Great souls demand alliance

November 24, 2009

[franchisees] …a people so primitive they did not know how to get money, except by working for it.

Great souls by instinct to each other turn,
Demand alliance, and in friendship burn;
A sudden friendship, while with stretched-out rays
They meet each other, mingling blaze with blaze.
Polished in courts, and hardened in the field,
Renowned for conquest, and in council skilled,
Their courage dwells not in a troubled flood
Of mounting spirits, and fermenting blood:
Lodged in the soul, with virtue overruled,
Inflamed by reason, and by reason cooled,
In hours of peace content to be unknown.
And only in the field of battle shown:
To souls like these, in mutual friendship joined,
Heaven dares intrust the cause of humankind.

— The Campaign (1704)

Blessings may appear under the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let him have patience, and he will see them in their proper figures.

The Fear of Death often proves Mortal, and sets People on Methods to save their Lives, which infallibly destroy them.

What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the human soul.

Some virtues are only seen in affliction and some in prosperity.

Man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter.

It is only imperfection that complains of what is imperfect. The more perfect we are the more gentle and quiet we become towards the defects of others.

The greatest sweetener of human life is friendship. To raise this to the highest pitch of enjoyment, is a secret which but few discover.

If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.

Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Joseph Addison


So long you loser hosers.

November 12, 2009

AustralianFriendNot much time today, I’m afraid.

I’m busy putting my house in order.

I’ve applied for a job in Australia.

When the Holy Franchise Empire collapses:

  • which country will be the last to shatter like a crystal vase? (the Excited States of America)
  • which country will be second last? (Canuckistan)
  • the first?

My peers are setting a banquet here, here, here, here, and (especially) here.

Oh how I will enjoy the bugs…

I always thought an ombuds function would be quickly corrupted by the usual suspects.

Go figure: I was wrong once in my life ;-)

Commonwealth means recognizing wealth as a common good, to some degree. My Dad always spoke very well of these people


There’s a Darkness on the Edge of Franchising

September 19, 2009

ForestshadowEverything’s that is real has a shadow.

Doesn’t it?

Talking about the dark shouldn’t threaten the very core of the light side.

Should it?

Being cast out/ inside your life is a fearful place. Some realize:

  • others have gone before them,
  • you have new found companions if you choose to see, and
  • the trail inward always appears as a journey.

Shake the cobwebs from your mind.

Wake up from your sleepwalk, regain your footing, and use your new knowledge for the tribe. Take heart and have faith.

It’s just about time.


Franchise veterans: A separate, definite, dark people?

August 22, 2009

HaroldInnisMarginalManBeing born into a military family creates certain biases.

The words duty, honour, respect, authority, faith, fidelity: these were the ideas I swam in as a child. Sure, looking back they’re hopelessly naive but those were the times. On the mean streets of big cities, yeah, it’s changed but not so much elsewhere.

I blurted these biases out when I had my 3 x 15 minutes of legislative fame. I’ve been trying to find the “off” switch for franchise conflict since 1998, with first-hand experience from 1972.

Soldier 1: I grew up, where indeed I sit this morning,  living next door to a WWI veteran named Charles Day. He was a retired forester by the 1960s and we were great chums. I remember him with tremendous love and fondness.

There was a friendship between my dad and Mr. Day that I never quite understood. Mr. Day was a very good neighbour, especially when my brother died but I think it was something else. Maybe all wars create a type of fraternity that reaches across time and space. whatever…

Soldier 2: Harold Innis (1894-1952) is considered one of Canada’s most original thinkers.

From the 1930s to 50s, he was a titan of international political economy scholarship based out of the University of Toronto. His influence was so great that he was referred to then as simply “Innis of Canada”. While his early staples theory established his reputation, it will probably be his communications research that will endure as well as his profound influence on his U of T colleague, Marshall McLuhan. For all of their fame, wealth and accomplishments, both men felt profoundly, frustratingly marginalized men.

Innis’s personality was forged in the mud and blood and stupidity of Vimy Ridge. The Great War changed Canada and a generation of her men. Innis was no different. This dirt poor ministry-bound farm boy lost his religion and came to loathe unthinking authority.

Men seldom talked then.

Men seldom talk now. Some veterans try to put their experiences into words.

