Lizard in the morning, lizard in the evening…

January 29, 2010

Stuffing down lizard, early and later this am.

Again.

Godin‘s up to no good.

Again.

Be Attentive:

The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because her lizard brain told her to.

Want to know why so many companies can’t keep up with Apple? It’s because they compromise, have meetings, work to fit in, fear the critics and generally work to appease the lizard. Meetings are just one symptom of an organization run by the lizard brain. Late launches, middle of the road products and the rationalization that goes with them are others.

Don’t just do something,  stand there.

The amygdala isn’t going away. Your lizard brain is here to stay, and your job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it. This is so important, I wanted to put it on the cover of my new book. We realized, though, that the lizard brain is freaked out by a picture of itself, and if you want to sell books to someone struggling with the resistance (that would be all of us) best to keep it a little more on the down low.

Now you’ve seen the icon and you know its name. What are you going to do about it?

Take a holiday.

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forever Jung and Half-formed boy Predators

January 28, 2009

calvinhobbes1Why won’t these little worms just grow up?

Enough is enough, already.

Yes, we know you’re tough and smart. We know the gym class shower room was demeaning. And yes pulling the wings off flies does hold some amusement value.

  • But seriously: Get some help in the second half of your life.

There are some people (mostly male) that think the worst of people, are never satisfied with any accomplishment and would rather kill something rather than share a little bit (let alone collaborate).

  • They’re so emotionally shut down and compartmentalized that all that’s left is fear and anger.

It’s been my experience that modern franchising is practiced by fearful men who lack the confidence and maturity that should have been formed during their boyhood. They’ve never learned to trust themselves, mask their inadequacies with arrogance and accumulate wealth but are unable to enjoy the use of those resources.

They act-out as if they were european dragons or worms (from the old English): like Smaug of The Hobbit fame: only hoard and destroy, are master hynotists, believe themselves to be invulnerable (although they are not), have a dry but cruel sense of humour with an “overwhelming personality”; their Achilles’ Heel is always hubris: overweening arrogance, superbia.

They try to deny part of their nature but it keeps popping up, especially when their Divine Right to Decide is questioned by lesser mortals.

One Model: Within every individual, there are two forces, world views or archetypes at play: every male has within him a female side, and every female has male characteristics within her.

Carl Gustav Jung identified unconscious forces called anima and animus.

  • anima is the unconscious feminine component of men and
  • animus is the unconscious masculine component in women.

Jung believed that the anima and animus act as guides to the unconscious unified Self, and that forming an awareness and a connection with the anima or animus is one of the most difficult and rewarding steps in psychological growth.

Jung reported that he identified his anima as she spoke to him, as an inner voice, unexpectedly one day.

Often, when people ignore the anima or animus complexes, the anima or animus vies for attention by projecting itself on others. This explains, according to Jung, why we are sometimes immediately attracted to certain strangers: we see our anima or animus in them. Love at first sight is an example of anima and animus projection. Moreover, people who strongly identify with their gender role (e.g. a man who acts aggressively and never cries) have not actively recognized or engaged their anima or animus.

Jung attributed human rational thought to be the male nature, while the irrational aspect is considered to be natural female. Consequently, irrationality is the male anima shadow and rationality is the female animus shadow. (Analytical Psychology)

When a half-formed male is seriously confronted, he becomes unglued: screaming, cursing, the issue becomes a life-and-death struggle against the Questioner. I’ve seen this type of tantrum up close and you tend not to forget the experience. I think every franchisee has experienced this.

  • It can be a franchisor, a lawyer, a politician: it doesn’t matter (see Big Franchising).

Irrationality is the shadow side of an unbalanced psyche and it gets played out in volcanic bursts of rage. Innocent questions are heard by the child as if you were trying to kill them. (And in a psychological sense, you are: you’re calling them to put aside their childish ways.)

