Difficult Issues For NBLC Discussion
One of the many tasks performed during our quarterly National Coalition Board meetings is to gather information from Board members about the concerns and issues affecting their FOA members so they can be brought to SEI’s attention via the NCASEF or through the National Business Leadership Council (NBLC), of which I am a franchisee representative. The way the NBLC is structured, an issue is sent over to a committee within the Council and it basically becomes a project wherein we look for—and work on—the desired resolution. Along the way, we provide status updates to the National Coalition and FOAs to disseminate to their franchisees.
One of the main issues we’ve discussed in the NBLC is communication. We have discussed the role of Retailer Initiative (RI) and Zone Leadership Council (ZLC) meetings, and how we can improve both meetings so they can be more beneficial in growing our business. Although the meetings vary from Market to Market and Zone to Zone in terms of structure, more often than not the RI meetings consist of a PowerPoint presentation on the top five hot food stores, the top five or ten stores that sold the most Danishes, or the top ten stores with 90 percent GEA (cleanliness).
I can understand that the idea behind this is to acknowledge the franchisees who have done well, but unless we get into a little more detail on how each goal was achieved and share those action steps, no one is learning from the experience and we’re missing the purpose of why we get together for these meetings. The NBLC decided that we need to have a more consistent and standard RI meeting structure nationally, and it is being developed.
One hot topic that has been discussed at the NBLC is our 90-day policy. Recently, a majority of the stores in the system were hit with back-charges related to invoices that never got booked. Some of these related to deliveries that were made more than a year or eighteen months ago, and the charges ranged from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. A lot of questions were raised around the 90-day policy, especially how can we let a vendor come back after a year to collect, but franchisees can’t settle an outstanding credit or bill after 90 days? The NBLC’s Store Facilities and Processes Committee is conducting an in-depth review of the policy, looking at all of the ins and outs with the objective to make the impact to the vendor and franchisee consistent and fair.
That same committee is also looking into the issue of S18 reports and invoice factoring. We all have S18 reports, which are generated when certain items on an invoice get factored rather than retailed at a recommended or set price, basically throwing off the store’s inventory and causing lots of problems. Accounting and Merchandising are working on a resolution and are going to address internal processes to resolve system issues and communicate how we are going to fix the factoring issue.
The fresh food category has been a challenge for a couple of years, especially profitability. Stores are struggling with ordering enough to still make money after write-offs. The Food Service Committee is looking into how we can reduce costs in fresh and hot foods to increase GP so we can afford to order more.
Cost counting versus retail counting on the Fresh Food Category also has been a huge issue for a long time. Top Accounting folks at SEI are involved and they’ve produced a first draft resolution, which is being reviewed by the Food Service Committee. We’re hoping that at least for the fresh food category, we are making positive changes.
Many stores are being hit with chargebacks from coupons because something went wrong with the submission. The NBLC has been working on getting a standard protocol for coupon processing developed, which will include verification that the coupons were submitted and received and a report available to the store to indicate if there is a short or other variance.
Slowly but surely, we are making progress. We’d like to resolve the issues in a much faster pace but we’re tackling a few at a time to find solutions that benefit the entire system and grow sales and profits.
I’d like to congratulate our new chairman, Joe Galea. Joe has been a friend and neighbor for many years, and I look forward to working with him over the next two years. I’d also like to thank Bruce Maples for his service to the National Coalition. I have much respect for Bruce, and I have learned much from him over the past four years. I believe Bruce has impacted our Coalition in a positive way, and I wish him much luck in future endeavors.