If you’re not on anti-depressants, what kind of stunned franchisee are you?

December 16, 2009

To help someone in their business life, I’ve learned that they must 1st be physcially healthy.

Franchisng can make people physically ill via the body’s natural mind/body linkages.

Stewart’s Rule Number One of Franchisee Consulting:

100% of my clients must have seen their family doctor within the last 3 months.

My spidey-sense goes off big-time when a franchisee (especially a man) says: “Don’t worry Les, I don’t need to because”

  1. I’m as healthy as a horse,
  2. I jog,
  3. Eat properly and
  4. Take my multi-vitamins each day.”

Not only do hate them for (1.)  doing what I should be doing myself or (2.) suspect them to be a huge liar but most of the times they have their head so far up their ass that my advice is likely to be lost on them, anyway. Their thinking is clouded with misplaced pride or hubris.

Reality Check: Their thinking got them on the phone talking to me in the 1st place so maybe they should learn to be a teensy-weensy less sure of themselves and their cognitive abilities? No consultant can help if their clients insist on being Unskilled and Unaware of It (Dunning-Kruger effect on Wikidpedia) of their blind-spots.

Your self-assessment abilities may be off-kilter so Go see you doctor and tell him what you’re going through.

Look for changes in these symptoms:

  1. sleep (lots more, lots less, interruptions),
  2. irritability,
  3. sex drive,
  4. property damage,
  5. long-term relationships (bring your partner along to cut through the BS), and
  6. weight.

Don’t let ignorance or stigma about your mental health prevent you from solving your “real” problems.

Canada Bread franchisees deliver tremendous value

November 25, 2009

Who would have thought that the drivers of an enormous, transnational bakery concern would be franchised?

Not me.

But I have learned to be surprised in the +12 years of franchisee advocacy.

I remember getting a tour of their Toronto facilities in the late ’70s as an assistant manager for Temgo Inc., a McDonald’s restaurant franchisee. A good outfit then, I thought.

Now, there are +700 franchisees who deliver, merchandise and manage a 24/7 continuous bakery distribution system to the largest grocery stores, to the smallest volume C-store. This is not an easy task.

This is what Google Finance has to say about Canada Bread Company Limited, CBCL (TSE:CBY):

Canada Bread Company, Limited (Canada Bread) is a manufacturer and distributor of bakery products, frozen par-baked products and pasta and sauces. The Company operates in North America. As at December 31, 2008, Canada Bread was 89.8% owned by Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

As far as the fresh bakery franchisees guys go, the chain of command listed is as follows:

  • Michael H. McCain, Chairman of the Board
  • Richard A. Lan, President, Chief Executive Officer, Non – Independent Director
  • Michael H. Vels, Chief Financial Officer, Director
  • C. Barry McLean, President – Canada Bread Fresh Bakery

I have been working as a consultant to the franchisees for almost a year now.

Herding franchisees: Living the dream

September 28, 2009

A good friend sent me this video link.

I only work with franchisees. And sometimes I have acted like  a cowboy. I hope I’ve become smarter along the way.

I wouldn’t do nothing else.

When the job gets done for both parties, there isn’t any feeling like it.

Dinosaur stinkin’ thinkin’: Why many franchisor executives’ careers are becoming extinct.

September 5, 2009


The bad old days in franchising are over.


The internet and smart franchisees and politicians make them fossils.

Old School: Cut the leader’s head off and the children will run away screaming.

New School: Cut the leader’s head off (terminate under any pretense) and the freakin’ posts just keep coming and coming and coming.

Leaderless networks are here and now:

  1. Current franchisee leader needs an attitude adjustment?
  2. Go ahead…Wait until you see the next s.o.b. (internal or external; permanent or rotating; civil or not so civil disobedience)

Sure: There’ll be some lurching and thrashing around for some time. But it’s all bluff and bluster and crotch scratching. Couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag possessing the imagination of a any school yard bully.

Zero capacity to build or create: They can only destroy.

Corporate crack whores (sans ethics) with perfect pedicures. Multi-levels of flunky junkies peddling fear mongering, intimidation and litigation to people who actually do an honest days work. Parasites. Psuedo leaders. The opposite of life-giving.

More to be pitied for their inauthentic, phoney-baloney lives, than anything else.

Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges: The Death of God & franchise propaganda

August 24, 2009

EmpireofIllusionThe title caught my eye.

Is franchising an empire built on brand-induced self-delusion?

