A Question Of Functionality

BY JAY SINGH, CHAIRMAN, NCASEF

The National Coalition was established as an organization in 1973. Six franchisee owners held a basement meeting in Seattle, so the story goes, and two years later sixty franchisees incorporated as the Convenience Stores Franchise Association. The first convention was held in Las Vegas in 1977, and we have represented franchisee interests ever since.

Today, the National Coalition has grown to encompass some 4,200 of approximately 4,700 unique franchisees. All of these owners are members of one of 43 Franchise Owner’s Associations operating in 31 states. As a collective group we’ve sponsored 43 conventions total, and we’ve seen a lot of chairmen and national officers sitting at the head table during our Coalition Board meetings four times per year.

When I travel the country and speak to franchisees, sometimes I hear the perception that the National Coalition is run by the six people who currently sit at the head table. This is a  perception that I would like to correct, because in fact, it is quite the opposite.

The National Coalition Board consists of 86 Board members, a president and vice president from every regional association in the country, who get to vote and voice their opinions (or their FOA’s stance) on the full range of issues put before the Board. We follow a specific set of bylaws, and we set an agenda for every quarterly meeting. Proper discussion is held on every issue on the agenda, and we look at new business items, submitted by Board members, in every meeting.

Members of the Board are quite diverse. We range from single store owners to super-multiples, from low volume to the top percentage of volume, and from smaller city stores to the largest stores in the suburbs. We often engage in spirited discussion of the issues, and we frequently take a long time deciding what to do. Usually, after careful consideration, a motion is made, and opportunity for proper discussion is offered. We hear every Board member who wants to speak, and a vote is taken, either a ballot vote or a show of hands depending on the issue at hand. In many instances we delay decisions on issues so FOA member presidents and vice presidents can get the opinion of their local Board and members.

Since I became chairman of the National Coalition on November 2, 2017, we have attempted total transparency. We have offered discussion on every topic that our Board members raise, and there is not a single motion that has not been voted upon.

The most important decision we have had to make—whether or not to support the filing of the Misclassification Case, and the subsequent Injunction Case—was decided unanimously by the National Coalition Board. A legal committee was formed, and funding was secured. Every motion raised was discussed. As elected officers, the six members of the head table had a lot of ups and downs, and we absorbed much of the shock from our franchisor. We are still absorbing shock.

All of the presidents and vice presidents of our member FOAs are elected by their own groups, which have their own bylaws and election procedures. Some have two-year terms. Some have elections annually. Some have large Boards and lots of participation from their members. Some do not. In all cases, once an FOA is admitted into the membership of the National Coalition, the president and vice president are automatically Board members.

It is wrong also to think that only a few FOAs are driving all decisions, because the smaller FOAs and larger FOAs have an equal voice in Board meetings. When we discussed fundraising for the lawsuit, every FOA committed after a long and very frank discussion. The amount to raise was decided by majority vote. The decision to skip the 7-Eleven Experience was decided by majority vote.

When we decided to go public (to the press) with our grievances, it was a majority vote, and we had much discussion about how to do this without harming our brand, which provides our income. In the end, we decided that our voice and our feedback would strengthen the brand, because corporate seemed to have forgotten their first customers—the franchisees.

At our last Board meeting in Dallas, when the majority of the Board members told us to soften our tone in speaking with 7-Eleven, we did. We have a legal committee in place, a finance committee, and a merchandising committee. It is not just the executive officers of the Coalition who are making decisions. We have a lot of back and forth discussion. All  decisions are made collectively by a majority vote of the Board members.

The finances of the National Coalition also are transparent. Any paying member is free to call the National Office to look at our books with an appointment.

All along I like to think that we have been operating under a true democratic process. We democratically elect officers, and we vote on every issue. The Board members work at the behest of their FOA members, and the National Coalition officers work at the direction of the Board. I guess the proof is in the pudding. Every Board meeting we hold is very well attended, and we had the largest turnout ever at last year’s National Coalition convention.