signs and graphic solutions.  Yet even with 530 locations, an annual revenue of $300 million and 4,000 employees, Monson knew she wanted to go undercover “to learn what training and resources need to be put in place to become the ideal company.”

Through her journey of four different visits to the various arms that keep her company running, Monson not only took away improvements that could be made to compete with other companies, but “a new appreciation for our workers and the passion that they have for what they do.” 

But the most important lesson Catherine learned from going undercover didn’t come from scaling above a building to apply letters, learning how to conduct a site visit or seeing how the production area is able to keep up with the demand. It came from admiring the inspiration and passion that these workers balance in their lives.  “To be the best CEO possible I need to continue to do the things I am passionate about in life and in turn make the work place better for our employees.” 

From personal growth to professional lessons, Monson is grateful she had the opportunity to interact with the different aspects of FASTSIGNS and it reminded her why she became CEO three years ago.  “This experience not only made me a better CEO but a better person and has truly enriched my life.”

To view Catherine Monson’s full episode on Undercover Boss click here.

SBA lenders feature franchising



Small business loan volume ticked down slightly in April, according to a new report by Biz2Credit, spurring members of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders and the National Association of Development Companies to focus on franchising and other ways to increase small business lending and job creation at their conferences May 1-4 in Orlando.

The Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index found that loan approvals by big banks (those with more than $10 billion in assets) dropped from 10.9% in March to 10.6% in April. In March 2011, the approval rate was 11.6%.

“There’s still a gap out there,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills, addressing both groups. “But I’m very pleased at what we have done together. We have made record loan guarantees and enabled record dollars to be lent. We have helped 60,000 small businesses.”

Mills referenced a Culver’s franchisee who used a 504 loan to open a new business in 2009. “Then it was, ‘that loan saved my business.’ Now he’s looking to open a second location. That’s a big change from 2009,” said Mills, a self-described fan of franchising.

“We need to work together to keep these important programs going,” said NADCO CEO Chris Crawford. Before 500 attendees gathered for the Keynote address, delivered by IFA’s Beth Solomon, Crawford asked for a show of hands of lenders who had completed franchise loans. Every hand in the room went up.

Noting that the 504 program has led to over $15 billion in franchise project lending over a decade, Solomon thanked the NADCO lenders for their support. “Together, we are going to build an even stronger and better partnership going forward, and lead our economy and this great country to a better future,” Solomon said.

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