If it is, then it appears to be just one in our post-modern world where any means justify the economic ends. So says a Pulitzer Prize winner, anyway.

The first chapter (The Illusion of Literacy) starts off with a bang. A quote from one of my favourite thinkers, John Ralston Saul that I’ve mentioned before (1., 2., 3., & 4.).

I especially like his contrary opinions about expertise: see Experts? We don’t need no stinkin’ professionals. Franchise law is an example of the hollowed-out perfection of the expert literate man.

Hedges lifts this quote from Saul’s 1992 book, Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West:

Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation. We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And that image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.

Again: …the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.

Case in Point: A new television show named How’d You Get So Rich? features, of all players in this drama, a franchisee attorney (YouTube). This “news” is then picked up the industry-financed social media apologists, not just once, but twice.

Nothing says sincere, honest and authentic in both a visual and journalist sense, as the two words together: Joan Rivers. Celebrity spokespeople have been used in franchising brand management for a long time but sometimes it’s a double-edged sword.

Is this a too cynical interpretation of this type of modern myth-making?

Humble but poor outsider +  scrub toilets + Harvard MBA/law + In Communion with the holy American Church of Franchising = A Saint’s story (millionaire, cars, 2nd wife, fame).

I wonder what the majority of mom-and-pop franchise investors would like to say to Mr. Zarco? Is he their champion of the underdog? Does his story reflect this people’s:

  1. life reality or
  2. is this just another in a long line of cheesy attempts to lure more life savings into a dying empire, noteworthy since this is an unbelievably desperate economic/employment times?

An inspiring story on a marketing and franchising level.

And personally, to me anyways.

Being Charmed is okay: Just don’t think franchise Justice means going to Courts of Law

August 23, 2009

SnakeCharmerI have liked, personally, almost every franchise attorney I have ever met.

They are smart, really hardworking and funny as hell.

  • Unfortunately, what they have to do to make a living in the franchise industry, is problematic.

The fundamental problems are twofold:

1. Lawyers are credence good providers: franchisees never know if their services are really needed and if what they provided for services was of a reasonable quality. This is the advocacy service element that can be abused by cheating (bill padding, extra bills at settlement time, etc.).

2. They are gatekeepers to the Courts. Courts in Canada, U.S., Australia, etc. are not corrupt or unsympathetic. Courts are simply incapable of resolving franchising disputes.

Courts are too coarse a filter for franchise problems.

The contracts have specific provisions that CANNOT be trumped by general, ill-defined terms such as “fair dealings”, “good faith” or “commercial reasonableness.”

I have had word sent to me from a few Ontario Superior Court justices over the years. They know precisely the meat grinder that their courts make of franchisees but they are are incapable of doing anything about it. All experienced court officials know that the likelihood of a mom-and-pop franchisee of surviving pre-trial, trial, appeal, etc. is slim to none:

  • in a sense, it is kinder for the Courts to put the franchisee out of his or her misery quickly at Trial.

Smart lawyers work with franchisee associations but those are few in number and notoriously difficult to organize and run, especially in Canada. Help is needed but lawyering up first, sends the very wrong first impression to your franchisor. Be ready, build a multi-1,000$ reserve fund but jumping into a 100% legal approach (a monopoly information relationship) is not wise.

The best solution is to have 2 or 3 lawyers working for an association for discrete projects. One project might be analyzing agreements, another litigation, maybe a corporate guy.

The goal is to separate the what you should do into two areas:

  1. diagnosis (you have a business problem with legal considerations not the other way around) and
  2. implementation (co-op buying group, political action, publicity, supplier or banker relationships,.

By keeping these two distinctions, there is much less risk of a lawyer maneuvering you into a litigation (billable hours) stance or cheating.

This may sound extreme: It is better to have zero lawyers, if you can’t afford  three of them.

I may be as charming but I am extremely accurate in my observations although they run counter to the industry’s conventional wisdom.

To do:

  1. Talk to 2 or 3 other franchisees (avoid the hotheads),
  2. read some of the stories on WikiFranchise.org (so it couldn’t happen to you, then?),
  3. start with the cost of goods you’re forced to buy through your franchisor (see your royalty & ad fund %? Normally, at least that number of $ is packed onto hidden margins on product, renovations, equipment, training, fees, fines, etc.)
  4. work quietly; like a duck: calm on surface but paddling like hell underneath, but most importantly.
  5. rebuild trust in yourself and your core group (bring in the partners from Day 1 as key change agents).

