Introducing Incoming Chairwoman Melanie Bergeron
Melanie Bergeron, CFE, chairwoman of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK/INTERNATIONAL, Inc., will assume chairmanship of the International Franchise Association’s board immediately following the 55th Annual Convention in Las Vegas. Franchising World spoke with Bergeron to get her views and about the industry and priorities for the association during her term.
FW: What are the most critical issues you believe are affecting both IFA and the industry?
Bergeron: Clearly the most critical issues are political. Franchise small businesses are working hard to make a “come back” from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and yet we are faced with a wave of increased government regulations and taxes at the local, state and federal levels. While the elections went well on November 4, we cannot take our guard down. Working to educate lawmakers and regulators costs money and takes time. I’m thankful and confident in our President and CEO Steve Calderia, CFE, and his amazing IFA staff that are alert 24/7 to protect franchising and our livelihoods. I’m also thankful for our many members that have given substantially of their money and time to defend our great business model. Political leaders look to franchise small business owners to create jobs and grow the economy and yet many do not see that their policies in Washington and in many states are holding back growth.
FW: How would you describe your priorities for the association in 2015?
Bergeron: The IFA Mission Statement is to protect, enhance and promote franchising. The No. 1 priority will be to continue to defend the business format franchise business model.
Our other priorities will be to enhance and promote franchising.
For this reason, I am very proud of the work that our Educational Foundation is doing under the leadership of Doc Cohen, Jerry Crawford, John Reynolds and IFA staff.
Last February, the foundation launched a $10 million fundraising campaign to provide needed funding to expand current programs and develop some new ones. Thanks to our lead donors, we have raised more than $7 million toward that goal.
This funding will allow us to support critical industry research, so that when we meet with lawmakers we can show them how franchise businesses play an extremely important role in their local communities and in the U.S. economy.
It will allow us to expand our educational and professional development courses, through the industry-recognized Certified Franchise Executives™ program. It will help us to promote best practices and educate our members about franchise compliance and franchise relations.
A number of donors have also designated their gifts to support expanding the VetFran and Diversity Institute programs, so that we can create more opportunities for veterans, women and minorities to pursue careers and business ownership in franchising.
I am truly excited about two new programs that this funding will support.
First, we will launch this month a nationwide Franchising Gives Back program, to recognize the millions of volunteers, and billions of hours and dollars that franchise businesses give back to their communities from supporting Little League Baseball teams, to homeless shelters, to marches to support a cure for cancer. This is another way to tell the story of how local franchise businesses, companies and their foundations touch and support their communities. Next fall we will celebrate the first, annual Franchising Gives Back Awards program to recognize and put the spotlight on some of the most impactful and innovative charitable and community support programs.
Second, a program with so much growth potential is NextGen In Franchising. There are a billion young people globally joining the workforce in 2015! These people need jobs!! We have launched NextGen to build a bridge to the world of young people and young entrepreneurs, to engage and educate them about franchising. They are the future of our industry and we need to do so much more to bring these young people and young entrepreneurs with new energy and ideas into our industry.
Again, we have many opportunities to offer them — for internships and jobs in our businesses, for ownership opportunities as franchisees and for those with entrepreneurial ideas, ways to help them grow their ideas into new franchise companies.
FW: As a strong franchise proponent, what is the best way to energize other leaders in the industry to help protect the franchise model?
Bergeron: IFA members know that we have been blessed with our fruits of success as a result of the franchise business model. Through hard work and drive, we have created jobs, built strong careers, built our brands, pleased our customers and given back to our communities all based on this strong business model called franchising. We can’t let misinformed elected officials, the NLRB and others dictate the future of our industry. There is power in numbers and we all must come together to make our voices heard and to defend our industry.
While your FranPAC dollars, other financial help, and your time are crucial to this effort, there is another area we all need to stay focused on, especially as we grow: Franchise relations. We need to stop the finger-pointing and point it at ourselves. As President Lincoln said, “Seek to understand before being understood”. Poor franchise relations not only hurt an individual franchise system, but spreads to the rest of the industry through hurtful legislation. We all need to ask for feedback. Don’t assume you’re doing things right, use an outside resource that allows your constituents to anonymously evaluate your system/franchise/business. Then comes the hard part, humbly digest the feedback. Although we may not come to an agreement on some issues, we need to communicate and understand each other’s position. We need mutual respect. Like a marriage or relationship, this needs to be worked on sincerely and consistently.
FW: What is your leadership style and how has it best served you?
Bergeron: Friends and colleagues would say I am very optimistic person. A positive attitude goes a long way. I am a hard worker and energetic. I believe that through listening and collaboration you can accomplish much more than through conflict. I like to plan, execute and to keep things moving forward for the good of all stakeholders in our association: Our franchisees, our franchisors and our suppliers.
I enjoy working with others; I surround myself with those who complement my weaknesses. I love the saying, “All of us are smarter than one of us!” I try to remember that every day, it helps a lot.
FW: What would folks be surprised to know about you?
Bergeron: I was a magician’s assistant while in college. Our performance consisted of lots of live doves and “Rocky’s” fighting, strong musical theme. I had to take an oath not to tell how the “magic” happens, just so you know, while the magician gets all the glory, the assistant does all of the work!