As a franchise attorney, prior to my training in dispute resolution, I
didn't consider using mediation as an initial or primary resolution
tool. I typically found the background necessary in franchising was lacking
on the part of the mediator, which watered down their credibility and
ability to discuss the nuances associated with the realities franchise
professionals live day in and day out. The importance of the settlement
came first, but the continued relationship of the parties was somewhat
ignored, to the detriment of the ongoing relationship.
The franchise relationship has been likened to courtship in many articles,
and rightfully so. The initial offer and sale, is like dating, getting
to know all about the system and parties to the franchise opportunity.
The franchise agreement is the start of the marriage, and the terms the
guiding principles of the relationship. The end can be a natural expiration,
or an early termination or divorce. Needless to say, disputes will arise
between franchisees and franchisors, but the obligation to get past the
conflict and back to business will always persist.
The long-term success of franchisors and franchisees is dependent upon
a true symbiotic relationship. Many other forms of commercial ventures
are transient, with parties being interchangeable and only responsible
for their own actions. When a dispute arose, parties could easily move
on. These transient relationships foster no sense of community or system,
and in fact their actions inversely impact those similar businesses. Competitors
may see success through the failure of another, and a negative impact
on their operation when a competitor succeeds.
Franchising is markedly different; the success of an individual franchisee
has a positive impact on fellow franchisees, and conversely, a negative
impact when a franchisee fails or is in a heated dispute with their franchisor.
This tethering to the system is why the resolution of conflict and relationship
issues are critical for a franchise system to thrive. The franchisor and
franchisee must survive the dispute, and the systems perception of how
the parties navigated the dispute must strengthen their belief and commitment
in a synergistic partnership.
A more proactive attempt at dispute resolution is important in maintaining
the franchisor franchisee operational focus, including a resolution that
protects the relationship and fosters the inherent dependency on each
other and the system. My mediations allow the parties to air and resolve
grievances in a controlled non-confrontational environment, guided by
an experienced franchise mediation specialist. With my vast and varied
experience in franchising, I am able to connect with the franchisor and
franchisee and utilize my experience to assist the parties in crafting
solutions not on their immediate radar. A successful resolution entails
guiding the participants in reconciling their differences and relationship,
to insure all the parties are poised for future success.