Yes, progress is being made and franchising is being recognized more and more by American Express in their Small Business Saturday efforts. When launched in 2010, franchises were not included in Small Business Saturday, being excluded with a specific clause in Small Business Saturday literature to merchants interested in participating in the new program. I was definitely surprised and although we still have a way to go I’m happy to say the past two years have seen franchises included in the list participating businesses. And that is great!
When I first realized franchising had been excluded I was quite surprised. Sure, as many are aware, I did flood the social media space with several blog posts about franchising being excluded. No need to regurgitate that any further and I’m not including links to those posts here as American Express did respond, and in a very positive way. They truly wanted to learn more about franchising and its role in small business today and I was more than willing to help. You see, despite the role American Express plays in business today and despite the fact that AMEX executives are very well-educated and understand business, they had huge misperceptions about franchising. Several of the AMEX executives I met with actually thought all franchises were just like McDonald’s – big and powerful! They also incorrectly thought McDonald’s and other [large] franchisors paid for all advertising on behalf of its franchisees. Thus, they excluded franchising, thinking all along that all franchisees had it made in the shade over independent small business owners.
Well, I was happy to share many statistics about franchising and the fact that many franchisees are the same Mom & Pop operators that built their businesses on Main Street USA. Just like many independent small business owners, they have invested their life savings in pursuit of the American Dream. And just like small business owners everywhere, they continue to fight off big box retailers and department stores alike for a slice of every dollars expended by today’s consumer.
Fortunately, American Express listened, and I was quite impressed. Unfortunately, and to my dismay things did not move along as quickly as I would have liked and although progress was made and franchising was included, but limited in the subsequent years since 2010, I was extremely anxious and wanted full inclusion for franchising, and I wanted it now! What I was missing and fully realize now, thanks in part to Tom Epstein, CEO at Franchise Payments Network, is that American Express, albeit a huge organization has a difficult time making abrupt changes to programs as there are many considerations… many financial ones that I had not even considered such as the sheer cost of marketing materials, just to name one of many.
In any event, I was excited to see Tom contribute to the effort of getting franchising more involved in Small Business Saturday. He has spent a great deal of time learning as much as he could from his various contacts at American Express. I believe the efforts are paying off and will continue to do so year after year. Others within the franchise community, including the International Franchise Association have contributed as well, and I applaud their efforts. Speaking of the IFA, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for all they do in promoting franchising as without those ongoing efforts we’d truly be dead in the water. You see, just as American Express promotes “Membership has its Privileges” so, does membership in the IFA.
So, on this Small Business Saturday, let’s pull out those AMEX cards, whether they be green, gold, platinum, blue, plum or black and spend away at small businesses across our great nation. Happy shopping!