I was a franchisee of a big coffee chain for many years in Vancouver. To sum up the story, it ended ugly and I was shocked that I had involved myself with such a system. But actually, I’m not shocked at all – I was completely ignorant. And that really got me thinking.
The thought rolled over and over again in my head:
Why was someone as ignorant about this particular business as myself allowed to purchase something for so much money and subject to lose it all?
It wasn’t until I had cleared myself from that life for a few months that a deep, dark and frightening revelation hit me:
I was *specifically chosen* to suffer and die [in the business sense].
Targeted? Yes. Targeted.
Those ‘dem there are loaded words, Wayne!
Yes, they are. And I believe them even more when I say them.
It won’t take long for you to notice what I noticed if you aren’t personally involved. If you are a franchisee as you read this, you will be in a certain amount of denial until the resurrection that follows your franchise death and funeral. The death may be the sale of your business or the total loss of it. The funeral will be the period of time when you mourn over the wasted time and money, but thank God for your character growth and increased wisdom because, for many of us, that’s all we have left.
After my resurrection into the fresh start, I started objectively analyzing the behaviour and personality types of current franchisees. In our particular chain I noticed the following trends amongst franchisee profiles:
- if a franchisee had a business background, it was not in this kind of business – in other words they entered without previous experience
- immigrants were well-favoured – yet certain kinds and not others. Very few of these folk had the ability to craft well written communications that would stand up powerfully in a court of law, or defend themselves verbally for that matter.
- most franchisees demonstrated fear whether it be their personality type or their position in relation to the franchisor.
- all franchisees underwent a ‘personality test’ which tended to produce franchisees that, even when outraged, never really ‘fight’. They might yell, but they don’t fight. They might have bark, but they don’t have bite.
- they were not risk takers and they bought a franchise for the perceived security
- none or very few of them were active or networking in the business community or had the connections to swiftly bring the franchise’s name to ill repute
Just as a company has the right to secretly select a blue eyed, blond haired young female with nice curves to serve their customers food, so does a franchisor have the ability to cherry pick the ‘perfect victim’ to fit into the cogwheels of their financial death machines.
Wayne! You’re so cynical! Are all franchises really that bad?
No. They aren’t and thank goodness. But you absolutely *must* be aware of chains that partake in such cherry-picking in order to remain in a position of dominance and ultimate power.
The ‘tithe’ has a lot of significance to me these days.
When I first gave my life to Jesus the first major challenge I had was the concept of the tithe because my worldly teachers had always taught me to ‘save and invest in my own empire’. Wikipedia defines the tithe as 10% contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to the government. So, in a sense, you are all doing *way* more than a tithe to your local roads and hospitals. The Biblical tithe, at its root, is recognizing the Lord God as the Great Provider of everything we have, and giving back the first fruits of our labour to Him as a sacrifice. It’s truly a sign of faith. In fact, it was the most challenging thing I had to face. It was very easy for me to freely accept the love of God and the blood of Jesus, but it was quite a bit more difficult to reach into my pockets and give some of his provisions back to Him. The old proverb ‘put your money where your mouth is’ speaks of this challenge. The other expression that comes to mind is when one ‘puts skin in the game’. No one will treat you seriously until you can do both of these – including God.
What I have come to learn about the tithe is that it is the most beautiful foundation for a successful life. As I type this blog post, I am wildly successful in some ways (ie. I still have a wife who hasn’t left me, and two beautiful girls, and a job that provides for our needs, my health, etc) but financially I’m am probably in the worst shape of anyone I know in my circle. Why? I found out there is also the ‘evil tithe’ also known as the ‘Franchise Advertising and Royalty fee’. I was under the domination of this corrupt system for nearly six years. During this time, the Franchisor took, took, and took their 10% but, unlike God who promises in Malachi that he will open the floodgates of heaven if we give 10%, the Franchisor gave nearly nothing back (unless you consider a logo and a product line enough on its own). We expected a top notch team of marketing professionals who would, as good stewards of our ‘tithe’, spend the money and drive business back to our stores, constantly reinventing the brand, etc, but this is not what we saw. What we saw was store owners (franchisees) going bankrupt and stores churning and churning. It was not a ‘voluntary tithe’ but a mandatory one.
This whole awful experience of watching my financial life bleed to death by exactly 10% (yes, the exact amount that I am in debt is the amount the Franchisor took) made me get back to the concept of tithing. In a sense, I was treating God much like the way the Franchisor was treating me. God had given me so indescribably much and yet what was I giving back to God? Nearly nothing. I can say ‘zilch’. I was not much more than a ‘Sunday Christian’.
But something has changed recently. God has given me new revelation on the tithe and everything is being restructured in my life. Here is what the Lord showed me:
- I should tithe my life since I don’t have money in the bank (this month)
- I am awake about 16 hours which is 960 minutes every day
- 10% of 960 minutes is 96 minutes or, about 1.5 hours.
- This ‘tithe time’ can include: time in the Bible, time in prayer, time in worship, time watching inspiring sermons, time doing the hard learning of a student (Greek, Hebrew, theology, etc)
I started immediately aiming for this goal and I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt the Lord is stepping closer to me and things are changing in my life. My marriage is getting better. My kids are getting closer. My job is becoming more prosperous. The Lord is coming closer. That is really important, people. All the other challenges in our life (and I need not explain that this life is not a bed of roses) will grow pale and faint when measured against the majesty and glory of a holy God. The more time we spend with Him the bigger He appears and the smaller our temporary problems appear. It’s amazing.
And so I set forth this challenge to anyone else who has been frustrated by their life spinning in an endless hamster wheel. Let’s tithe our life to God.
