Opportunity Knocks and Liars’ Loans: required reading to understand modern franchising

September 1, 2012

John Lorinc wrote the book on franchising from a franchisee’s investor viewpoint.

I’m glad to see it is still available to buy online and is in many Canadian libraries.

The hidden banking side is revealed in Chapter 4, The 90% Solution: Franchise Economics, some of which I excerpted in a WikiFranchise.org post.

What did the business press have to say about Lorinc’s work?:

  1. National PostOpportunity Knocks: The Truth about Canada’s Franchise Industry, is an impressively researched look at the myriad of franchises that mushroomed across the country in the past decade. An award-winning magazine journalist, Lorinc has produced an engaging account that charts both the spectacular successes of some franchisers and the utter failure of some franchisees. How franchises seduce those with the most to lose, Jennifer Lanthier, November 2, 1997
  2. Globe and Mail: At its worst, Lorinc says, franchising is a haven for the unscrupulous who prey on the unwary – typically recent immigrants willing to labour long hours in dreary businesses, unaware that those operations have little chance of prospering – using them as pawns in a shadowy real estate game. Rather than reflecting an insatiable consumer demand, he inquires acidly, is it possible that all those new doughnut shops may reflect a quiet understanding between landlords and franchisors that the best way to fill fallow commercial property is to sell franchises to credulous investors? Franchise book of interest to anyone who pays taxes, Ann Finlayson, November 1, 1997

Finlayson strikes a cautionary note, specifically about the hinted at misuse of the Canada Small Business Financing programCSBFP:

Does all this matter to you? Yes, it does. In 1993, in the wake of vigorous complaints by small-business owners that Canadian banks were reluctant to finance them, Ottawa raised the ceiling on loans guaranteed by the Small Business Loans Administration to $250,000 and its guarantee rate from 85 per cent to 90 per cent, sparking a bank lending rush to franchisees and shifting the risk of franchise investments onto taxpayers’ (your) shoulders.

The Risk: Only a fraction of the Liars’ Loans are ever claimed by the banks, thereby grossly understating Industry Canada’s default statistics (Franchised v. Non-Franchised loan performance). The franchisee thinks he signed a government-backed loan but it never gets registered as such. As their bankruptcy, loss of life savings, marital and family breakdown escalate over the life of their 12 to 18 month franchise career, the franchisee NEVER looks to Box 9 of the CSBFP loan application form (Projected Sales ) as the source of their trouble; where the lie is put into the “Liars’ Loan”. The proceeds of these engineered-to-fail loans is split upfront by the franchise banker with the bank, banker, franchisor and sales agent. If questioned, the bank shreds the paperwork and waits for the lawsuit.

And, seriously, how many of these Immigrants as prey losers could or would ever sue a Schedule 1 chartered bank?

The Return: Smashing quarterly earnings goals, record profits, high turnover in the small business division of each of the banks, and making franchise lending the most lucrative form of commercial lending in Canada. Private gain/public loss enabled by a criminogenic environment, moral hazard, regulatory capture…

Lorinc carefully mentions the “windfall profits” in this arrangement of churning:

What’s more, some banks and franchisors have put the SBLA program [predecessor government guaranteed loan program] to questionable use during foreclosure actions against franchisees, says one former owner who has been through the process. When a bank calls a loan against a non-performing franchisee, the 90% guarantee effectively relieves the bank’s receiver from trying to get the best possible value while disposing of the owner’s assets. With most of the loan covered by the Canadian taxpayer, the assets – fixtures, kitchen equipment, inventory, etc. – can be sold quickly at a deep discount, possibly below market value. This allows the franchisor too step in and buy back the property at better-than-firesale prices, thus generating windfall profit when the store is later re-sold to another franchisee.

An important work that, depressingly, is as relevant in 2012 as it was in 1995.

______

Disclosure: My lol pecuniary interest here and here. Cross posted on FranchiseBanker.ca.


(false) Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

September 16, 2010

Is preying on a military  family’s post-service vulnerability the sign of insincerity per se?

From a New York Times classified ad:

Come join a network that has pioneered and led the industry for 30 years. The UPS Store is the #1 Business and Postal Services Franchise for the 20th consecutive year (2010 Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 500 Franchise List). The UPS Store is the #1 most popular franchise with veterans in the IFA’s Vet-Fran Program (2008 International Franchise Association). With over 4300 The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations nationwide, our network continues to lead the market.

Baiting the Fish: Note how Cialdini’s “Weapons of Influence” are used to lure pensions and life savings capital:

  1. New York Times (authority of a traditional media outlet),
  2. Entrepreneur magazines’ Top 500 franchises (McMedia: authority for the unskilled and unaware),
  3. 30 years… (franchisor success means individual franchisees will succeed, see Dunning-Kruger above),
  4. Vet-Fran program (liking: acceptance, a member of the fraternity, endorsed/vetted by the “government”),
  5. International Franchise Association (expertise/authority, funded 100% by franchisors and their friends), and are especially
  6. vulnerable to the authority siren song from 2 directions: vivid, personal success born from supporting a strict command-control structure  while lacking the airy-fairy concept of discerning legitimate from illegitimate sources of authority.

Vets believe very strongly that people get what they deserve in this life (Just World fallacy) and would, therefore, strongly but heavily discount any non-authority based advice on a pre-sale basis. Going on “civvy street” is one of  life’s major transitions involving new/strange: work, employer, location, one/two incomes, schools, income levels, physical/mental challenges, diminished family/friend support.

