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Welcome to the Independent Coalition of Franchise Owners (ICFO) blog

For the next 3 or 4 months we will use this blog to tell you about the formation of a new franchise owners’ coalition called the ICFO.  We’ll tell you about why independent franchisee associations exist, what they can do, and why we feel franchisees of  The UPS Store should have an independent association.  We’ll share information we have reviewed in planning for the launch of ICFO, and keep you advised of the progress we’re making to bring you an owners’ association that will give us one voice on behalf of franchisees in The UPS Store franchise network.

We also want your comments on the things we post to the blog.  After all, it will be your organization… your voice.

23 Responses

  1. Let’s work on getting a better drop off rate paid to UPS Store. UPS raises their shipping rate annually, yet the drop off rate remains unchanged

  2. You said the magic word – profitability. When I think of the way STR drives the process vs the equally important issues of actually making money and how little attention that gets, well, I’ve been disappointed with MBE in all truth. Keep me on the mailing list.

  3. I am willing to participate in this endeavor. As 10 year Franchisee and former 3 store owner, my goal is simple: to make my business profitable. As long as this organization will take a collaborative approach and not just be a “bitching” soundboard, count me in.
    UPS/MBE should not be threatened by us. We need an objective, reasonable and open minded organization to make it a viable entity.

  4. What makes this attempt at organizing the owners any different than the last three? Since MBE and UPS refuse to recognize an “independent owners association”, what possibly can be accomplished.

    • The ICFO is being formed to work collaboratively with MBE, UPS, vendors and all other potential parties to our network. We are optimistic that MBE will recognize the importance franchisees place on having a voice in the ongoing evolution of all aspects of our network, and that MBE will recognize the coalition at some point in the future. In the short term, however, there are many things that can be done to help protect our collective investment and to improve operations and profitability. Here’s a quote from the “Why Independent” page that also explains why it is important for us to join and support the coalition.

      “Against a background of spotty and extremely limited legal protection for franchisees’ interests, a franchisee association can have extraordinarily beneficial effects not only on protecting the interests of the franchisee but also on the franchise relationship itself, and make the process of franchising work much better for both sides.

      The franchisee association has the effect of balancing power in the franchise relationship. Carefully targeted collective action by franchisees often produces results that individual franchisees are incapable of obtaining by or for themselves.”

      • icfo4all@gmail.com
        2010/07/10 at 4:28 pm

        I can assure you that no one on the steering committee is a “shill” for MBE/ UPS. Quite the contrary. We have maintained our positions on the existing committees because currently that is the ONLY voice the network has with MBE. Sometimes you have to work with what you have until you are able to create something else, and that’s what ICFO is. Several members of the steering committee have believed the network needed an independent owners’ group for a long time. Some of us joined the Brown Board hoping we could steer it’s evolution into a more positive organization rather than a litigious one. When that failed, we elected not to remain members. At the time I joined, I wrote a letter to MBE leadership advising them that I felt an independent owner’s group was needed. No one has tried to hide the desire for independence. We’ve kept MBE (VP Marketing, VP Industrial Engineering, and VP Franchise Relations) informed of what we are doing and we’ve kept the Area Franchisee Association (AFA,an independent organization for the Area Franchisees) informed about our formation. The blog, the emails, everything that we have done has been open and above board. We’ve also talked with our Area Franchisees and at least one of the MBE Regional Vice Presidents. The fact is that we believe there are things that can be done which will improve the profitability and long term viability of the network, and protect the value of your investment. Currently those things can only be presented to MBE via “advisory committees”.

        There are many examples of instances where independent owners’ groups have been able to affect needed change in other franchise systems. We believe a strong ICFO with a couple of thousand franchisee members can do the same with MBE in a positive, collaborative way that enhances everyone’s business, profitability and long term viability. We hope you’ll bring your time, talent and energy to the coalition. Remember that MBE says over and over that the best ideas in the network come from the franchisees! This is one of those ideas.

  5. Count me in. Too many requests of UPS and MBE, (like a complete restructuring of the dropoff system) are met with a flat “no”, without rationale or explanation. Marketing and other programs seem to proceed without much input from the stores, with lip service to keeping us informed. I’d hope this organization can work toward increasing the profitability of our franchise, which is woefully behind the times.

  6. A thought on strategy.

    The issue is, I think we all agree, the best return on investment for the network and that what is good for the stores is good for MBE and what is good for MBE is good for the stores.

    The problem is that MBE only has an offense – STR – and the defense, profitability at the store level, is a game with which they are not familiar. This is demonstrated by the BCG survey the Brown Board highlights and by the quality of MBE’s work product (e.g., on line printing).

    That is a management problem.

    So why not describe the issue in terms of lost profitability and the effect on the network? I mean, what does the one voice say? We want more for a drop off rate? Or the return on investment is below other franchises to both the franchisor and franchisee?

    To my mind the strategy is to define the value created by MBE vs the value that could be and can be created and communicate that to all (the Wall Street analysts, the UPS Board of Directors, and the franchisees, and other stake holders. If the case is strong, if value is not created for the stock holder, there will be changes.

    Otherwise, you have the problem of getting the union recognized and convincing everyone that you know better than management. Those are big hurdles. Change is what we all want. But what change? Substantial? Incremental? Small? A new strategy for the 21st century? I don’t think the big picture is clear and we aren’t hearing it from MBE – nor any one else to this point.

