Trade Show activism: Counterspin the Lies on their Selling Field

franchiseshowThis ad appeared in today’s Toronto Star.

Just a few points:

1. Contrary to the heading, you do not “buy” a franchise. You sink cash into this type of business opportunity and hope to achieve a salary and ROI over the life of your license of using the trademark using a promised “proven system”.

2. Small business is always a lot harder than you’d ever think. It takes years to develop the technical, management and decision making skills to be a success. Often the cash burn rate in franchising is so great that you never get to see profitable times: You simply flame out too early.

3. Your first contact with a trademark franchise system should never be at  a trade show. You are at a very big disadvantage at a trade show: they control the atmosphere, appear much more successful than they actually are and give the false sense of being in a group of profitable businesses.

Big Show costing Big Dough: National franchise associations such as the Canadian Franchise Association rely very heavily on the revenue that these shows deliver. These types of shows are ground-zero in the subtle and not-so subtle art of persuading mom and pop investors that the next franchise will make them a millionaire.

In 1998, I showed up with a CBC television crew to the fall CFA show. We handed out pamphlets warning attendees, intercepted the minister as he was exiting from his franchisor rah-rah speech (the last time an Ontario minister showed up, I think) and barged our way into the trade show to get some grip-and-grin footage with thinly smiling salespeople.

  • The CFA and their supporters were not amused.
  • Everyone pays a lot of money to bamboozle the next chump.
  • They certainly don’t need anyone coming to piss on their parade.

Their carefully planned PR news puff piece, was turned inside out: Toronto viewers instead saw a be careful of the predators out there story instead.

I guess it was predictable that Dan Farmer of the Royal Bank of Canada would insist that I never show up at another franchise trade show if I wanted financial support for the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators. I kept my word although I never saw $1 from any of the 5 banks that financially underlay all Canadian franchising.

In 1998 we had to convince a television editor to assign a reporter, a videographer, record, edit and then air the results. Tough getting media attention because franchise fraud is pegged as a niche audience item.

A little over 10 years later, someone just needs to:

  1. slip a digital camera in their jacket,
  2. record a few clips,
  3. use free edit software,and
  4. create and post YouTube video (I’ve already reserved a FranchiseFool channel, btw) that shows examples of how franchise salesmen openly lie at a trade show because the franchise agreements that give them a License to Lie, Cheat and Steal (kudos to Blue MauMau) from mom and pop investors.

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