How the NBLC can bring real change

If you search “New Business Leadership Council” in Google, you will find a three minute video produced by 7-Eleven Inc. (SEI) and titled, “7-Eleven New Business Leadership Council represents the voice of franchisees.” It features franchisees from the NBLC talking about how they provide franchisees with a voice to protect their interests and offer opinions to help shape brand decisions.

The video says the NBLC “represents the voice of the franchisees,” but because it is an appointed body, without the power to set its own agenda or make meaningful decisions, it cannot truly represent the interests of the entire franchisee community. By comparison, the National Coalition is comprised of elected members, who serve the interests of their local Franchisee Owners Association.

The differences are important, as we learned from a former council member who shared his opinions on the NBLC, with the condition that we don’t use his real name because he fears possible retaliation from SEI. For the purposes of this article, we will call him Andy.

Andy has been a multi-store 7-Eleven franchise owner for over 25 years.  Between time on the NBLC and its predecessor, the President’s Leadership Council (PLC), Andy spent over a decade representing franchisees on brand councils because he wanted to make a difference for fellow operators.  But his description of the councils on which he served was one of inaction—with council members unable to get anything accomplished because of a brick wall of obstruction and a pressing desire to dismantle the National Coalition.

“It was very clear [SEI] was trying to get rid of NCASEF,” Andy said, noting even when the PLC was active, SEI’s goal was “to diminish the National Coalition,” by filling the council with FOA presidents who were busy devoting their attention to National Coalition business. Andy believes Joe DePinto dismantled the PLC after taking over as chief executive so the corporation could replace those FOA presidents with a group they would handpick. He described that group “passive and easily manipulated. You get to go there and hobnob with the executives, but as far as the bottom line of our business?  There was nothing to do with that,” he said.

Even though members are made to feel like they are part of the process, he said, they are not because SEI sets the agendas and determines what issues will be acted upon. He went so far as to call the NLBC “a façade,” explaining how the board would generate meeting notes on important action items that were never acted upon. “I would say less than one percent of the topics discussed would even get worked on,” he said. “I believe Joe DePinto has good intentions, but the people guiding him do not.  They’re old school and believe franchisees are making too much money, have too much autonomy and need to be controlled.”

Ultimately, his mounting frustrations led Andy to resign from the NBLC in order to focus his time and attention on running his stores.

As we know, there are franchisees volunteering their time to serve on the NBLC who have the best intentions; we are not pointing fingers at them. We also want to note that the council has delved into some serious issues, among them: the impact of increased minimum wages and food accounting methods. Yet, these remain unresolved within the 7-Eleven system and continue to eat away at franchisee profits.

What is also unresolved is the issue that the National Coalition, a franchisee body which is elected by its colleagues and not appointed by its brand, has no recognized voice on the NBLC. If the 7-Eleven corporation truly believes the NBLC is “a platform designed for addressing challenges and issues facing today’s 7-Eleven franchisees,” as its video states, it should bring representatives of this coalition to the table.

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If we work together, we can solve the problems that are plaguing this system. #TogetherWeCanFixThisSystem