I’ve spent years building my business, pouring countless hours and nearly everything I have into making it work. But because I own a franchise, my family’s livelihood and my employees’ jobs could be taken away on a whim, and there’s little I could do about it.
I am not alone. There are more than 80,000 franchised enterprises in California, employing nearly a million people. Increasingly franchise owners are seeing our rights slip away as lopsided franchise agreements protect the interests of multi-national franchisors rather than small business owners.
However, this support never materialized as promised. Instead, what franchise owners like me receive is an ever-changing list of standards.
That’s why the Franchises Act (SB 610) is so urgently needed. This legislation would level the playing field and restore balance to the franchise system. It would also create a more stable and profitable business environment in California.
I immigrated to the United States in 1989. After years working as a manager at a commercial real estate management company, I decided to become my own boss, to have my piece of the American Dream.
Franchising seemed like the best option. Before I bought my franchise with 7-Eleven, I was told it was a turnkey project. I believed I was becoming a part of a proven system that offered logistical support and customer name recognition.
However, this support never materialized as promised. Instead, what franchise owners like me receive is an ever-changing list of standards set by the 7-Eleven corporation. The contractual requirements today are different than the ones agreed to when I signed the contract because 7-Eleven, the franchisor, can alter them at will. If franchisees don’t comply, there can be big consequences for even the smallest infraction.
Nearly every aspect of the business is determined by 7-Eleven: the vendors we can use, the prices we charge and the equipment we need. Every day, I take money from the register and deposit it into a 7-Eleven bank account. I am not even authorized to check my store account’s balance, but I’m responsible for paying employees, invoices and everything else. Furthermore, I am not even allowed to change the temperature in the store and at times I am treated as if I am an employee of 7-Eleven.
Franchisees shoulder the risk of opening the business, and we create the jobs in members’ districts.
Franchisees endure the stressful, 16-hour days to keep our businesses running, but we cannot make the changes we think are necessary to be more successful because of the franchisors’ control. If we speak up, we risk retaliation. Right now, there are long-time 7-Eleven franchise owners—some owning stores for more than 40 years—being pushed out of their businesses.
Not every franchise system provides the right to freely associate, and the Franchises Act would allow all franchisees to join franchisee associations free from franchisor retaliation, which would give us a voice in the franchisors’ decision making and provide a critical counterbalance to the growing power of franchisors. The law would also keep franchisors from stripping us of our franchise for minor deviations of the company’s requirements.
We are asking members of the state Assembly to support this bill that makes doing business a little fairer in California. Franchisees shoulder the risk of opening the business, and we create the jobs in members’ districts.
These common sense changes to the law would help franchise owners feel as if our businesses truly belong to us, and they could not be taken away without recourse. We would know that we could be able to provide food for our families and jobs for our employees not only today, but in the years to come.
Ed’s Note: Jaspreet Dhillon is the owner of a 7-Eleven store and chair of the 7-Eleven Franchise Owners PAC of Los Angeles.