Setting the Hook: The next marketing stage is an “exclusive” invitation to a very sophisticated, one-day seminar at head office (a “discovery day”). Just like in a gambling casino, these environments are very, very well thought-out, for one side’s benefit only. A real investigative journalist (John Lorinc) published an excellent description of this circus in a real media outlet (The Globe and Mail) in 2000. The Sure Thing describes the extremely effective individual and social psychology that allows predatory franchising to flourish in plain sight.

I’m glad to know great spirits like Peter Thomas or Carol Cross who, by making wise choices for their future, help me make mine.

Samuel Johnson 1709 – 1784


Sotos LLP: The McDonalds of CDN franchisee lawyers?

November 27, 2009

I have learned directly, personally, in-their-armpits relationships from the best in franchising.

Ted Gorski, McDonald’s, CollegePro Painters, Nutri-Lawn, Tony Martin, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Sam Grange, John Lorinc, Paul Herminston, Katherine Swinton, Canadian Franchise Association, Country Style, Gillian Hadfield, Michael Webster, Jay Harris, etc. They’re all brilliant in their areas of expertise.

When I got into a corner and thought I needed legal help I hired the best I couldn’t afford. John Sotos was my on-and-off-again lawyer from 1998 t0 2000 and I learned a great many things from John and his partner David Sterns. Both John and Michael told me to look at and talk to the banks. Oddly enough, the first lawyer I talked to about franchising in 1982 is now a Ontario Superior Court justice in Barrie. I like lawyers but they’ve got to cover their rent too, you know!

Many franchisees want to fight.

That’s good…and bad at the same time.

Many franchisees think in terms of black and white; now or never; us/them.

That’s good…and bad at the same time.

Many franchisees would rather choose a “white knight” professional instead of a group of franchisees plotting their own course.

That’s not good…and really, really horribly bad.

The McDonald’s U.S.A. president described his corporation as a real estate company with an interest in hamburgers. Let me repeat: McDonald’s is a landlord (to franchisees) with an interest in fast food.

I learned that the economics of modern litigation is very similar.

  1. The franchise industry legal cash flows = 95% by franchisors,
  2. Once the retainer is paid any consultants are shown the door (only one expert, please),
  3. Franchisees are one-shot clients (v. repeat business for franchisors),
  4. Disclosure laws are a God-send for billable hours, and
  5. The industry has a very, very long memory for those that oppose it’s interests.

All lawyers are businesspeople that operate in a near-monopoly on certain words and concepts.

Learning these terms is not hard if you have (1) a learning tool and (2) a willingness to face some difficult facts.

Most let their emotions rule their decision making (ie. denial and fear) but in their defense, aren’t really conscious of doing so. They’ve been conditioned to be on their knees and look to Daddy for acceptance.

Education is the only way out.

WikiFranchise.org


MBE, The UPS Store executive behind bars

February 24, 2009

I started looking closely into franchising in 1998.

One of my first big system investigations was Mail Boxes Etc., MBE. Since then, that system has morphed into The UPS Store brand and can be followed on Blue MauMau’s thread called The UPS Store, Tales of Gore.

The photograph above is of the president of MBE Canada Michael Martino. He was chairman of the Canadian Franchise Association, CFA and spoke at the International Franchise Association’s, IFA 46th annual convention in 2006.

In December 1998, Martino appeared as a part of an article by John Lorinc in Canada’s monthly national business magazine (The Report on Business). Lorinc, an award-winning  journalist, wrote a very interesting 1995 book called OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: The Truth About Canada’s Franchise Industry which is still available on used book websites. I recommend picking it up.

The accompanying article was called The Sure Thing: Peter Thomas thought he’d bought into a can’t-miss franchise. That was $170,000 ago.

Here is a pdf of the article, courtesy of my Information Sharing Project archive.

Doug Forster took the photograph. We both agreed that franchise executives, as a general rule, should not allow themselves to be posed behind bars.

  • Especially when you read the contents of the article.

Peter and I were sitting beside each other in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario when our first franchise law was passed in 2000.

I sometimes wonder what happened to Peter and to Mr. Martino over the last 10 years.

Anyone know?

UPDATE: A direct link to Lorinc’s article is now available on WikiFranchise.org. I’ve also lost touch with Peter since the Ontario franchise law was passed. Hope he is well.


Suing your Franchise Banker: Girding one’s Loins

July 24, 2008

Since I have set this up for a client and defined Predatory franchise lending to the Canadian government, I can tell you.

In 1995, an award-winning Canadian investigative journalist named John Lorinc published his first book, called Opportunity Knocks: The Truth About Canada’s Franchise Industry. An excellent resource; totally blackballed by the industry.

  • Canada is the first stop overseas for U.S. franchisors so our experiences are very relevant anywhere in the world.

Click here for an emphasis-added excerpt from Lorinc’s Chapter 4 called, The 90% Solution: Franchise Economics.

It deals with the a specialized corporate entity: the Franchise Banker. You should find this book and order it online if you are at all serious about learning about modern franchising.

Interesting stuff. The government guaranteed loan program is really just the icing on the cake for these most aggressive of bankers.

If it doesn’t jingle, it doesn’t count.

Rich Mimick, my business school accounting professor

Learn how franchising is financed to know who really is in charge. The brains of this outfit sure ain’t the franchisors, my little overly-trusting friend.

BTW: I should mention I had an eventful 6 week career with a Canadian bank in 2000. The training program was going well [we both thought] until they realized I was that Les Stewart.

  • Big Franchising delivers very sharp disincentives to those that raise uncomfortable questions.

The latest example was last month regarding selling insurance into the Canadian franchise industry. Who wouldn’t want me as their insurance broker, I ask you?

It seems history means nothing to some industries:

It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th U.S. president

An early (around 1400) drawing of a chastity belt. [above, thanks to Wikipedia]


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