It’s Time to Get Back To Business

By Nick Bhullar, Vice Chairman, NCASEF

Purchasing a franchise is in many ways like joining a family. Especially at 7-Eleven, where we get a lot of our services from our franchisor, we’re dependent on each other, and our success is shared. If the brand is successful with a good reputation, guests will react positively and shop at our stores. Likewise, if franchisees—the street presence of the brand—act positively as the brand’s representatives, it will reflect positively on the brand and increase guest acceptance. If the brand falters, or franchisees don’t keep up with the business, the brand’s
reputation suffers.

We know that all families have disagreements. It’s a part of life. If we can find ways to both handle disagreements and express our frustration, we can move forward and continue our relationships. And as we move forward, we must learn to communicate once again with our franchisor, because we need them and they need us. The National Coalition represents more than three-fourths of the franchisees in the system (our members), and we have the elected officers of 43 independent franchise owners’ groups sitting collectively on the National’s Board of Directors. It’s the nature of leadership that leaders sometimes have to take chances, and this is the chance the national’s Board took to express the frustration of franchisees.

Now we need a new starting point. It’s a family business, and our family needs to communicate to solve our issues and to live up to the expectations of our customers. It is a fact that the national franchisee leadership changes every two to three years, and SEI management changes, but the brand can’t wait, and we need to think about the brand. If the brand is successful, then franchisees will be successful and the company will be successful. If we keep fighting, don’t communicate, and don’t listen to each other, the brand will struggle.

We have a responsibility now to construct a new level of communication, because competition is getting tougher and tougher each year. Big and beautiful competitive stores are being built all around us, and ordering freshly made food on smartphone apps is becoming almost commonplace. The marketplace doesn’t have the memory of the past that franchisees do, because consumers constantly want new, bigger, better, and faster, which we have to strive to provide.

We have all seen the recent decline in sales in other brand franchises. As a result of which, many other franchises that were once in the ‘top franchise’ list, are now non-profitable and in continuous decline in terms of sales and number of stores. Without the commitment of franchisees that could be our fate, accelerated by our older stores, the consolidation of the c-store industry, and the fast-rising minimum wage.

It’s now time to revisit the communications plan, and it’s time for franchisees to stand up and provide the kind of honest, quality feedback that only comes from elected franchisee leaders working with management at a high level. Both sides need to reach out to make this work. If we can make this work we can move the system forward together. If we have communication we can change anything.

More importantly, it’s time to get back to business. Competition is running up our backs, and we have so many issues to deal with—new legislation, new regulations, higher minimum wage—that we need each other more than ever before. We have to get back to working together as a family. Franchisee leaders should be able to help our members when they have problems. We’ve been to the edge, and now it’s time to step back and work together for the benefit of the brand against the competition. If we can’t help our member franchisees fix their problems, then what good
are we? We need to be able to talk to corporate to accomplish that.