National franchisor sales teams: Creating the Illusion of Respectability

August 19, 2009

GoodHousekeepingSealWhat do all these associations have in common with the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval?

They are organizations controlled by franchisors that promote the sale of franchises into national jurisdictions.

  • That is all they do: sell.
  • There is no quality, at all, in what they do.

They also have, at best, voluntary Codes of Ethics which are almost never enforced.

In fact, some of the worst predatory franchise systems I have ever known, are long-standing members. It pays for them to join to bolster their credibility.

  • Do not be fooled: these members are NOT  a measure of investor worthiness.

In many cases, predators use this Mask of Respectability to disarm unwary potential franchise investors.

  • World Franchise Council: Enhancing the global Franchise Community Take a look.
  • International Franchise Association
  • Canadian Franchise Association
  • Franchise Council of Australia
  • Franchise Association of New Zealand
  • China Chain Store & Franchise Association
  • The Franchise Association of Southern Africa
  • British Franchise Association

As usual, I am always very pleased to debate any representatives from these organizations.

Or anyone from their financial institutions which buttress this facade.

WorldFranCouncillogoInternationalFranchiseAssociationCanadianFranchiseAssociationFranchiseCouncilofAustraliaFranchiseAssociationofNewZealandChinaChainStore&FranchiseAssociation

FranchiseAssociaitonofSouthernAfricaBritishFranchiseAsscoation

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U.K. franchisor leaders record a new ethical Low: Hard-selling to the recently Unemployed

January 26, 2009

the_bfaTalk about stealing a guy’s life savings when he’s down.

And when I thought I had heard it all and that franchise hustlers would do anything for a sale.

Now word out of Liverpool that their franchisor-only trade association, British Franchise Association, BFA is hard-selling directly to recently laid off UK workers, via their former employers.

It’s like a scene out of the movie, GlenGarry Glen Ross, totally hardcore, old-school boiler room ABCs (always be closing):

We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? [Holds up prize] Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.

Lie. Cheat. Steal. All In A Day’s Work. Source

It reminds me of the ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyers forcing their business cards into the hands of people lying in the street from a car accident.

Obviously, what I (or the British public) consider to be ethical business behaviour may not be what the BFA brain trust considers to be fair game. The 2 characteristics of an ideal franchisee are: Did their cheque clear and Can they fog a mirror (alive)?

The story (Franchising could be your next career move) is a little awkwardly worded but these are the most flagrant lies that support this propaganda piece:

  1. franchising is a lower risk than non-franchised businesses (proven to be false),
  2. a BFA franchisor is less risk than someone who is not a member (not proven),
  3. the BFA is a benevolent society doing a public service (they serve their members’ interests),
  4. franchisees fail only because of their sloth or stupidity (fraudulent systems?) and
  5. the BFA represents both franchisors and franchisees (only franchisors).

All of these assumptions are false and dangerous. The BFA executives are either incompetent or knowingly perpetuating a cruel fraud, this time on the newly laid-off Brits.

  • You will be preyed upon when you are at your weakest time in your life.
  • Unemployment is an excellent time to buy into a phantom dream (In business for yourself, not by yourself; Be your own Boss) because you want so much to believe it (mortgage, kids, debt, etc.) you are temporarily a very shitty decision maker.

I know. I signed my franchise agreement two weeks before my unemployment benefits were to run out in 1992. BTW: an Ontario Justice said in 2000 that I had done the best due diligence she had ever seen but still lost $140,000 in 4 years, being sued, bankruptcy.

Another veteran but anonymous observer, Lionel Hutz PA, picked up the story and wrote about it on Blue MauMau under the following banner, BFA Wants Unemployed to Buy a Franchise. Lionel leads in with:

The British Franchise Association, the counterpart to America’s International Franchise Association, is directly approaching companies that are laying off employees, to persuade those newly unemployed to buy a franchise from one of their franchisor members.

Lionel goes onto say and pose a most relevant question:

Note the false claims that franchised businesses have higher success rates, and the assertion that British Franchise Association members must “meet the strict ethical and business criteria.” I wonder if the BFA has ever expelled a franchisor for bad franchising conduct?

Ray Borradale, a very effective Australian franchisee advocate and mouthpiece chips in with:

AFA, BFA, IFA and FCA read from the same book.  This is symptomatic of franchisors; good and bad – and it is dangerous.  I note the reference; “educate people about the many benefits of buying into a franchise” with contempt.  Where is the education about risk and due diligence?  This unbalanced marketing of franchising is not new and BMM has covered many similar stories. It is misleading and deceptive but it appears to be accepted by authorities in every country. [I would add the CFA to Ray’s list of talking heads.]

Remember: Franchising is practiced identically around the world. Some countries know about the dark side of franchising and have developed national spokespeople to combat the propaganda. Some countries (like the U.K.) do not know.