  • In franchising, this acting-out these man-boys, empowered by iron-clad agreements that are the same across all systems,  have the 100% unilateral right to bankrupt you and drive you into a mental hell.

All of the rights are on one side: for mom and pops, franchising is Unsafe at any Brand.

After the honeymoon is over and you’ve signed on for multiple, self-reinforcing monopoly relationships, your economic gender assault can occur with very little warning or defence.

Calvin and Hobbes


Risk Compensation: Why franchise laws & regulations cause more risky investing

January 27, 2009

noparachute1All franchise laws should be immediately repealed.

Everyone would be better off knowing that they’re in an airplane with an empty parachute.

Specific franchise laws give a false sense of security that, paradoxically, causes investors to behave in a more risky way than if there were no laws.

BTW: The push for franchise laws (with very rare exceptions) has always been by the franchisor and the franchise bar, not by franchisee investors or their advocates.

  1. The U.S. has had state and federal franchise laws for +40 years.  Alberta, Canada since 1971, Ontario since 2000. The outcome is the same: still very high investor risks.
  2. Relationship laws have existed since 1956 in the U.S. The toughest state law (Illinois) doesn’t seem to have had much positive effect, one way or the other.
  3. Direct regulatory federal laws in the U.S. and Australia, although they have the statutory power, are not used, except on the occasional token, hapless, no-name franchisor.

The primary mechanism that causes this INCREASE in risky investment behaviour is found in a theory called risk compensation:

Risk Compensation is an effect whereby individual people may tend to adjust their behaviour in response to perceived changes in risk…Another way of stating this is that individuals will behave less cautiously in situations where they feel “safer” or more protected.

The more we feel safe, the more risk we feel we can take on without additional costs. [Wikipedia]

Risk compensation is most clearly shown in studies of cars equipped with ABS brakes. The stated intent of mandatory ABS brakes was to reduce injuries and death due to collisions.

  • The irrefutable evidence, however, is that drivers (unintentionally, for sure) compensate for having ABS brakes systems by driving faster, following closer and taking corners more sharply (ie. they increase their risky behaviour).
  • The collision rates stays constant because of the human tendency to compensate for improvements not only in brakes but seatbelts, bicycle helmets and even parachute design safety improvements.

Note: Booth’s rule #2:

  • The safer skydiving gear becomes, the more chances skydivers will take, in order to keep the fatality rate constant.

Everyone’s first instinct is to cry for a law or an improved law against human behaviour. Risk compensation theory indicates that this is a fool’s errand and it is consistent with my study of franchise law over the last 10 years.

Opportunistic franchisors and their advisors know this human, perfectly non-rational characteristic to compensate for perceived “safer” situations.

Predators rely much more on their abilities to read human nature accurately, than do their prey. (It is wise to remember that there are only 2 principle ways to succeed: doing good work or cheating.)

Additionally, the Authority of the State is most clearly manifested in a law or regulation. Since the state holds a monopoly on coercive action (exercised by the police, military, courts, etc.), any franchise law signals a state “sanction” of sorts.

In this way, the state’s ultimate secular authority and legitimacy is attributed to the most poo-filled franchise system. It gives credence and camouflage to an industry without control or standards.

The Science of Persuasion: In the very important book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Bob Cialdini calls authority his 5th of 6 “Weapons of Persuasion”:

  1. The logo of the FTC, the ACCC or the Ontario Legislative Assembly confers a legitimacy that can be exploited by some (badge of authority).
  2. Government guaranteed loans confer an aura that “This must be okay because the government and a Big Bank is risking their money, too” to even the most wicked scam (authority).
  3. The threat of  a lawsuit triggers (1) the fear of poverty and shame (bankruptcy) but also (2) of being perceived by other as behaving in an anti-social or near “criminal” way (social proof).
  4. Oh how charming everyone is, before you sign and how much you’ve become a shithead when you start to question the status quo (liking).
  5. How franchises that you should be paid to run, can instead be sold for 100,000s of  $ because of some “secret sauce” spiel (scarcity)

There is much hard science behind being persuasive that can be used for good or ill.