Watson quotes Will Bird in A Terrible Beauty: The Art of Canada at War (Robertson):

[We] were all ‘old timers,’ the men of the trenches … We were prisoners, prisoners who could never escape. I had been trying to imagine how I would express my feelings when I got home, and now I knew I never could, none of us could. We could no more make ourselves articulate than could those who would not return; we were in a world apart, prisoners, in chains that would never loosen till death free us.

An I knew that those at home would never understand. They would be impatient, wondering why we were so dumb, unable to put our experiences into words, and there would be many of the boys who would be surly, taciturn, moody … We, of the brotherhood, could understand the soldier, but never explain him. All of us would remain a separate, definite people, as if branded by a monstrous despotism.

Humans process all sources of trauma in the same way. The injury is invisible but very real and long-lasting, as it was for Innis. Fraud shakes your whole life because the your assumptions of a benevolent, just world are shattered like a 4 foot fluorescent light. For those of us who have investigated up our society’s authority pyramids, the dangers are even greater because when you’re looking into black pits, they look back into you.

Soldier 3?: Mr. Bird expresses my experiences in franchising very accurately.

I know I am alone in thinking of themselves as a separate, definite people.


Beware of people in white bathrobes with free biscuits…

June 18, 2009

AqualungRay Borradale from Australia has some advice for all of us on Blue MauMau today:

“Beware of people in white bathrobes with free biscuits…”

This is my best guess at an Australian/Canadian translation.

I had a chance to see Ian Anderson in the ’70s but I didn’t go.

This is classic album that deserves a listen. It evokes Ian Anderson‘s emotions of guilt over homelessness, dread, lechery and danger.

No wonder I hated the ’80s so much.

Aqualung, Jethro Tull
Sitting on a park bench
eyeing little girls with bad intent.
Snot running down his nose
greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Drying in the cold sun
Watching as the frilly panties run.
Feeling like a dead duck
spitting out pieces of his broken luck.

Sun streaking cold
an old man wandering lonely.
Taking time
the only way he knows.
Leg hurting bad,
as he bends to pick a dog-end
he goes down to the bog
and warms his feet.

Feeling alone
the army’s up the rode
salvation à la mode and
a cup of tea.
Aqualung my friend
don’t start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see, it’s only me.
Do you still remember
December’s foggy freeze
when the ice that
clings on to your beard is
screaming agony.
And you snatch your rattling last breaths
with deep-sea-diver sounds,
and the flowers bloom like
madness in the spring.

Sun streaking cold
an old man wandering lonely.
Taking time
the only way he knows.
Leg hurting bad,
as he bends to pick a dog-end
he goes down to the bog
and warms his feet.

Feeling alone
the army’s up the rode
salvation à la mode and
a cup of tea.
Aqualung my friend
don’t start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see, it’s only me.

Aqualung my friend
don’t start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see, it’s only me.


Masters and their apprentices have no interest in understanding let alone fixing someone else’s freedom problems

May 31, 2009

AmInotamanOnly those that care would risk looking like a fool.

On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No ! No ! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm ; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher ; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen ; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present ! I am in earnest. I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch. AND I WILL BE HEARD.

Elaine Landou, Fleeing to Freedom on the Underground Railroad, Page 25

Social justice may be found in religion but it is an individual’s choice to turn away.

Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877) was an American Quaker, abolitionist, and businessman. Coffin was deeply involved in the Underground Railroad in Indiana and Ohio and his home is often called “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad”. He was nicknamed “President of the Underground Railroad” because of the thousands of slaves that are reported to have passed through his care while escaping their masters. Wikipedia

It takes toughness and competence to help others.

Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. After escaping from slavery, into which she was born, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves[1] using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women’s suffrage.

Harriet Tubman, widely known and well-respected while she was alive, became an American icon in the years after she died. A survey at the end of the twentieth century named her as one of the most famous civilians in American history before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere.[152] She inspired generations of African Americans struggling for equality and civil rights; she was praised by leaders across the political spectrum. Wikipedia

Every community requires writers.

Frederick Douglass (1818  – 1895) was an American abolitionist, women’s suffragist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer. Called “The Sage of Anacostia” and “The Lion of Anacostia”, Douglass is one of the most prominent figures in African-American and United States history. Wikipedia

No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they get. If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. Douglass quotes


People forget immediately what you tell them: They’ll never forget how you made them feel

May 29, 2009

GulliverPeople think that small business is mostly about money.

