Of Culture and Relationships

By Jack Rugen, Soundwave, Former President, United Franchise Owners of Long Island New York

I had been a part of this franchise system for over 30 years until early this year. I sold my store and am happily retired. In the ‘80s after the Thompson brothers left, the system was simple, one-dimensional and felt more ike a family business. Today, it has grown into a multi-dimensional system affected by its physical size and scope. In those days, the culture of the then-Southland Company was more amenable to a shared partnership, which, in turn, improved the relationship. A franchisee could pick up a phone and call CEO Clark Mathews. The franchise agreement was much simpler, and sales were soaring ten to fifteen percent year over year. In my newfound post 7-Eleven era, I believe I’ve
acquired the wisdom and fortitude to make the following claims and opinions.

The 7-Eleven franchise agreement defines the terms of the relationship with 7-Eleven to ensure that both parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities. The longterm and long-distance connection franchisees have with 7-Eleven has increased the complexity of managing this partnership effectively. Therefore, it is crucial that both parties work to maintain this relationship and ensure mutual and continued success.

Consistency and engagement are essential for growing the relationship with corporate. Although franchise leaders have been successful on the local level, it has been a struggle to nurture this relationship at the national level. Of course, the growing number of lawsuits has not helped in fostering that relationship, and the attitude of the company is that of a spoiled little brat who continually stamps its feet and exercises its power because it doesn’t get its way. It is of upmost importance that both parties improve the prevailing franchise rapport. To improve the relationship between the two parties, it is necessary that all the reasons behind directives are explained and clarified to franchisees, while maintaining civility toward each other. In other words, the parties must act like adults, not children. Effective communication should be frequent, honest and transparent, because the key to a successful bond with SEI is trust! 7-Eleven needs to ensure that there is no lack of communication on any level of the system. While it is tempting to rely on technology and 7-HUB for all communication to franchisees, I believe this has created a strong disconnect between SEI executives and franchisees. Although corporate may have confidence in posting regular electronic content to keep in touch with their franchisees, communication must be balanced and involve both parties. 7-Eleven cannot rely solely on posted electronic content to maintain a relationship. Personal faceto-face interaction with SEI executives on all levels creates a much better connection and fosters trust. It is all too common for emails to be misinterpreted, creating disruptive miscommunications between 7-Eleven and franchisees.

Relationships are built through effective, two-way communication. A successful relationship is dependent on a shared culture of respect and mutual goals. Without these commonalities, the relationship is likely to fail. Respect and commitment are key to any successful relationship, both personal and professional, and the franchisor-franchisee relationship is no exception. It is essential to adapt to the technological and generational changes in the system, while remaining committed to a strong relationship between franchisees and SEI. While times and technology will always change, the culture created by franchisors for their franchisees must remain constant.

Success should not be the end goal, but instead the starting point of the relationship. The culture created by the system must be fair and agreeable to both parties. SEI and its franchisees must be committed to each other, their respective responsibilities, and common goals. A crucial piece of this relationship is the financial success of franchisees. SEI must accept shared responsibility for this goal because the success of franchisees leads to the continued success of SEI.

Franchisees can be assured that the National Coalition’s Board of Directors will commit to creating effective communication with corporate’s senior executives to build a relationship based on trust, honesty and transparency. After all, this is essential for their mutual success.