Take a look at this 3:11 video book review and imagine how Cialdini’s 6 Laws (reciprocity, commitment & consistency, authority, social proof, liking, scarcity) are used to snare franchisees.


They think they’re Owners: Why franchisees delay in bailing

December 30, 2008

Franchisees stay in money-losing operations much too long because they make a fundamental error (own versus rent).

They see themselves as “owners” of their business, while in fact, they are conditional renters of trademarks and an operating system.

  • This makes them overvalue their investment and continue to invest much, much more of their own personal identity in the business.
  • This is particularly true because the new renter is much less likely to share in that inflated worth.

This mismatch makes a negotiated sale much less possible, without adding in all the self-interest and network issues that the franchisor can bring to the table.

This video from Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational) shows some research that was done that tends to support my conclusion. Summary:

  1. owners (sellers) would sell at $1,400, while the
  2. buyers valued the tickets at only $170.

Those that thought they were an owner, inflated their value by 8.2 times the market value.


Madoff investor takes own life

December 24, 2008

reneI know very little about hedge funds and how they are managed.

I do, however,  have some experience in dealing with people who are confused, suffering from temporary distorted thinking and have had their confidence in themselves profoundly shaken.

Fraud is primarily a violent attack on the victim’s identity and his core belief in the predictability, if not fairness, of his world. No one I have known lists economic loss as even a minor consideration, if they come out of the valley. Excuse me for  suspending  judgment as I remember those that didn’t make it out of franchising alive.

The New York Times reports that Mr. Rene-Thierry Magon de las Villehuchet, founder and CEO of hedge fund Access International Advisors, LLC, was found dead yesterday. It appears that that the fund has about $1.4-billion exposure in the Bernard Madoff affair.

I do not know precisely the pain that drove who appears to be an extremely sophisticated, successful and dignified individual to commit suicide. If the coverage in The Toronto Star is any indication, he presented as one classy person.

  • Beyond that, I have no right to judge anyone else.

Maybe he felt he had committed an unforgivable error by trusting Madoff? That he subscribed to the belief that “To those whom much is given, Much is expected“? Maybe he felt if he was smarter, worked harder, paid more direct attention he could have prevented this loss? Maybe it’s just random, there is no connection at all: It’s just the media picking up on mob’s cries for “some rich elitist bastard to pay” (regurgitation of Storming of the Bastille, off with his head).

  • Who knows? Only time will tell but that story carries its own biases.

Galbraith‘s The Great Crash 1929, however asserts quite strongly that the incidence of suicide did NOT increase because of Wall Street’s collapse:

In the United States the suicide wave that followed the stock market crash is also part of the legend of 1929. In fact, there was none.  p. 131

I suspect that time and hindsight will reveal that Madoff’s alleged (in quotes) “ponzi scheme” was business as usual in today’s perverted form of casino capitalism (eg. the only difference is that this sausage exploded; hundreds of other fraud sausages happily robbing Peter to pay Paul).

What I do know, is that his family will miss him and that this loss sucks at this time of year. I’ve lost way too many people in December.

When everything’s black, let’s hope that each of us has at least one person to talk to.

  • Let’s keep in touch with each other, ok?

Pegi & Neil musta caught crazy from their horses

October 31, 2008

Economics is a dismal science.

If homo economicus is substantially accurate, Neil Percival Young and his wife Peggy are illogical, irrational and probably insane. Their behavior cannot be explained by overly simplistic disciples of the Chicago school of economics.

The couple decided yesterday to cancel a Los Angeles concert because they wouldn’t cross a picket line:

The 62-year-old rocker-activist says he was told a local faction of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union planned to picket the show.

Young and his wife are honorary lifetime members of the union, which is striking against The Forum’s owner, Faithful Central Bible Church, because of contract disputes.