    All the best,

  7. I wish you luck, but do not hold much hope. The past such associations have failed because they ignored the fact that each franchisee has signed a legal contract with MBE that gives it the power to disregard requests for policies that would improve store profitability. MBE can listen without acting, and nothing will change that short of a boycott or strike. Unless we can legally change the Gold Shield contract, nothing will change.

    • Tom..our belief is that working to affect positive change for both the franchisee and franchisor the ICFO will be able to work collaboratively with the franchisor as has been proven with Independent Organizations in some of the most recognized franchise’s in the world. When done properly, and with enough unified voices, it becomes a win/win for everyone. It will take time, but by joining you will take the first step toward protecting your investment instead of just driving revenue. Thanks for your input, hope to have you as a member.

  8. Mail Boxes Etc and UPS believe that they need to divide and conquer. I am all for this association and hope it can receive recognition, however at MBE there is an us vs them attitude and will hard to overcome.

    • There is strength in numbers and a unified group can develop strong positions to present to MBE. This will not be easy, and it will require the effort of many of the talented and articulate people in the network to participate. Once the official leadership is elected by the members, there will be work to be done and focus group / committees required. We’re glad you are on board with this legitimate attempt to form an owners’ group that is intended to focus in a positive way on improving our network and protecting the value of our investments.

  9. I will give every member of this so called “coalition ” one dollar when you have succeeded in having MBE approved vendors and UPS lower prices for our network and or increase incentives. Costs of living keep going up, not down!

    Been in the business 20 years and I have learned that in any business you are in, if you work hard, you will succeed.

    This coalition is just a good reason to blame some else for laziness and failure to take charge in your own business. The answer to profitability is be active in your community, know your local leaders, give to your community, train your staff well and pay them sufficiently, keep a clean and in compliant image of your center and get out from behind the counter and bring the business in. Also, stop saying NO to your customers! Say YES!

    Note: this franchise has it a lot better than majority of other franchise’s… do a little research and you may agree.

    Good luck!

    • Thank you for your input. Obviously we would respectfully disagree and feel we have outlined our goals on the many sections you will find on our blog. The ICFO’s main purpose will be to secure the protection of our assets and change the relationship to a mutually beneficial one that focuses as much on profitability as it does on top line revenue. Hopefully you take the time to follow our developments, see positive progress, and join so we may utilize your experience in the network to help other store owners.

  10. Glad to join and see if something can be accomplished. Have been very disappointed at the way UPS/MBE seems to view us as competition instead of a teammate. There seems to continually be a double standard where claims are involved. I would like to see something consistent with what the customer is told and what we as a store are told by the apparently same customer representatives.

  11. I have seen Platnum Shield and Brown Board not do much. This sounds like it might grow some teeth. I will be sending my check for our two stores this week. The right people with the right idea at the right time. It will be a long hard road, but very needed. Thanks guys!

  12. I sent my check last week. It is disappointing in these tough economic times, that the best MBE comes up with is a luggage box. How many of these do I need to sell in order for my business to be profitable? MBE is not providing strong leadership in building our businesses. Drop offs go up, shipping goes down, there is no CRS selling online printing. We need leadership and MBE is not stepping up to the plate.

    • Thank you for joining ICFO. We believe a strong, united voice for the network has been needed for a long time. With the support of franchisees willing to help build, promote and participate in the coalition, we believe we can have a positive impact on the network’s future.

  13. I think some quick wins from the ICFO will go a long way in getting me and other “wait and see” spectators off the bench. I’ve become somewhat discouraged in this situation. We are told to become a printing franchise in order to make it, yet my money and capital went to building a pack and ship franchise, not something that could compete full scale with Kinkos and Staples. Drop-off commissions should be tied to the annual UPS rate increases so they keep up with inflation (and now we’re even losing that volume as Office Depot and the Post Office become viable alternatives). And I’m concerned about UPS becoming franchise owners. Is that their long-term strategy…starve the network until they cannot afford to remain in business, and then take the franchise for practically nothing?

    • We’d like to see everyone get off the bench and involved in the ICFO as soon as possible. The larger the organization the “louder” the voice the ICFO will have. Over the past couple of years both FAC and PACE committees have worked diligently to convince MBE / UPS that drop off compensation should be increased. PACE has also made the case that it should be tied to a known measure in the economy, such as the Bureau of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Producer Price Index (PPI) or the Employment Cost Index (ECI). UPS has a vested interest in the success of our network and we believe they value the brand experience that consumers have in well operated The UPS Store locations. The Steering Committee believes that if the ICFO builds a strong (meaning large and involved) membership we can benefit ICFO members in many ways, including working closely with MBE, the existing committee structure, other franchise network associations, and interested vendors. The key is to have a large membership and taking a “wait and see” approach will most likely limit what can be accomplished by the coalition. Please consider joining now and helping the coalition to move forward aggressively. Thank you for reading the blog and contributing your comments.

  14. The recently attempted terrorist attacks on our great country and UPS show the security risks involved with the use of paper waybills and internet shipping by unknown shippers. I think that this is an opportunity for The UPS Store network to show it’s value in not only enhancing UPS service but also in improving security for UPS and our great nation.

  15. […] Welcome to the Independent Coalition of Franchise Owners (ICFO) blog June 2010 22 comments 4 […]

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