FOAs—The Backbone Of The Franchisee Community
By Jay Singh, Chairman, NCASEF
7-Eleven Franchise Owner’s Associations began forming in 1972, when 7-Eleven was in its infancy, and the world was ripe for franchising and for convenience stores in general. All was pretty right with the world, because everyone was making money, testing new ideas and essentially creating a new system as the company grew.
Today we have more competition, and a changing marketplace where online ordering and quick delivery are as much a challenge to our businesses as Wawa, Quick Trip and Circle K. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I am saying that for franchisees, there was strength and promise in unity then, and there is strength and promise in unity now.
As franchisees of the largest convenience store chain in the U.S., we are proud to represent our brand to our customers, our communities and our vendor partners who provide the products we so happily sell in our stores. But running a convenience store is no longer an easy business, and 7-Eleven is no longer the family owned company it was in the 1980s. To talk with corporate, to talk to our legislatures, and to represent our businesses to our communities, just like in the old days, we still stand a better chance of having our voices heard if we speak united as a group.
For 7-Eleven franchisees, our Franchise Owner’s Associations (FOAs) serve as meeting places for the minds of many small businessmen, and as centralized forums to address the day-to-day issues franchisees face. FOA members provide feedback on systemic practices and procedures, and suggest ways to improve the system to 7-Eleven, but we also work with our local communities, on behalf of franchisees, to the benefit of all. As brand ambassadors of 7-Eleven we create a positive vibe in our communities as we work with local lawmakers, police, schools, and local charities. That is what local FOAs do. Individually, franchisees also contribute, but we accomplish much more as a group.
The National Coalition’s 43 FOA members across the country have great relationships with their local police departments, lawmakers, bureaucrats, schools and local members of the vendor community. I even had a congressman, while campaigning, work in my store. At my FOA’s local trade show, we used to give one free booth to each political party to create a good relationship with politicians to enhance the brand.
The truth of it is that franchisees feel more engaged in their local communities because they have invested time and money in their stores. They live in the area and their kids attend the local schools. This helps to increase the visibility and value of our brand.
Being a leader in a local FOA, or on the head table of the National Coalition means sometimes taking risks on behalf of your members. When an FOA leader brings a franchisee concern to the notice of SEI local management or Dallas headquarters, it is human nature for the franchisee and for the local official to be defensive of their positions.
This is why it is important for FOA leaders to be on the NBLC, the CEO Roundtable, and any other committees where our elected leaders can provide feedback to corporate. If SEI chose FOA leaders to be on those committees, then they are really bringing in the people who are duly elected by their franchisee membership to represent them. Every Board member is elected by their general membership. If SEI includes FOA leaders, it is a true representation and they will get more accurate feedback.
Some franchisees just don’t want to become FOA members. Maybe they don’t know the system well, or maybe there is not a positive approach by the FOA on the local level. Perhaps in the past FOA Board members did not address the franchisee’s concerns or didn’t explain the benefits of membership. But whether they are members of an FOA or not, they are franchisees and I am a firm believer that local FOAs and National Coalition leadership should help all franchisees. I encourage all franchisees to join their local FOA, and I long for the day when we have 100 percent participation.
As long as we are on the topic of franchisee unity, I would like to invite all of you to attend the NCASEF’s 43rd Annual Convention and Trade Show, “Franchisees ARE The Brand,” in Orlando, Florida from July 23 to 26. It’s going to be a great event. The registration fee—$49 per person—is the lowest in Coalition history. The venue—the beautiful Gaylord Palms—is also subsidized, and will be just $99 per night. You will get breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as a ticket to Universal Studios for each attendee. You will have a chance to mingle with fellow franchisees, attend informative sessions, and see new products and great deals at the two-day trade show. Our convention and trade show is a great family destination, and it is a business expense that can be partially deducted on your tax return.
We expect this to be the best-attended National Coalition convention ever! I hope to see you all there.