Shakey goes onto say he is…:

“…extremely disappointed to have to choose between satisfying my fans or backing my brothers and sisters of the IATSE.” Associated Press

Altruism, brotherhood, fraternity, charity, self-sacrifice are terms that simply do not fit within the classic economic models. They don’t fit within the model. [Drowning your first-born does, however.]

  • My experience is that the Young’s behavior is the rule and not the exception.
  • People make decisions that are predictably irrational.

And thank God for that.

Only fools (on a knee-jerk basis) knock any collective action such as unions or independent franchisee associations.

You’re only putting your head on the block, ya unthinking bozos.

  • I’ll burn my card, right after the franchise bar secedes from their union.

On the Prairie Wind DVD, Young said Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds is his all-time favourite song. The Live 8 show was in my home town and was his second public show since brain surgery in March 2005.

  • He showed up at the local Barrie dance club called The Roxx, the night before the Live 8 broadcast. [see the currently featured Jell-O wrestling].

Everybody’s got a cross.


Big Franchising

July 18, 2008

Most small business investors define franchising in an inaccurate and childlike way.Everyone knows McDonald’s and that it has made many franchisees millionaires.

McDonald’s is a franchise and so all businesses that are franchised must be a success. Maybe the relationship is not 100% causal but it’s a close relationship. Right?

Wrong!!

We Deceive Ourselves: We notice the flashy new sub sandwich shop or the prestigious dog poop scooping service trucks. We always wanted to go out on our own but didn’t want to risk too much. Franchising is pre-sold as a less risky alternative.

We think we might like to look into buying a franchise and this one seems pretty good, so far. Unconsciously we have started down the road in remembering information that would support a yes decision but also ignoring any negative data [confirmation bias].

Humans tend to over-rely on the physical, on what you can see, hear and touch. That evolutionary predisposition has worked well for thousands of years but in a complex, commercial setting spanning international corporations, our “lizard brain” is not too well equipped to deliver a good decision.

 

WHAT IS BIG FRANCHISING?

Little franchising is what you can see [the branches, leaves of the tree]. Big Franchising is what you can see plus the invisible organizations that feed and nourish the organism [the roots].

  • As the son of a farmer’s daughter, lawn care operator and retired agronomist, I know that 90% of the weight of a plant is underground. The power and danger of franchising is hidden.

Relationship: the first factual error that the power dynamics are simple; that they are limited between the franchisor and the franchisee. The unwary pre-sale or unaware ex-franchisee believe that it is fairly simple David and Goliath story and that this individual franchisor is either a “good guy” or a “bad guy“.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Public Policy: the true face of Big Franchising is revealed when you watch closely what happens when a law is proposed. Most of the aligned interests prefer the shadows and only come into the light when their favoured positions are threatened.

Big Franchising: Expert specialists

Definition: an informal understanding between legally independent corporations and organizations that serves their mutual commercial, power and political interests.

Members & Role

1. Product franchisors: The Big 3 [Auto, Grocery & Oil] but also very large corporate concerns such as Coca-Cola. Massive, aggressive and willing to get on the phone and bully any politician into the middle of next week.

2. Business-format franchisors: The Blue Chippers [McDonald’s, getting fewer and fewer]. Largely co-ordinated through the national peak trade association [ie. AU National Franchise Association, Kiwi Franchise Association of New Zealand, Canadian Franchise Association or the U.S. International Franchise Association. or their subservient members and the other [usually] 80 to 85% of franchisors who do not belong to the national franchisor association. These are public apologists and training centres for franchisor opportunism.

3. Franchise Bar: The very few large international law firms that have a very lucrative franchise specialty and other boutique practices. A useless law to investors [McLaw} is a great law for The Bar because of the irrelevant, but seriously misleading disclosure documents that need to be written. This is a very protective group of extremely sensitive businesspeople who happen to discuss law in their spare time.

