FCA maintains focus on member support

Mary Aldred, CEO, Franchise Council of Australia

After the trials and tribulations of 2020, most businesses are cautiously looking towards a better year ahead.

The restrictions and resulting tough economic climate have demanded adaptability, determination and innovation by all businesses and franchising has stood out as one of the most resilient business models.

However, many franchise businesses have been operating in the hardest-hit sectors – food and catering, hospitality, travel and home services – and have relied heavily on the FCA for guidance, support and advocacy.

With 2021 looming larger, the FCA continues to focus on three key priorities:

  1. supporting members with access to information, resources and support through the transition from COVID-19 lockdowns and trading restrictions to business reopening
  2. advocating and representing the interests of members to all levels of government on the issues, concerns and needs of our members and the small business sector
  3. and through the media, enhancing the standing and reputation of franchising as the preferred model for small-medium business success, including highlighting the resilience of franchise systems during the challenges of 2020.

The FCA has engaged deeply at all levels of government both informally and formally in recent months, including:

  • facilitating COVID-safe business recovery by emphasising the specific assistance and regulatory changes needed by diverse business sectors
  • bringing bad commercial leasing practices and landlord misconduct to their attention and urging government intervention
  • reinforcing the need for fairness in application of operating rules across sectors, including highlighting disparity between public and private outdoor workers
  • encouraging Federal Treasury and state governments to introduce or continue support for struggling businesses and workers facing unemployment
  • making submissions on specific issues to various state government small business departments on business restrictions, exemptions, customer registers and industrial relations

The core of our advocacy has been a concerted campaign of dialogue with members to test government policy and temporary regulatory changes, as well as to provide input on specific measures requested by members. 

The FCA continues to respond to a high level of calls and emails from members seeking assistance or providing feedback on these matters.

Feedback from FCA members, supported by a high level of membership renewal and retention (around 90%, plus 15 new members since July 2020) is that they feel they have been supported, listened to and represented through access to information and resources, and government advocacy.

Concurrently, the FCA has continued to provide input on Franchising Code of Conduct reforms, based on the input of members on the negative impacts of specific measures.

With nearly 600,000 Australians employed in franchise businesses and an annual economic contribution of more than $180 billion, franchising is vital to our national economy and it’s crucial that regulation is fair and effective for both franchisors and franchisees and avoids unnecessary regulatory burden.

The limitations on gatherings this year also forced a rethink of the Franchising Forum and Legal Symposium, which were successfully delivered as virtual events online.

The FCA Legal Symposium in November attracted almost 200 participants over the two-day program, which included five plenary sessions, four blocks of six concurrent sessions and 23 roundtables.

Feedback has been very positive on the legal program content and all sessions were recorded and are being made available to delegates.

In the most difficult of circumstances, 2020 has seen both franchisees and franchisors alike finding new opportunities and creating success in the changed operating environment, with some demonstrating outstanding achievements.

The 2020 MYOB FCA Excellence in Franchising Awards showcased some of the franchisors, franchisees and individuals who continue to make outstanding business contributions in extraordinary circumstances.

I congratulate winners and finalists on their exemplary performances, resilience in the face of adversity, and continued contributions to their franchise systems and communities.

In the year ahead, we are determined to get the FCA schedule of program initiatives back on track, including:

Sustainability Forum (April 2021)

Earlier in the year, the FCA announced a Sustainable Food Leadership Forum, open to members and non-members looking for leadership, innovation, best practice and improved regulatory understanding of single use plastics, food waste and recycling.

The intention is to support businesses in the food and hospitality sectors progress the implementation and scale of sustainable practices, but as with many initiatives the first forum had to be postponed due to COVID-19.

Providing a forum for businesses to share problems, solutions and discuss innovation is still an FCA priority and in 2021, we propose to hold the first of a series of annual forums.

Regional Revitalisation Campaign

The FCA began a campaign in 2019 to support regional revitalisation by highlighting franchises as an efficient, innovative means of addressing service and small business ownership gaps.

The FCA engaged with regional economic development officers across Australia where councils are seeking to attract new franchised businesses. Concurrently, a number of franchisors advised their interest in setting up in specific regions and attracting potential franchisees and business operators.

COVID-19 brought the program to a grinding halt but in 2021, the focus will be on linking franchise members, local government and potential franchise operators to spark a new wave of franchise expansion to the benefit of regional communities across Australia.

National Franchise Convention (August 2021)

As with other national industry and business conferences, NFC20 was cancelled due to social distancing requirements and bans on large gathering. NFC21 will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at Southbank in Melbourne in August next year instead of the usual October timing.

Franchising and small business leaders from across Australia are expected to attend NFC21 to immerse themselves in a program of practical ideas and information at the most comprehensive professional development event on the Franchise Council of Australia's annual calendar.

NFC21 is being designed to offer attendees an unrivalled opportunity to build their knowledge base, make invaluable connections and find solutions to their business challenges.

We look forward to sharing more information about these events with you early in the new year.

Whatever 2021 brings, the FCA will strive to support the ongoing success of our members and more broadly franchising and small business across Australia.

Mary Aldred

Mary Aldred is the CEO of the Franchise Council of Australia, the peak body for the nation’s $184 billion franchise sector.
Mary commenced in the role in April 2018, bringing with her extensive experience across government, industry and the corporate sectors. As CEO, Mary has led the FCA in developing and delivering strategic priorities to strengthen the FCA’s role as an effective peak business organisation and advocate for a compliant, sustainable and profitable franchise sector.

Franchise Council of Australia
Phone: 03 9508 0888
Email: info@franchise.org.au