Franchisees Who Make a Difference
Printed in USA Today
by Nancy Rathbun Scott
When you stroll into a Subway sandwich store, the last thing you expect to see on the menu is hay for animals. But that's the order Florida residents placed when fires ravaged their crops in July 1998.
"They needed hay for the animals because a lot of the farmland was being burned up," says Michele Klotzer, Subway's director of public and community relations. Subway and the Franchise Emergency Action Team (FEAT) responded by arranging for trucks to pick up baled hay and transport it where it was needed.
What does this have to do with sandwiches? Absolutely nothing. Subway administers and underwrites the FEAT program, which was organized with the cooperation of for the International Franchise Association, the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Like many franchises, Subway looks beyond their walls to make a difference in the communities around them.
Business Building
You might expect a spirit of community activism from an established company like Subway, but even brand new franchisee, Bill Hutchinson, gets involved. In September, the golf professional purchased a MacBirdie franchise, selling golf gifts in a 25-mile stretch of Palm Springs, Calif., populated with 94 golf courses.
"One of our objectives is to become active in the local community. That involves donating money and merchandise to silent auctions helping specific charities," Hutchinson says. "It also means time."
The new MacBirdie franchisor recently donated gift certificates to an auction for a local children's museum. He is also active in the City of Hope, a charity that benefits cancer research. "Once we have built our business to the point where we feel comfortable, we plan to get even more involved in the community," he says.
Community Involvement
When Deirdre Wolff, a CruiseOne owner, surveyed her market in West Bloomfield, MI, she found a way to build her business while serving the community. From research and real life experiences, she knew that African Americans now have much more disposable income than in the past. Wolff also found that the cruise industry still had not aggressively targeted this market.
That will change if Wolff has her way. She already has started her education campaign by teaching seminars on cruise ship savvy. Wolff regularly encourages cruise lines to feature entertainment that will lure more minorities on board. She has even challenged industry executives to develop marketing materials dedicated to the growing demographic.
"I look to African Americans as a great market," she says. "I think it is one that is totally untapped, particularly when it comes to cruising."
Ethical Businesses
Sometimes companies don't need to look outward to lend a helping hand. Bill Shuman, owner of a Cleveland Prime Business Communications franchise, feels the call to serve within his organization. His niche involves mentoring employees to help ensure their success.
"I can assist a lot of people in being successful, which should be the only job of management," says Shuman.
Spending 30 years in the school system as a teacher, school counselor, football coach, and track coach prepared Shuman well for his role as corporate nurturer. "If you help people do well, you find that you become much more successful than if you were selfishly taking all the money for yourself," Shuman says.
That's the hallmark of true leadership for him. When employees entrust their lives and careers into developing a corporation, Shuman says he can help make a difference by working to ensure their success.
Part of the Responsibility
Of course, some franchisors take a broader approach to making a difference. Russell Frith, chief executive officer at Lawn Doctor, says he aims to keep more than just individual lawns green. As a member of the Evergreen Foundation Board of Directors, Frith works with a professional lawn care association's education foundation to make the world a greener place.
"We're in a very active development mode right now. Our objective is to support a concept called Greenways," says Frith. The project interconnects parks and open spaces in urban areas to create a sense of well being.
Lawn Doctor even sets aside a portion of its budget to contribute to efforts like school drug programs. In addition, Frith serves as treasurer of the IFA Education Foundation, which he says is a significant financial commitment.
"A good part of being in business is being good a corporate citizen," Frith says. Whatever the industry, business should be involved in projects that contribute to the community.
"There are a lot of franchises in this country," he says. "If you add up all that activism, you have some real impact."

® copyright 1999 Nancy Rathbun Scott
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