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IFA: Franchising’s Best Resource for Recovery, Reopening, and More

I have been in franchising as a franchisor for more than 30 years and have been involved with 8 brands. Many of my best friends are franchisees. I love franchising! I have personally witnessed franchising help thousands of families by creating jobs, generating economic output, and building wealth.

I am CEO of Fastsigns International, the largest signage and visual graphics franchisor, with more than 740 locations in 10 countries. I have been on the Board of Directors of the IFA since 2007 and am currently Chair of the IFA. Brands I have been involved with previously include Sir Speedy Printing Centers, PIP Printing, MultiCopy, Copies Now, and The Learning Experience. I mentor many in franchising.

Never in my career or my lifetime have I encountered anything close to or as devastating and all-encompassing as this Covid-19 pandemic. While the vast majority of Fastsigns centers have been deemed essential businesses as they provide safety, directional, and other necessary signage for essential businesses, our franchisees have experienced significant sales declines. As a franchisor, this means we have experienced significant revenue declines as well. (Since rules vary by country, state, province, county, and city, about 5% of our franchisees have been temporarily closed during the pandemic.)

I also am on the board of two other franchisors: Big Blue Swim School and Brain Balance Achievement Centers. As with franchises in the many, many other brands deemed “non-essential,” Big Blue Swim School and Brain Balance franchisees have been completely closed during this time. The challenges faced by those brands — franchisees and franchisor alike — are close to devastating. The suppliers that sell products and services to franchising are also experiencing significant challenges. It has been rewarding and inspiring to see the franchising community pull together and share ideas, suggestions, and methods to get through this crisis. Franchising is similar to a family: we are all in this together. The IFA has been instrumental in facilitating and coordinating these efforts.

Many of us in the franchise world think of the IFA for the help it provides our business development. We think of lead generation for potential new franchisees, webinars on business operations, or the IFA Convention, with its days of events, workshops, and networking. That’s all true — and all of that is important — but the IFA’s strongest assets may be its advocacy work and its ability to quickly respond to the needs of its members by creating content to help navigate this pandemic.

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