Any lawyer hoping to join the club better play by the rules. Rule Number 1 is serve Big Franchising who arranges to pay 95% of all legal fees. You can usually find the majority of the Franchise bar in the national franchisor association’s membership lists. [Australia, New Zealand, Canada]

Franchisee clients are thought of as a means to pay the rent until you can do some serious billing to the franchisors. When I was in high school, certain girls were considered practice girl friends. I believe I don’t have to go into too much detail here. The high school male and the struggling franchisee lawyer have the same thing in mind.

Each country has a King Rat franchisor lawyer. His job is to discipline the Big Franchising members and instill fear in dissenting opinions. I could name the U.S., Canadian and Oz/Kiwi guys but I promised my wife, no more lawsuits.

4. International peak association: the World Franchise Council is an information sharing project for Big Franchising. It provides training in keeping each nation’s public asleep to the true nature of franchising [higher risk, rent not own business, churning, on and on]. It keeps all their members aware of the defenses available to thie members: The “How-to” of defeating all franchise investors’ claims.

Responds to Oz’s public understanding is a babe in the woods when compared to the U.S. and Canada. The U.K. are still in Big Franchising’s womb, largely because of a very docile business media.

5. Financial Institutions: franchising is extremely lucrative for lenders and financial service providers. National programs are set up that kick back millions of franchisees’ dollars every year to franchisors. Lenders often will disregard the law when they fake their lender’s due diligence duties. They often engage in a cluster of behaviors I have defined as Predatory franchise lending. [Australia, New Zealand, Canada]

6. Product suppliers: franchised businesses are higher margin customers. The franchisor negotiates their kickbacks and the franchisee is forced to pay the inflated price. This is really an undisclosed add-on franchisee fee [often, at least, doubling what you thought you would be paying]. Here is an example: A franchisee paying more for shipping [franchisor] than he did for rent [no head lease].

7. Salespeople: these charming individuals call themeelves consultants, business brokers or researchers. Some even hide behind their PhDs. They steer you to those systems who pay them for for their ability to invoke your trust. Don’t be fooled: Almost 100% of the time, they don’t get paid until you say yes and only from the franchise system that they get paid a commission from. They may charge you a few thousand bucks to find the “right fit” but the real dough will flow when the trap snaps shut [sign the franchise agreement or loan papers]. [Australia, New Zealand, Canada]

8. Media: this is the more subtle one. Experienced journalists know all the sordid details of franchising and have known them for many years. Editors do not publish stories that interfere with the commercial interests of their bosses which are in the same Big Franchising club. Occasionally, stories are published but they are simple open-and-shut cases that would never give the public an idea that the problems are systemic [affecting all parts] rather than individualistic [blame the victim]. The lies the media tell are told in silence.

9. Politicians/Regulators: politics is the brokering of competing interests. Big Franchising represents some of the world’s biggest corporations.

Politicians and regulators know their career is short and corporations’ memories are long. The practice of law has almost entirely been taken over with corporate interests. The widespread use of compulsory private law contract provisions [arbitration and mediation] hides the industry’s abuse.

Franchisees are unorganized mom-and-pop shops, mostly. People that think that even national inquiries will discover the truth and then the truth will will result in a good law [reflects reality] are hopelessly naive about how power works.

10. Miscellaneous: this category includes academics, especially [with some notable Oz exceptions] those pesky consulting fee-dependent business administration professors, Trustees in Bankruptcy, equipment and business appraisers, mediators, arbitrators, non-franchise bar law firms, financial services ombudsmen [apologists for predatory lending practices], national privacy commissioners, law societies [very attentive listeners to large law firms’ economic concerns].

Summary: There exists a complex web of invisible but very real relationships that created, supports and aggressively defends the franchise industry’s dominant power structure [status quo].

  • All things being equal: You may be profitable or achieve your financial goals.
  • But, all things are not equal in franchising, are they?

Ignorance of your potential adversary’s power and influence is no excuse. At least for those with ears to hear.


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