34 - September 2009
This month - franchising what the small business owner needs to know
The Messiah’s* guide to franchising-
What potential Franchisors need to know
The great thing about being a member of a franchise, is that providing that it was your spouse’s idea to join and not yours, there are hours of enjoyment complaining about the fees and the lack of support. It is a luxury that we small business owners, not operating under a franchise operation and with only ourselves to blame, can only envy.
However, we small business owners live in hope that one day we may find people who want to copy our way of doing things. The trade mark carefully crafted from our children’s names. Our views (which our spouse never wanted to listen to) set out in an operating manual (OM), quoted by our franchisees/disciples in reverent terms. Visits to far flung outposts to preach our vision. A sought after speaker to motivate the unwashed masses of our industry to “Do It Our Way”.
Government distrust of Messiahs has been around for sometime*. Messiah’s have arrived from industries as diverse as “hot dog selling" to “dog poo picking up” and government have adopted industry codes to regulate these erstwhile charlatans.
Here are seven tips for budding Messiahs:
The law will allow you to be a Dictator in the name of protecting your brand but a benign one who must treat his subjects fairly well and act reasonably and not thuggishly which. frankly, takes a lot of the fun out of it.
* see New Testament.
(c)Paul Brennan 2009.
Who wants to be a franchisor? 10 ways for small business entrepreneurs to avoid the franchise trap
For savvy business owners, greatness in the form of becoming a franchisor is often thrust upon them.
The documentation is excruciatingly long, government legislation arduous and there is a requirement for you to give notices and prepare information “just so”. Such requirements can deter the entrepreneur and often causes a good idea to be put in the too hard basket.
It may be a matter of having your lawyer look at the definition of franchise and try to hit the bar beneath it so that the arrangement is a licence or distribution agreement of a type not caught by the franchise code.
This will not stop you creating a Third Reich in the future, but for those who can limit their initial ambition to something less than world domination, it is a start.
What is a franchise? Well, it is MacDonalds, Jim's Mowing, Muffin Break etc. It involves a trade mark, a fee to use it and a way to carry on a business dictated by the franchisor.
If the agreement is more than 15 pages long then you may be in franchise territory.
Here are 10 things to do to avoid this franchise trap:
It requires a system over and above saying “here is my trademark and product for x years, give me a fee and get on with it”. For instance avoid:
Basically, try not to be a control freak. Keep it simple. If the idea takes off, there shall be plenty of time to turn it into a full blown franchise with all the expense and paperwork that entails.
You must document the arrangement to protect your brand with a few limitations e.g. do not go overboard in the advertising promises. Training, advice and encouragement are allowed but do not go over the top e.g. weekend away boot camps.
In fact, it means running the licence arrangement like you do your small business, “on a shoe string”. It is possible to have something that will eventually grow into a franchise, but is easy to commence.
(c) Paul Brennan 2009. A lawyer practising on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and is a post graduate in IP law.
Oh, oh, you're in trouble.
-What are the consequences of failing to comply with the franchise code?
As a business owner there are many legal pitfalls in life that never happen, unless of course you are a franchisor.
Franchisees tend to blame the franchisor, sometimes quite rightly, if things are going badly. Landlords and banks are on the franchisee’s tail as business expenses continue even if sales are down. When their backs are against the wall suing the franchisor can seem the best option.
Franchisees hope that if a comma is left out of the 2nd paragraph of the DS the franchisor will be taken out and shot.
In practice, the Court has a broad discretion to grant relief appropriate to the circumstances of the case. This means that the judge will try to be fair to both sides which can be very irritating as it requires a lot listening, pouring over detail, adjournments and a whole load of other things that few franchisors and franchisees have time for, especially if their business is going to the wall.
The judge has power to :
The good news for the franchisor is that courts usually try to enforce contracts or at least make them work. Otherwise, the whole commerce system would fail.
Rather than being touchy feely they may adopt the traditional “you entered into the contract, now deal with it” approach.
The bad news is that disputes are costly and take time, win or lose.
© Paul Brennan 2009
The do’s and don’t of “Franchisee Rage”
The great thing about being a franchisee is that you can share the misery of being in small business with others.
You hear that the franchisor is going bust. But what are you going to do about it?
What not to do:
What to do:
Three things may happen:
A common rumour among franchisees is that the franchisor is teetering on the brink of going bust. As this is not an uncommon business model the rumour may be sort of true rather than being generated by malicious franchisees, but be careful.
© Paul Brennan 2009
The content of this site and the Law & Disorder eZine is to give you legal basics and in some instances included unashamedly to try and make you laugh. In law it is sometimes difficult to work out what is serious and what is just for fun. Therefore, if you plan to do anything legal, rely on your own lawyer’s advice or instruct me to look at the particular facts of your case. Not only will I deny responsibility for the legal content but also for some of the jokes.
© Paul Brennan 2009.
Author of the Law is an Ass...Make Sure it Doesn't Bite Yours!