The Wired Monk Selected by Fox TV as one of the ‘Coolest Places on Earth’

For those of you interested in franchising, coffee, coffee shops and Canada, you will likely be very interested in the latest news we received on The Wired Monk:

Wired Monk Coffee Bistros has been chosen as one of the “Coolest Places on Earth”!  In the episode airing this Saturday titled “The Wilds of Western Canada and the Territories”, we are featured as the most popular cafe in the place known for it’s great coffee. We were chosen, as people connected with the show had recently visited BC and felt that Wired Monk was the “coolest place” they had been.

The episode airs on Fox TV in BC (it is the Seattle affiliate KCPQ) and will air at 9:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2014.  Please check your local listings.  This show will be replayed once more in 2014 and at least once in 2015.

Is McDonald’s Bad for Choosing Foreign Workers Over Canadians?

Is McDonalds bad or evil for hiring Foreign workers over Canadians?

The topic of hiring foreign workers for more ‘challenging’ work is not new.  For once we see a reputable brand in the spotlight so it becomes more of an issue.  In this case, a McDonalds franchise.

There is an attempt taking place to shape the opinion of the working class Canadian’s perspective (the one with the loudest voice), so that they view these kind of companies as slave-driving, economy-killing capitalists with no concern for the welfare of their own country.  There is no doubt that bad capitalists exist in every capitalist region.  But where are these voices coming from?  Before these articles were published did you feel this way towards Clown Food?  Perhaps, though, there is another side to this story – an untold side – a side not favoured by the media because it just doesn’t have as much curb appeal.  Perhaps there are other reasons why franchises (and other businesses) are choosing to hire foreign workers, and perhaps it’s time to take a step back and truly analyze some bigger issues.

Before suggesting that McDonalds is without guilt, allow us to first state that equality is always the best whenever possible.  It’s always wonderful to put our judgements aside and look at each and every person as precious gems of potential and greatness regardless of sex, race, age, and physical strength.  Now that we’ve travelled to Utopia, welcome back to Reality – a place where every last one of us is full of judgements towards each other based on a lifetime of repeated (and often negative) experiences.

It’s true that the Canadian government has facilitated the process of helping internationals move to and work in Canada.  Have you ever stopped to think of why that is?  There was actually a problem where companies were unable to find enough people to work certain jobs – usually the jobs Canadians didn’t want.  So problem number one: Canadians not willing or able to work certain jobs in certain regions.  Solution?  Foreign workers.  Problem solved and the Canadian economy can continue.

One story I had the pleasure of hearing a few weeks ago helped highlight another problem.  A very well qualified gentleman from Dubai who spent his entire working life in hospitality and who spoke with a refined elegance told me his story of how he was unable to find work in hotels because he was not ‘qualified’ in Canada.  Ever heard such a story?  How about surgeons from China unable to find meaningful work in Canada? In fact, the certification process (perhaps better called ‘filtration process’) is such that a teacher from one province may not be able to teach in a different province until they complete the education course.  If you were the hiring manager for a restaurant kitchen and this gentleman came humbly to apply for work, would you consider him?  And we wonder why there are so many foreign workers at Clown Food.  The voice of the media is very loud and influential though.  This story doesn’t stir as much locker room chat as slave-driving capitalist dogs with sharp teeth who crack the whip on the backs of foreign workers (who often have extensive but useless university degrees).

From a different angle, many foreign workers are coming from places where they are really hard up where working at a burger joint is a true blessing from heaven and mopping the floor in a restaurant is a miracle and the pay is great for them and their families back home.  If you were the hiring manager of a kitchen, and you heard this story, would you consider hiring them?

Of course you are thinking ‘that’s fine for an oil field in the north but why is this Clown Food Inc where my son applied for weekend work not hiring him?”  You slam your fist on the table. “The foreign workers have done this to my son! They have taken his job!  And the Canadian government encouraged them!”  You call the media.  You demand justice for this act of judgement against Canadians.  But wait.  There is a second problem that exists in fast food, coffee shops, restaurants, and anywhere else where paying more than minimum wage makes business nearly impossible: the lack of reliable hard-working staff.