But let’s not end there. Let’s start there. Once we hit 10% of our day, let’s increase that to 15%! And once the paycheque comes in, let’s dump 10% right into God’s kingdom. Then, when God builds and prospers our financial world, let’s increase that to 15%.
My true goal is to have the ‘inverse tithe’ in my life where I am giving God 90% of my life and ‘dealing with’ 10%. I haven’t been able to quantify what this will look like but it’s nice to dream and plan.
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.
Update: Thanks to a friend of mine who found this quick interview with Rick Warren about giving. It’s truly quite amazing the similarities with what he says!
It has been a few months since I have been spit out the other end of my coffee shop franchise – the most painful 5+ years of my life. There are not too many people out there who have lost their entire lifetime earnings plus their inheritance, but when this suffering occurs it creates an instant bond with others who have the same experience. It’s almost as if others who have suffered the same hardship are drawn to you via some invisible magnetic pull. So, although there are not many of us out there, I know many of them personally now. Many of them are victims of the franchise system; a silent machine that has the potential of slowly grinding up innocent families in neighbourhoods where you live in while producing yachts, homes, and luxurious cars for the financially and legally skilled.
When I discussed their nasty practices with an acquaintance of mine – an experienced man of business – his response was: “So? They are in the business of making money and especially money off of you. That’s their business model. You signed up for it. You agreed to be their slave.” He is right in the legal sense: that we all unwittingly signed a franchise agreement the size o the Oxford Dictionary. Some people in business think that as long as a party is willing to sign a document that everything is ethically A-Okay. I have learned that a contract not reviewed by someone with hands-on experience in that specific industry is a recipe for massive hardship. I used a top notch law firm in Vancouver to review my franchise agreement before I purchased the right to attempt to make money at my location (because you aren’t actually purchasing anything more than that in most cases I’ve seen) and I guess the firm somehow thought that I had a reasonable chance of success. They were very wrong as the wording of the agreement made it nearly impossible. They lawyers hadn’t operated a coffee franchise, although they had reviewed a lot of paperwork throughout their career. Regardless of which standpoint you take on this, there is a greater point at work that supersedes all of this temporary contractual banter. It is the law of honour. Dani Johnson pulled this concept together well for me in her book, The First Steps to Wealth.
At one point in the midst of trying to sell my franchise coffee shop I took a sales position with a printer company since I had a signed and accepted offer to purchase the store with a closing date. To my surprise and chagrin, the sale fell through (just one of several times) and I was stuck with both a sales job and a coffee shop to operate at the same time. I decided to keep the job regardless and learn what I could seeing that my shop was going nowhere. While I was out and about in the city doing sales calls, what was interesting was how the decision makers (typically owners) of many companies had already heard stories about the questionable way in which our franchisor treated their franchisees. I was shocked. How did all these people know? During the year this general awareness increased and at one point I entered a retail business (a prescription eyeglass shop to be specific), and at one point during an unrelated conversation I revealed that I owned this particular brand and he looked as if he was going to vomit and then began spewing very bad things about them – all of which were true, all of which was what I thought inside information, and all of which I was surprised to hear from this unknown and completely removed third party source. My first thought was one of fear: I’m never going to sell my store if everyone knows how bad they are. I’m never going to get out! It was a horrible moment but it helped me make the decision that I would ‘lock & walk’ (that’s a term I think I invented) even if it meant walking away with nothing but a debt the size of a Vancouver house. I would no longer have my named yoked to this kind of operation and drag out the inevitable.
Lessons to be Learned
Here is a bullet list of things I’ve learned from this so that others can avoid destruction in both their current businesses and the purchase of a business (ie. a franchise)
You Only Get One Name and Reputation
- If you plan to buy a business go into the business community, a dig around to see what their general reputation is. Business owners are a group that just seem to know things that non-business owners don’t. They will have the inside scoop and you will find it if there is one. You do not want to purchase a business with a nasty reputation as it will require a complete branding tear down and rebuild to restore it.
- If you are a business now and you have done wrong to others, drop all your other lofty plans and ideas and dedicate yourself full time to fixing your past before it catches up to you and destroys you – because it will. I didn’t make the sowing and reaping law and I can’t turn it on or off. It’s on. This includes staff, partners, vendors, customers – everyone. Let no stone go unturned.
- Transparency is the better option. Confession of wrongs and restitution of damages is not easy to stomach in the present, but the reward for taking this proactive step is priceless. Secrets eventually get discovered anyways. Skeletons always fall out of the closet. And even if they don’t, the courts can and will force them out. Why wait that long? People are amazingly graceful when action follows confession.
- You only get one name. Protect it. In Vancouver, even more so it seems.
Win-Lose = Lose-Lose. Give-Take = Win-Win
- Do you think gouging someone you do business with is ok whether it’s a vendor, customer or partner? If you do, you may gain now but you will lose in the most ugly way later while killing your only reputation. Therefore, win-win is a recommended strategy in all that you do. I am pleased to report that at least one coffee franchise appears to be building on this foundation and there is joy and peace surrounding their operation.
- The yacht won’t cover your guilt or fill your empty heart. You can’t take your riches to the grave. They, like your corpse, will eventually decay into the earth below from which they came and the earth will have no recollection of you a few years later. Why not prioritize your life differently and think eternally? Why not give your grand kids something they can proudly tell their grand kids about? Why not fill your funeral house with sad franchisees, vendors, and other people around the city who will miss the positive contribution you had on your city and the people you touched? Yes, it is possible.
Have a nice day.
That was an unconventional blog ending.