  • Wrong. Wrong. And then Wrong again.

It isn’t and it’s never been about that and only fools believe that and  operate that way. I should know because I lead that foolish parade when I was younger.

As a younger man, I was always looking out for what others could do for me. I thought what was important was to develop your leadership skills (command: top-down), drive yourself and others hard as hell and then wait collect the cash and laurels.

That maybe good for other people but hanging around franchisees has spoiled my “career” plans for good. You all know who the hell you are but it started with McTed and Liz in 1972 and an Ivey MBA’ll give you a snootful of crack ambition.

Groups run on trust like a car runs on gas. Trust needs to be earned by an executive and his/her advisors. Trust consistently accumulated by under-promising and over-delivering will win the hearts of every thinking franchisee within a system. The rest, Who wants to babysit them anyways?

  • The more cynical, wary, SOB a franchisee is, the better I like them.
  • It takes me precisely 30 seconds for me to relate to total strangers.
  • I relate because of a shared desire for a dignified life.

Being nickel and dimed to death, constantly driven to distraction by morons at head office, being treated as a employee, babysitting the newest field flunky…all of these things wear a person down.  It’s what grinds you down, what makes you into a zombie human being in all aspects of your life.

Ever wonder why there are so many divorces around you? Franchising is a technology that influences your CPU. It’s like a never-ending and -mutating email virus planted in your ear which screws up all  your significant relationships. It isn’t designed to do that directly but any software written on an operating system of control, power and authority has that effect on the psyche.  It can’t shake it’s fascist, top-down, triangulated origins.

Leadership Challenge: People need to know that you care first. And then maybe they’ll give a shit how much you know.

Groups of franchisees are groups of people first and businesspeople second. Build trust and then use that goodwill as a tool to secure your economics. You can’t do it for-profit first. People (husbands, wives and children) see through that illusion.

  1. You work to live or
  2. You’re a franchisor (or aspire to be just like one).

Smart franchisee groups should be structured as circles primarily, not phoney-baloney triangles.


Don’t name your franchisee group after your Daddy

May 28, 2009

WardCleaver

It’s just boring.

And a franchisee’s life is a lot of things but very frequently, boring is not one of those things

Franchisees often show zero insight into their group’s primary function (creating trust, building fraternity, co-operating) when they name their groups.

Not only do they frequently use the tradename that their franchisor owns (a bloody minefield, mate) they try to cozy up to Big Daddy Franchisor (the wise, June-loving and benevolent Ward Cleaver in this example) by a using a pseudo-corporate handle that means as little as The Suits would choose.

  • Why not name it “Bob” or “Waldo” or “13″?

At least these reflect some originality and certain independent thought processes. Think what the white guys would do and don’t do the opposite: do something that is neither this or that.

  • Try to stand out, ok?
  • You’re kind of in the freedom business: Why not use your freedom to not tweak anyone’s nose but to support each other?
  • The name is just for the franchisees’ use anyway and they’ll abbreviate it almost immediately to suit their needs anyway.

JK: A franchisee leader’s job is to throw out the toys in the franchisee group’s junior kindergarten classroom and see what everyone wants to play with.

  1. Do they like blogs? Blogs it is.
  2. Regional/national meetings? Those can be good.
  3. Equity within co-op buying?
  4. How about YouTube videos? Got those too.
  5. Entries on WikidFranchise.org? Okay.
  6. A facebook page? Promotional items?
  7. Twitter?

The name is just the frame on the picture. It’s the activities (and the goodwill that is created) that will make or break any not for-profit social club. Not the Brand in capital letters.

Don’t get me wrong: A brand and communication expert is critical to a LFN success. They just have to be so good that they know which rules to break when they’re dealing with the Davids (and not setting up bait for the Goliaths).

For an example watch this branding problem video dressed up in 1st century Rome. Notice how ridiculous a guerrilla cell (which is the organizational equivalent of a leaderless franchisee network, btw) looks if they name themselves in a phoney baloney way.

Don’t try to out-Roman the Roman empire.

