Franchising Makes A Good Neighbor
Printed in USA Today
by Nancy Rathbun Scott
Franchising isn't a business and it isn't really an industry either. Rather, it's an operational, marketing, and distribution system. And that's precisely why franchising makes such a good neighbor in times of trouble. Wherever franchising needs to be--whether in a rural, urban, or even foreign setting--and whatever franchising needs to deliver--from donuts to computers to hay--this worldwise system "can do."
In fact, franchise companies across the country have organized under the umbrella of the Franchise Emergency Action Team (FEAT), a program of the International Franchise Association.
Subway Sandwiches and Salads administers and underwrites the Franchise Emergency Action Team (FEAT) program for IFA. The idea is to muster critically needed resources from franchise companies to help communities struck by disaster, says Michele Klotzer, Subway's Director of Public and Community Relations.
But Subway is hardly the only franchise company involved. "People tend to think of things like food and water, but you've got Thrifty Car Rental if you need transportation, you've got the hotels where you can get blankets, and we even have a woman on our FEAT board representing a computer franchise who can provide computers," Klotzer says. "There are a lot of resources in the franchising industry that go above and beyond food and water."
The Coffee Beanery proved the widespread influence of franchise companies after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America. The specialty coffee franchise announced it would donate 10 cents for every cup of brewed Beanery Blend coffee (a blend of Central American coffee) and 50 cents for every pound of Beanery Blend beans sold by the company over 30 days. The company expected to raise $20,000 through this campaign and also invited its customers to place donations in boxes at each of its locations--all to be distributed through the American Red Cross. "We have many good friends and business partners in the coffee growing regions of Central America," says Coffee Beanery President and IFA Second Vice Chair JoAnne Shaw. "The launch of our relief effort will bring together our customers and franchisees to help in the rebuilding of Central American communities."
It's Not Just for Disasters
Useful as they are in times of trouble, most companies and their franchisees aren't waiting for disaster to strike. They're out there pitching in the good times, too.
Mike Frangos, a Colors on Parade franchise owner, for example, hit a home run when he stepped-up to sponsor a little league baseball team in partnership with one of his best clients--Vacaville Dodge.
Colors on Parade encourages such participation in community charities partly because the on-site automotive reconditioning services franchise company believes it's good business. That's why more than 300 Colors on Parade franchisees nationwide doing bodyshop-quality work for new and used car dealers are going to bat for a whole host of charitable causes. Out on the field, Frangos' Colors on Parade banner flies right next to his dealer's. But for Frangos, nothing beats an outing to the ball park. "I've always wanted to sponsor a little league team. I love going to the games (of course I wear my Colors on Parade shirt), and buy the kids hot dogs and cokes. At the end of the season we'll have a pizza fest."
Franchisors Offer Something Special
Some 70 industries use franchising to deliver goods and services to consumers, according to the IFA--which makes franchised businesses a good bet for delivering whatever a community needs. Take Lawn Doctor, for example, the lawn care services franchise company. "We're active in multiple foundations," says Lawn Doctor's CEO Russell Frith, who was the founding president and is on the board of The Evergreen Foundation, the professional lawn care association's education foundation. "We're in a very active development mode now and our objective is to support a concept called 'Greenways'--urban areas that connect places or parks that interconnect to provide open space and a sense of well-being."
It's common for franchisors to affiliate with various community organizations that are related to the business they're in, but that's not always the case. For instance, Frith actively serves the IFA Education Foundation and has committed Lawn Doctor's resources to assist in FEAT projects. "A good part of being in business is being good corporate citizens," he says. Franchise owners should be involved in the community and live up to the spirit--as well as the letter--of the law. They should stand out as somebody that's good. It's good business."
Doing Good Is Institutionalized
At some franchise companies, doing good is an integral part of the company culture. Along with delivering cutting-edge, high-quality products and services, PostNet International is committed to supporting the communities that have contributed to its success. Its "Partner with the PostNet Pros" program does just that says Steve Greenbaum, PostNet's President and CEO. "PostNet Pros was born out of the idea that every one of these players has either their own charity or participates heavily in a charity. Like, for example, Darren Woodson in Dallas. He is our pro there--a strong safety with the Dallas Cowboys and nine-year pro bowler who played in three superbowls--a powerful guy. He has a charity called 'Between the Lines' designed to keep kids on track in their early-to-late teens--staying in school, staying off drugs. He's very active in that charity, so the entire PostNet system is going to adopt that charity throughout the country."