IN CONTRAST, note the level of discernment found in this Australian headline of January 26th (care of Franchise-Chat.com), The Franchising Trap:

The Australian dream of becoming self-employed can be the path to financial security, but it can also go disastrously wrong.

For years franchising has been viewed as a reliable, somewhat less-risky option for small investors looking to start their own business. But the 500-plus complaints received by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission every year arising from disputed between franchisees and franchisors show that franchising is often not the easy entry to business that some people think.

In the U.K. there is a greater danger than is faced by franchise investors in Australia.  Aus does not have a small business government guaranteed program, but the U.K. does.

  • A guaranteed loan program can be misused to fuel franchise fraud. I wrote about it in Canada, I know that that it is happening in the U.S. and also in the U.K.’s aptly named Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme.

Heads up to these other countries that have a similar loan guarantee program for small business (Canada CSBFA, U.S. SBA 7(a), and U.K. SFLG):

  1. Korea,
  2. Japan,
  3. European Union (Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France & Germany),
  4. Indonesia,
  5. Malaysia,
  6. Nepal,
  7. Philippines and
  8. Taiwan.

Every country gets the type of journalism that it is willing to accept from it’s traditional media outlets. This type of breathless and mindless regurgitating of franchising propaganda is almost never seen in the U.S., Australia or Canada anymore. It was pushed out by volunteer franchisees getting on the back of its nation’s business editors.

  • These blatant lies will continue as long as they are not shot down by a small group of knowledgeable, experienced and vigorous group of Web 2.0 U.K. warriors.

Their basic training can begin once they choose to speak out.


Undue Influence: The Case of the AUS Professor

October 20, 2008

Publicly funded institutions can become co-opted or captured by special interests.

Some university faculties have a better or worse reputation for pandering to special interests when compared to other disciplines. Business schools are not well respected by other faculties for their independence of thought.

I’ve seen it at my old school and confirmed it in other universities as well.

The Greeks defined 3 modes of persuasion:

  • logos (reliance on facts and figures: can be true or false),
  • ethos (authority, honesty of speaker, morality), and
  • pathos (appeal to emotions, sense of injustice, outrage).

Franchisees appear in front of public hearings and rely almost entirely on the rhetorical device of an appeal to justice: “It’s not fair that they did this and that.” Policy makers listen and judge its “truthiness“.

  • Generally, their narratives are concrete, visceral and credible.

Big Franchising responds if they have any remaining credibility, directly with at times shaky logos and ethos.

1. Consider the following article in Australia’s SmartCompany: Survey reveals drop in franchising disputes as franchising inquiry continues.

It says:

A new survey of Australia’s $130 billion franchise sector has shown disputes between franchisees and franchisors have declined, with just 2% of Australia’s franchisees classified as being in dispute.

Let’s stop there and list the persuasive assumptions that this single sentence relies upon:

  • survey: a scientific, logical, rational, independently verifiable academic study that is reviewed by other academics [did it appear in a refereed academic journal? no],
  • $130 billion sector: size matters: infers that big = successful, growth is good [uses social proof, is a huge credit crisis and run-away cancer growth good?],
  • declining number of disputes: situation is getting better [what is a dispute? how many have abandoned? is the mean dispute big or small?],
  • just 2% of franchisees in disputes: tiny problems, inconsequential, minuscule [can use anchoring to deceive].

This opening sentence is strictly a blatant misrepresentation, lacking in any connection to formal logic or any verifiable measure. The “just 2%” is a hallmark give away as to lack of any journalistic standards or any pretense of editorial oversight. Shame on SmartCompany but why is a university named?

If the 2008 Report is similar in method to the 2006 Report, it may be junk science: bought and paid for by its funders, the Franchise Council of Australia. Franchisor-controlled associations are well-known for blocking any changes to a statute, regulations and public regulatory body mandate.

You decide.

2. Next, let’s take a look at more detail into the role of the Griffith University. See the FCA’s media release: THE POWER OF ONE STRONG SECTOR REVEALED IN POSITIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS

Authority is clearly defined as another Weapon of Influence by social psychologist Robert Cialdini that can be applied to universities. They can be used to give the impression of academically rigorous research when really the work is simply a consultant’s report.

  • I don’t begrudge business admin profs or their peers earning the vast majority of their income from consulting to one or the other industry.
  • What I wonder is whether it is appropriate for an academic to overstates their conclusions (either intentionally or unintentionally) during a time of national lawmaking?

    You decide if Professor Powell has exercised undue influence or abused his duty:

    “The continued growth and maturation of Australian franchising is impressive, particularly considering the current economic outlook, a recent change of government, and a franchising sector that has faced close government scrutiny” said Professor Michael Powell. Pro-Vice Chancellor (Business), Griffith Business School.

    Did Professor Powell interfere with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services’s Inquiry into the Franchising Code of Conduct? I checked the 140 written submissions and didn’t see his name.

