Franchisors and Franchisees Must Learn to Deal with Change

By Ed Teixeira

Ed Teixeira is Chief Operating Officer of Franchise Grade and was the founder and President of FranchiseKnowHow, L.L.C. a franchise consulting firm.

If there is one thing that the Pandemic taught us, especially those in the franchise industry, is that certain events both large and small require change. It is a given that the recent Pandemic represents extraordinary change having last occurred 100 years ago. Franchise brands face frequent challenges requiring change including, a formidable new competitor, franchisee resistance to certain promotional programs, declining franchise system growth or a public relations problem like when the Subway Foot Long Sub, was found by a customer to be less than a foot long. When these situations arise, franchisors and franchisees must be equipped to implement change to meet the challenge.

Expect that franchisors will be required to implement changes to their franchise program from time to time some minor and some major. When a franchisor wants to make a change, based upon the magnitude of the change, it should be communicated to the franchisees before the change is implemented providing advance notice.

* Using the franchise advisory council as a sounding board

* Giving franchisees the courtesy of knowing about the change

* Providing the franchisee community an opportunity to respond

* Enlist select franchisees to help mold the change and avoid a confrontation

Some changes are routine in nature and can be implemented as per an existing policy. For example, a revision or clarification to a procedure in the franchise operations manual. Major changes that may have a direct impact on franchisees demand special attention. In certain cases, the change may not be that significant, but rather the perception by franchisees is that the change is the beginning of “more to come.”

Examples of Important Changes Include:

1.Changes to franchise agreements that significantly revamp contract terms, including renewal terms, royalty fees and default conditions. These changes may cause particular concern among franchisees that will be looking to renew their franchise agreement.

2. Changes in marketing or advertising programs which would represent a major departure from the current program.

3. Changes in the direction of the franchise strategy that involve applying resources to a new venture or business.

One of the most effective methods to establish and implement a major change is to involve the Franchise Advisory Council or marketing committee which includes franchisee and company representatives. These committees allow for a dialogue between the franchisor and representative franchisees which can help to foster positive franchise relations and establish a buy-in from existing franchisees.

When franchisors implement a major change that lacks franchisee involvement or advance notice it can be a recipe for trouble. To maintain positive franchise relations before implementing an important change the franchisor should gauge how the change could affect franchisees by obtaining feedback from franchisor field staff and select franchisees.

If feedback indicates a strong resistance to the change, the franchisor should consider the situation, and avoid unnecessary confrontations by being flexible. Change is an important aspect of all relationships especially in the world of franchising. It is important that the franchisor and franchisees conduct business within a climate of change that is positive and considers the needs and objectives of both parties.
About the Author: Ed Teixeira
Ed Teixeira is a recognized franchise expert
with over 35 years experience in the franchise industry. He has served as a corporate executive for franchise firms in the retail, manufacturing, healthcare and technology industries and was a franchisee of a multi-million dollar home healthcare franchise. Ed is the author of Franchising From the Inside Out and The Franchise Buyers Manual. He has participated in the CEO Magazine Roundtable Meetings with business leaders from around the country and spoke at a number of venues including the International Franchise Expo and the Chinese Franchise Association in Shanghai, China. Over the course of his career, Ed has been involved with over 1,000 franchise locations and launched franchise concepts from existing business models. Ed can be contacted at 631-246-5782 or [email protected]

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Good News for Franchisors: New Favorable Accounting Rules Go Live!

Even though we are in the middle of audit and registration renewal season, these rules could prove to be beneficial for franchisors. The expedient will allow for more representative income recognition and allow franchisors to adjust their opening equity for prior franchise agreements.

Good news for franchisors: New favorable accounting rules go live!
By Michael Iannuzzi
Posted with Permission from Franchise News Wire

Who said accounting was boring? For the past two-and-a-half years the International Franchise Association’s Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Task Force has been working with the FASB to issue guidance to help reduce some of the cost and complexity in applying Topic 606 — revenue recognition rules over initial franchise fees. On January 28, 2021, the FASB released Accounting Standards Board Update 2021-02 to Topic 606, an “expedient” that can be adopted by non-public franchisors on their December 31, 2020 financial statements. What does this mean for non-public franchisors?

During the year-end December 31, 2019, non-public franchisors that issued their financial statements prior to the FASB issuing an election to defer Topic 606 during June 2020, were tasked with the challenge of implementing Topic 606 for the very first time by following these steps:

Step 1 – Identify the contract with a customer (in our case, a franchise agreement)
Step 2 – Identify the performance obligations in the contract (training and the right to use the license, as examples)
Step 3 – Determine the transaction price (the franchise fee paid)
Step 4 – Allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations (determine the value to be received, more on this later)
Step 5 – Satisfaction of performance obligations (delivering the service)

The current method (prior to issuance of the expedient)
The struggle for franchisors was how to identify the performance obligations in Step 2 and how to value the transaction price to be recognized as revenue in Step 4. Using pre-opening training as an example, many franchisors offer training that is specific to their brand as well as generic training, such as how to use QuickBooks. The challenge was to separate the training into brand specific vs. non-brand specific trainings (Step 2), then to come up with a value to allocate (Step 4), and ultimately recognize a portion of the initial franchise fee as revenue and record the remaining initial franchise fee as deferred revenue to be recognized over the life of the franchise agreement. This proved to be very difficult and costly for franchisors of all shapes and sizes. There were assumptions made that the entire amount of the initial franchise fee should be deferred and bypass the steps above. That’s not to say that isn’t the case; however, you would have had to do the analysis to conclude that the entire fee should be deferred and not just default to that position.

In applying the practical expedient, “pre-opening services that are consistent with those included in a predefined list within the guidance may be accounted for as distinct from the franchise license.” What does this mean? The intent was to simplify Step 2. In Step 2, non-public franchisors can now look at most of their pre-opening activities and count them as one performance obligation, meaning they are delivering an upfront service to a franchisee. This would potentially allow them to recognize more of the initial franchise fee as revenue, creating an income pickup for franchisors compared to the amount being recognized based on prior rules, as they are now allocating more of the transaction price identified in Step 4 to these costs.

Even though we are in the middle of audit and registration renewal season, these rules could prove to be beneficial for franchisors. The expedient will allow for more representative income recognition and allow franchisors to adjust their opening equity for prior franchise agreements. Careful consideration needs to be given when adopting the expedient. Most importantly, this is meant to be general advice, and franchisors should always consult with knowledgeable franchise and accounting professionals before forming any conclusions.

CPA, FASBE, franchise, Citrin Cooperman

Michael Iannuzzi is a partner and co-leader of Citrin Cooperman’s franchise accounting and consulting practice. The company provides audit and accounting, business consulting and advisory, and tax planning services to a wide spectrum of clients within the franchise community. Iannuzzi works with franchisors and multi-unit franchisees in a variety of industries, including, but not limited to, fitness and athletic centers, children’s entertainment services such as recreational youth programs and party providers, junk removal companies, mobile concepts, pet hotels, quick service restaurants (QSRs), and grocery stores. For more information, call 212.697.1000 x 1250 or email [email protected]