Open Communication And Dialogue
One of the main objectives of the National Coalition as we ended 2014 and headed into the New Year was to develop more open dialogue with SEI’s upper management so we could address our issues and concerns, and discuss ways we could work together to maximize profitability. After all, communication is a two-way street, and to be effective both parties need to be in agreement and willing to support each other.
As such, the National Coalition reached out to SEI in an effort to bring our franchisor to the table so we could begin discussions in earnest. We have had numerous meetings with 7-Eleven upper management since October and things were moving at a very slow pace. However, as we engaged more and more with SEI we eventually hit a turning point, and the National Coalition officers were finally invited to Dallas to meet with Joe DePinto and his executive board in January.
Dialogue during our first meeting with SEI executives was very open. We covered many topics, and we made a commitment to maintain communication with each other and work to address each other’s concerns. From October through the current period we have realized that there is more discussion, more dialogue, and more interest coming from SEI. Most recently in February, the entire National Coalition Board traveled to Dallas to meet with 7-Eleven’s executive board. It’s the first time that I can recall in 16 years that this has ever happened. This meeting was also very open, and respect was given to everyone’s viewpoint, regardless of whether it was an issue or a suggestion.
Our intention is to continue on this pace and to grow from it, now that SEI is also committed to the process. We are even engaging SEI local management now—zone leaders and such—with our FOA presidents to address any concerns we may have, from store operations to even merchandising or vendor questions. SEI has also invited us to add a couple of our people to their committees in order to find a fair balance between the National Coalition repre- sentation and SEI’s franchisees that they have selected. We, in turn, have extended the same courtesy to SEI—they have an open invitation to attend our meetings to honestly discuss anything.
Compromise is something that you do willingly, and there has been plenty of give and take during our discussions with SEI. Case in point, we had an increase due for our maintenance fees. After a discussion with SEI, a decision was made to freeze the prices until we could work together to find a fair solution on the increase. This is a prime example of how good open communication and dialogue can benefit both parties. I very much appreciate that SEI put a freeze on the maintenance fee increase for the time being, and it’s probably leading the way for other discussions where we can evaluate our entire business and our relationship so we can work more productively.
We hope this open dialogue continues throughout the coming year. With optimism I believe we are on the right path.