There is strength in numbers, especially when it comes to advocacy. No one knows this better than the International Franchise Association (IFA).
“IFA is just like any other trade organization,” said Matt Haller, senior vice president of Communications and Public Relations for IFA. “Our primary mission is advocacy and protecting the franchise business model that’s used by many companies to create opportunities for independent owners and operators to purchase the right to operate their own small business.”
Last year, IFA launched an initiative called the Franchise Action Network (FAN), a group of franchisees across all industries — including automotive — that come together to participate in national outreach along with local efforts to combat industry attacks.
“It’s a way to bring together stakeholders in the franchise community, both the franchisor and more importantly, the franchisee, to serve as one consistent voice with government at every level across the country whether it’s federal, state or local,” Haller said.
The IFA and its FAN initiative take on some of the major issues in the industry, such as minimum wage, healthcare and joint employer status.
“Right now, the biggest issue the industry is facing is a federal issue regarding the National Labor Relations Board,” Haller said. “The Labor Board is [releasing] a new standard of what is known as joint employer. What this new blotter standard would mean for franchise businesses is the franchisor could be held jointly liable for the actions of workers at franchise locations. It looks at the franchisee and the franchisor as one business.”
In short, FAN is dedicated to issues that could potentially be detrimental to existing and potential franchisees.
“There are a number of public policy threats to franchising manifesting themselves in city states and at the federal level,” Haller said.
One of the seemingly greatest threats is the misperception policymakers have about the business model.
“They don’t necessarily connect it to the local business owner,” Haller said. “Legislators need to know and understand the franchise model. They need to know what franchisees do on an every day basis and they need to know about the economic impact they have on their local communities.”
However, there are two sides to every story.
“At the same time, franchisees are busy running their business every single day, and they’re not thinking about the threats to their livelihood that may be out there,” Haller said.
That’s where IFA and its Franchise Action Network are working to repair the disconnect.
“FAN helps give one cohesive voice and gives the franchisee a vehicle to deliver that message,” Haller said.
Besides being an ally, FAN has unique benefits to offer its diverse membership base.
“Fast food is what people immediately tend to think about when they think about franchising,” Haller said. “We’ve done events around the country with policymakers and franchisees so we can show the diversity of industries that use the franchise model, such as oil and gas, hotel owners, lawn care and all kinds of business services.”
This diverse membership base can be an invaluable resource pool if used to its full potential.
“It gives you a way to tell your story and promote your business at the same time,” Haller said. “I think it’s a good, proactive way for people to be involved in the association, to network with colleagues and make connections within the franchise industry. That can always lead to new business opportunities. At the end of the day, it’s the future of their business.”
Unlike some professional organizations, FAN doesn’t require a yearly membership or sign-up fee.
“You can sign up at franchiseactionnetwork.com, and there is no cost to be involved,” Haller said. “You’ll receive an ongoing, bi-weekly newsletter, recapping some of the issues taking place at various levels.”
One of the most important battlefronts is the one in your own backyard.
“The best way for us to protect the business model is to put a local face on the issue,” Haller said. “When issues become more active, we know rather than communicating with our entire membership list, we know who our first line of defense is, those who have opted in to be more involved on an advocacy front.”
Meaning, if an issue arises in your city the franchise community should be aware of, FAN will reach out to those specific people who have joined the network.
FAN allows franchisees to come together to deliver their message as one voice. This cohesiveness is highly important even on a local level.
“We aren’t asking people to communicate directly with Congress,” Haller said. “We may be zeroing in on one particular member of Congress who represents that city or a senator because they serve on a relevant committee. It helps us focus on policymakers who matter to an issue that may only pertain to that particular committee at a certain time. It’s really important to be able to microtarget on a Congressional district level, a state legislative district level and even within a city demographic.”
With some of the issues that have arisen in recent months, more and more franchisees have joined the FAN club.
“We have more than 2,000 FANS — that’s what we call our members — across the country,” Haller said. “We are excited about the momentum, but we are certainly always looking for more people to become involved.”
To join the Franchise Action Network, visit their website or download their mobile app.
“If we have people already actively involved before an issue rears its head, it makes protecting the business model a lot easier,” Haller said.