If you can sustain this group for 3 months, you should contact me for a free telephone talk. WordPress weblogs are great and here are some links to some excellent examples but they can blow up in your face without proper preparation. Even 3 of 4 of you have much, much more influence than you ever think you do but your power must be used properly.

I always let you know very quickly if I can help you or not.

LCBO franchising: Where the government both regulates and profits from unfairness

July 22, 2009

LCBOThe Liquor Control Board of Ontario, LCBO is reputed the largest single purchaser of alcohol in the world.

It is the monopoly retailer for all liquor and, much to The Beer Store‘s chagrin, increasingly beer

The LCBO is a provincially-owned and -controlled agency that remits a type of profit or dividend to the government every year.

On $4.13 billion sales, the 2008 dividend to the treasury was $1.345 billion. That’s billion per year.

The LCBO is also a franchisor.

They run what they call agency stores: liquor and beer sales through rural grocery and convenience stores. These are franchise agreements as defined by Ontario provincial law.

However, the Ontario government exempts the LCBO (themselves) from protecting these franchisees when compared to the other 40,000 ON franchisees.

Section 2. (3) of the Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000 reads:


2. (3) This Act does not apply to the following continuing commercial relationships or arrangements:…

8. A service contract or franchise-like arrangement with the Crown or an agent of the Crown. 2000, c. 3, s. 2 (3).

The Ontario government knows perfectly well how franchising works. Franchisors take 100% of both:

  • the benefits (no capital, no risk, no litigation, no unionized workers, alternate distribution in case of labour strife, monopoly supplier) and
  • strip all legal rights from the retailer/franchisee.

Franchisees in the U.S. have had specific franchise law since 1956.

For the LCBO franchisees:

  1. No disclosure documents to make an informed pre-sale decision,
  2. No good faith obligations,
  3. No fair dealing,
  4. No commercially reasonableness standard,
  5. No right to associate,
  6. No right of rescission,
  7. No damages for breaking the franchise law,
  8. No protection from pre-sale LCBO misrepresentations:
  9. No thing.

To be fair, the operators can always privately sue this +$4-billion agency if they act in a negligent, reckless or in an opportunistic way. Good luck with that.

I was there when the Wishart Act was passed and there was no discussion, zero, zilch, not-a public discussion about this self-serving exemption.  Out of the blue…100% behind-the-door stuff…another cruel joke on the Ontario small business community and organized labour.

If there was ever a group that needed a franchisee association, it is these operators.

Design is primarily a discerning attitude which reflects and attracts quality

June 22, 2009

DesignBehaviourI guess I am a bit of a frustrated artist.

I have come to really appreciate the skills and perception that graphic designers demonstrate. Some of them anyway.

It’s part of trying to discern quality instead of just quantity.

More of low quality is just low quality.

But a properly designed home or car or business communication strategy:

that is a thing of beauty.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with one top-notch artist who so happens to be one of my best friends. It’s taken him decades to develop his capabilities. His work is extraordinary.

Dealing with anyone else would simply waste my time and my client’s money.

Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kings of this world.

June 19, 2009


For those interested, you can find more information about me at LinkedIn right here.

I am a surprisingly useful person to know for many individual and groups of franchisees.

I specialize in total anonymity.

— Thomas Carlyle

Tell your digital side of the story before it’s too late: Network effects

June 18, 2009

NetworklogosA network effect is:

the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people.

The classic example is the telephone. The more people own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user may purchase their phone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case…

Over time, positive network effects can create a bandwagon effect as the network becomes more valuable and more people join, in a positive feedback loop.


Some groups of franchisees have been exceptionally successful for many decades. Paradoxically, this success may lead to their almost total defeat because  they fail to understand the exceptional, new power of accessing existing information networks via digital Self-Publishing.

  • Fighting a public relations war with litigation alone may prove to be very limited.
  • Legal representation is essential but not 100% of the solution.

If I were a Canadian GM or Chrysler auto dealer group, I’d want to be become very, very aggressive with a digital communication strategy. The investment leverage in a Web 2.0 task team would be extremely attractive.

We’re all franchisees under the skin, aren’t we?

When your opponent wants to cut deals behind closed doors, cherry-picks their “favourites” and wants everything hush-hush, it makes strategic sense to speak up.

  1. The old alliances and associations are dead to you now. The relationship has regressed by +50 years.
  2. Your future belongs to the technologically nimble.
  3. Wrap yourself in the business format franchisee flag and  tell your communities who are the brand bullies.

Start with 1,000 of your customer’s email and hire the most credible franchisee advocate you can find.

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