What is the International Franchise Association (IFA)?
The 411 on Trade Associations
Trade associations are generally formed by businesses that operate within a single industry, or one aspect of an industry. By some estimates there are more than 7,500 national trade associations in the United States, encompassing every imaginable industry – from booksellers to chiropractors, and from travel agents to casino owners. Some trade groups come together to help influence public policy toward their product or service, while others exist to further continuing education for its members. They will often sponsor yearly conferences and publish a newsletter on a monthly or quarterly basis. In addition to national trade associations, there are also those with an international reach.
About the International Franchise Association
Back in 1960, an entrepreneur waist-deep in the world of franchising – Bill Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin’ Donuts – believed it was time for like-minded business owners to form a group that would adequately represent all franchise operations. Looking well beyond U.S. borders, he felt strongly enough about his conviction to name it the International Franchise Association. Today this non-profit group counts among its members more than 1,300 franchise systems as well as more than 10,000 franchisees. The mission statement of the IFA is very simple: “The International Franchise Association protects, enhances, and promotes franchising.” At its foundation is a code of ethics that all members are duty bound to follow.
Five Tenets of the IFA
On its corporate Web site, and in all its communications to members and the public at large, the International Franchise Association espouses a five-point manifesto of operation:
- Trust, truth and honesty – Members must stick to the concept of mutual commitment, with the franchise agreement at its center. Both franchisor and franchisee recognize that each party has obligations to the other, and everything that is contained within a franchise agreement should be disclosed with openness and candor.
- Mutual respect and reward – Both sides, franchisor and franchisee, share a responsibility to make franchising everything it can be, both socially and monetarily.
- Open and frequent communication – No success can come from misunderstandings or loss of trust. These factors can be set aside by keeping the lines of communication open between franchisor and , plus the presence of an IFA ombudsman to assist in keeping the flow of information a two-way street.
- Obey the law – Federal and state franchise regulations are in place to protect all involved parties, and the IFA encourages its members to support “vigorous enforcement” of all such laws.
- Conflict resolution – Aware that disputes will always arise, no matter how well-intentioned the parties may be, IFA members agree to submit disputes for internal resolution and take advantage of the franchise mediation program if a more formal service is required to resolve a conflict.
The International Franchise Association is not only about ethics and conflict resolution. The organization offers a number of services to its members. These include such things as educational opportunities – the Certified Franchise Executive program is but one example – and a system that enables military veterans and minorities to become franchisees. There is a political aspect as well. The IFA has sponsored various employment impact studies to show politicians how important franchises are to the economic health of the country. In one study from 2005, it was discovered that accounted for more than 11 million jobs in the United States. This was, far and away, a much larger number than more prominent business sectors such as manufacturing, construction, or financial.
What would a trade association be without a conference or two, or a few dozen? The International Franchise Association’s annual convention is an opportunity for its members to meet, discuss mutual concerns, and learn countless tips of the trade from industry experts in a series of panel discussions and seminars. The 2009 convention in San Diego featured former President Bill Clinton as its keynote speaker, so it is clear the IFA has some serious political clout! The 2010 convention is set for San Antonio, Texas, with the 2011 convention scheduled for Las Vegas. Throughout the year there are legal symposiums, franchise development sessions, and a conference devoted specifically to executive leadership. The IFA’s annual Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., formerly known as Franchise Appreciation Day, is an opportunity for franchisors and to meet members of Congress and other national political leaders.