  • The test could be: Did he know or would he be reasonably been expected to know that his publicly funded authority could be used used to influence [inappropriately interfere?] with the operation of a  parliamentary committee?
    1. True scholastic work is published in refereed professionally-recognized journals to ensure high quality (an editor and reviewing peers, correct methodology, usually a very, very narrow scope, transparent auditing, meets ethical and conflict of interests standards, vetted before publishing, etc.). There is a whole series of checks and balances to weed out biases [innocent and not so innocent].
    2. Consulting work, no matter how many PhDs are piled up, has none of these centuries-old safeguards in place.
    • Blurring these lines is not fair, especially during a time of a fairly controversial public lawmaking process.

    Academic research is a credence good and as we have seen, is susceptible to cheating because “Joe Public” cannot determine if it is the appropriate quality or quantity.

    I have read enough articles and progressed far enough in a good school to seriously question the validity and reliability of this work. I imagine any academic that values their reputation would not rely or quote this report in their submission to the Joint Committee.

    Unfortunately, some scholars are more closely attuned to serving dominant commercial objectives rather than the pursuit of reality-based truth (as opposed to power-based truth) as is their duty as a tenured academic.

    My qualifications only go so far to speak on behalf of academic rigour and the arguments not made [eg. sunk costs as the primary and unique source of franchisor opportunism] in the current Australian public hearing.

    If a second opinion were to be sought, I believe Gillian K. Hadfield might be an appropriate candidate. pdf CV


    Homicidal McTurkey spotted in AUS

    September 16, 2008

    “Let’s not let turkeys kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.”

    An interesting quote from John O’Brien, Chairman of the Franchise Council of Australia, NFC in a Smart Company article called: Franchise Council hits back at critics.

    It seems Australia’s democratic process (ie. citizens speaking to politicians, members’ raising constituents’ concerns within parliament, Hansard records, governments asking House/Senate committees to look into areas of potential legislation, Joint Committees asking for citizens to contribute, yaddayaddayadda) has AUS franchise industry’s self-proclaimed “peak body”, a little miffed:

    The Franchise Council of Australia has urged members to “push back” against claims of franchisor abuse aired in Federal Parliament last week.

    A number of MPs, including NSW member Joanna Gash, told Parliament last week of allegations of churning, bullying and intimidation by franchisors. On top of this, a Federal Parliamentary inquiry into franchising was flooded by submissions from disgruntled franchisees.

    It appears that Mr. O’Brien is sensitive to any lack of confidence in Australia’s franchise industry:

    “If you are as annoyed as I am at these continuing smears against franchising, I urge you to email or write to the committee handling the inquiry right away,” he writes.

    “Let’s not let turkeys kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.”

    It was unclear to me who Mr. O’Brien was calling a turkey (bird brain?). Each or all of the following:

    1. Mrs. Joanna Gash MP, (duly elected in 1996 then re-elected in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 by the fine people of the Electoral Division, Gilmore NSW),
    2. the other 7 MPs who have joined her in demanding immediate parliamentary action to curb franchisor opportunism (see Franchising at a crossroads),
    3. the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services or
    4. the clearly diabolically obsessed mastermind, the thuggish: Deanne de Leeuw.

    In any case, Big Franchising is always more than willing to “hit back” to get their way.

    • As any good fascist knows, democracy is the last refuge for losers.

    Oz FCA franchisor and bank Linked in a Conspiracy?

    September 2, 2008

    In yesterday’s House of Representatives, Australian member of parliament Joanna Nash (Lib, Gilmore) read the following statement into the record:

    In closing I would like to read into the record three succinct extracts from emails in regard to Baker’s Delight, and these can be produced.

    The first is from Richard Taylor, Chief Financial Officer of Bakers Delight, to Simon Brookhouse, the Victorian and Tasmanian franchise manager for the ANZ Bank, dated 22 February 2005 in regard to Ms Deanne DeLeeuw who was still an active franchisee at the time. It read:

    The South Coast bakeries group heads closer and closer to oblivion.
    Is that not evidence that suggests plans had been conspired to terminate Ms DeLeeuw’s franchise well ahead of time?

    The second email is from Jurgen Schnabel, Senior Manager of the ANZ Bank, in an email dated 10 March 2005. He wrote:
    … we will accept whatever Bakers Delight decides to give us from the sale of Kiama and Vincentia, without question.
    Does this not constitute some degree of collusion towards the premature but planned demise of this franchisee?

    And finally:
    … we have to consider the greater relationship with Bakers Delight given our overall exposure to this group within PM.
    That was in an email from Simon Brookhouse of the ANZ Bank dated 10 March 2005. This was when the ANZ agreed to accept a nil return from Bakers Delight for the Shellharbour franchise.

    These allegations have not been proven in a court of law.

    • Baker’s Delight is a member of the Franchise Council of Australia, FCA.
    • ANZ Bank is a member of the Franchise Council of Australia, FCA.

    There is a very close relationship between franchisors and lending institutions in Canada (see Big Franchising, Red Flags: Predatory franchise lending, Suing a Bank (2)).


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