PostNet's other NFL spokesmen also bring a charitable dimension to their support of the franchise company. "Ronnie Lot has several charities," Greenbaum says. "Warren Moon from Seattle is another of our pros who has several charities. So we are actually building a PostNet charitable-events calendar which will be shared by all the stores and all the stores will participate in these regularly-- probably as frequently as monthly--as it evolves. These will be charitable events on behalf of the players in the communities."
With 550 franchised PostNet centers located in 42 states, the franchise company's "Partner with the PostNet Pros" program packs a lot of go-power. By the second quarter next year, Greenbaum estimates everyone will know which charities PostNet represents and how they can contribute and particpate in their local communities. "We now have 23 players signed. We're going for one player for every major market--a total of 30 markets."
Good Neighboring Goes On and On
Michele Klotzer, Subway's director of public and community relations says the franchise industry is a unique benefactor. "Franchising is almost the only entity that can bring together all these diverse industries in good times or bad." But even with its enormous resources, it's not always possible for FEAT team members to respond to an emergency request for aid. "During the fires in Florida this summer, the need was for hay for the animals because a lot of the farmland and hay was being burned up," says Klotzer. "We worked very hard to get transportation--tandem trailers--to go to these various farms to pick up donated hay and bring it down there. That was a difficult one to fulfill. We couldn't get these trucks to get out there and do that."
But it's not just the immediate challenges that FEAT team members strive to meet. "When the holidays come six months down the road," says Klotzer, "people who have survived a disaster no longer have any holiday decorations, which are often stored in the basement and get ruined by flooding. So not only do you do the drives for the immediate, but you also want to do drives for holiday decorations and things like that to get people through this time."
Helping those in need is an ongoing concern. But whatever and wherever the need, the engagement of franchise companies and franchise owners in diverse business interests and charitable efforts continue to enrich the communities which they serve. That's what being a good neighbor is all about and franchising makes a good neighbor.
The Amazing FEAT
When TWA Flight 800 went down off of Long Island in July 1996, the Franchise Emergency Action Team (FEAT) mobilized its members to support rescue and recovery workers. The Coffee Beanery brewed pot upon pot of coffee to keep rescue crews alert, while Blimpie Subs made hundreds of sandwiches. My Favorite Muffin donated over 12 dozen muffins and coffee to recovery personnel. Sandwich Artists from several Long Island Subway Restaurants made thousands of sandwiches to keep up the momentum, and PostNet International provided 500 shopping bags so that personal items could be carried from one site to another.
An amazing feat? Not by FEAT's standards! Founded in 1994 by Richard Rennick, CEO of American Leak Detection, a California based franchise, FEAT was organized in cooperation with the International Franchise Association, the American Red Cross, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Its purpose is to mobilize the resources of the franchise community and their business associates to help people affected by disasters through education, preparation and response recovery assistance in cooperation with national, state and local volunteers and government agencies.
When FEAT ran out of funds in 1997, Fred DeLuca, President and founder of Subway Sandwiches and Salads took over the administration of the program and agreed to underwrite it for two years.
All IFA member companies and their franchisees are automatically FEAT Team members, but about 50 companies are actively participating. Companies assign special FEAT coordinators to work within the company to provide more effective assistance in response to the next emergency. Franchise companies respond to FEAT's appeals with in-kind donations of products or services. For example, PostNet's CEO Steve Greenbaum, a founding member of FEAT and vice-president of its board of directors, says his company has contributed free fax communications and corrugated boxes in disaster relief situations.
"The FEAT Team springs into action when called upon by the American Red Cross or FEMA, once the state or federal government declares an emergency," says Betsy Nuttall, Subway's FEAT Team coordinator and staff member assigned to national FEAT administration. "Usually, it's for a specific need. That way we know which companies to call on for help. For example, they asked us to find transportation for donated hay to feed livestock in Florida during the fires last summer." That didn't work out because they couldn't get the services lined up in the required time-frame, but FEAT has come to the rescue in plenty of other situations.
In fact, FEAT has established a proud record of community service through disaster relief. Since its inception, FEAT has aided people caught by flood waters in Harrisburg, PA; families forced to flee their homes by Hurricanes Opal, Marilyn and Fran; Georgians flooded out by Tropical Storm Alberto; and thousands immobilized by the ice storms last winter in Maine and Canada. An amazing feat? No, just one more way that franchise companies make good neighbors.

® copyright 1999 Nancy Rathbun Scott
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