Now a logo with the PFJ might have some legs. And splitter groups are more than welcomed.


Franchisees close down because of Learned Helplessness

May 28, 2009

AloneI had mentioned a concept called learned helplessness before.

Not only does it bear repeating but it is key to understanding why franchisee groups are so pathetic.

Listen: You’re responding to an environment that has profound ways for shaping your thinking.

Your despair is an important byproduct of franchising. A caged bird will yearn for the bars over time. A slave will only define themselves in those terms.

Learned helplessness is a:

…term in animal psychology and related human psychology means a condition of a human being or an animal in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation. Wikipedia

Any franchisee leader will immediately understand that failure causes businesspeople to close down emotionally. This hinders everyone’s ability to trust, co-operate and make sound decisions.

The way out is to increase contact with other franchisees and their spouses so they come to appreciate that they are not nearly as stupid as some people think you’ve been.

Without an aggressive member-only focus on re-building franchisees’ confidence and interpersonal trust, all the lawyers in the world will not help franchisees.

  • The cure to 90% of what ails a franchisee is within his or her peer group.
  • The best form of a group to deliver that is one based on fraternity or social ties (Leaderless Franchise Network).

Take back Control: Regain control of the little things in their life. Reach out and build your confidence back up  through competence  in working with others in the same fix. Trust each other and forget about those that profit from a toxic workplace environment. Healing is always done one-on-one, never from top-to-bottom.

This video shows how quickly failure can corrode your abilities. Well worth the watch for anyone who has to achieve goals via others.


Digitally defending volunteer advocates

April 22, 2009

waterdepotI was told recently that I know a lot of people.

I guess I do.

But to Terry and I it’s way more important the quality of our friendships. And we are multi-millionaires in that department…sometimes like having a bucket of ice water thrown on your head: they’re so fantastic.

Technically along the way, I have learned a great deal of the value of meticulous record keeping in defending others and my family.

As a franchisee-only advocate and business consultant, I sometimes have opposed very large corporate entities that have traditionally been used to getting their own way. Tupperware was in excess of $1B in annual sales, I think.

I have learned some very specialized coping skills.

I have always represented franchisees: the 40,ooo Ontario and 76,000 Canadian small business underdogs.  I have done this as an unpaid volunteer in the face of very stiff headwind.

Closer to Home: In 2004, I worked with a Barrie franchisee of the Barrie, Ontario-based  Water Depot system. Specifically I used my knowledge to successfully make the franchisor buy the franchisee out. The franchisee was able to leave without going bankrupt. I don’t know exactly what contributed to its re-organization but I do know who first started talking about forming an independent franchisee association.

Breaking even while exiting with your credit in tact is a huge victory in a predatory business format franchising system.

To accomplish this task, I documented the legal, ethical and repuational challenges of the parties involved. I created an index of documents called a User’s Guide.

You can download a copy of the User’s Guide here.

I consult to individuals and groups and specialize in pre-litigation case preparation. I have developed a non-lawyer’s expertise regarding provincial and federal criminal, banking, civil (especially franchise) law and regulation. But  unlike franchise lawyers who are compensated 95% by franchisors, I only work for franchisees. Or I do landscaping but never both.

How careful and thorough is Les? Very. Since 1998, whenever I have experienced any job going sideways, I start recording the situation in it’s chronology and seek the advice of my long, long time friends. That we have created and had the franchise industry’s first wiki (WikidFranchise.org) shows just how careful I am in recording articles, emails, telephone conversations, etc. in a industry that controls, at times in a predatory fashion, up to 50% of retail sales in Canada ($100B) and the United States ($1T).

Richard Gibson was kind enough to review my social media approach in a recent Wall Street Journal article. I let Bro. Tony Martin, MP (ret. MPP, Sault Ste. Marie) speak to my personal integrity, sense of social justice and commitment to the disadvantaged. I even list Tony as a personal reference occasionally for those clever enough to actually call Madge in the Soo before making and breaching contracts.

This social media thing is a very effective tonic to combat selective memories, feather-bedding, conflict of interests,  and recklessly sloppy implementation of a perfectly transparent, pre-mediated, deeply cynical predatory contracting process.

  • But an honest error should never result in someone losing their job. Especially when she’s being singled-out as a scapegoat.

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