Canada has a major problem and it’s called ‘work ethic’.  Until you surround yourself with small business owners, you remain in a cocoon bliss where these kind of articles make you think that all chains are exploiting foreign workers while robbing jobs from Canadians.  The statistics probably support this view.  After several long conversations with business owners, however, you find that local Canadians often lack one very important aspect for working: a good work ethic.  The following list of problems reoccur in almost every conversation with a small business owner, especially in the retail sector, namely the food and beverage industry:

  • showing up late
  • not showing up at all
  • slacking while on the job
  • expecting an unreasonably high compensation for the job
  • leaving for a ‘better’ job with little or no notice
  • theft
  • and more

Are foreign workers capable of the same problems?  You better believe it. Humans are amazingly similar across the globe.  However, a person who *appreciates* the employment they have will tend to show a reduction in the items above because losing their job would result in greater damage.  For the average Canadian, these kind of jobs are not considered ‘real employment’ in their minds.  Ask yourself honestly under what circumstance you would work at McDonald’s and you’d probably agree that it would either be a first job, or a fill in job.  And for that reason the compensation is set up accordingly.

Through the process of opening up Canadian jobs to the foreign market, companies have discovered that they also have a better potential of retaining the staff who cost them large amounts of money to train.  If improved employee retention alone were the only benefit, it is surprising that more companies are not lining up to hire foreign workers.  The headaches and money involved in re-hiring and training new staff is incalculable.  We have heard several small business owners make comments like “I’m done with Canadians” or “Here’s my advice: don’t hire Canadians.”  This is a shameful situation, no question, and one that is not often discussed for fear of appearing sinister.  The sense of entitlement amongst Canadian-born citizens has reached an epidemic level in Canada and it is now coming crashing down on our heads.

The quickest way to fix the problem discussed in this article above is to train our youth to get a job, do well on the job, and keep it come hell or high water.  It starts at home.  Another solution is to start a great business and create jobs for the Canadians you wish to see working.

Although it’s important to expose abusive behaviour (we at the VCSFA believe firmly in this) it’s also important to make sure that you understand the agenda(s) of the people who are creating the buzz (the media) around these topics and make sure you get both sides to the story.


Is Blaq Sheep a Black Sheep in the Coffee Industry?

Is Blaq Sheep a Black Sheep in the Coffee Industry?

A new player seems to be entering the Vancouver coffee market – Blaq Sheep Fine Coffee.  Although they have a website, it does not do any justice to the actual brand experience which indicates further that something is bubbling under the surface.  For example, on the day of this post, you can go through most pages of their website and not come across their very cool logo of the sheep.  Yet, a quick search the image section of a major search engine will reveal a more accurate display of their shops, signage, and branding in general.

So what is a black sheep?  Turning to the never-failing and always true Wikipedia we read that  a black sheep is usually a negative term of someone who doesn’t fit in or has gone wayward.  Essentially, it’s someone awkward, eccentric, or ‘too unique’ who doesn’t fit in with the crowd.  But don’t forget that Jesus left the herd to go and find the one sheep that went sideways.  Jesus cared deeply about the one black sheep.  The most well-read book in the history of the world, the Bible, constantly teaches that it’s not wise to follow the herd (those who surround you) because they are heading towards destruction.

But what does this mean in the Vancouver coffee industry?

This means opportunity.

Vancouver is saturated up the yin-yang and out the other side with coffee shops, but if you ask espresso drinkers where the good coffee is, there aren’t too many enthusiastic replies.  In a land with so many coffee shops (and sushi shops while we’re at it), most of them seem to fit under a handful of brands. When you get out of the Kitsilano, Gastown, Main Street or the Commercial Drive ‘coffee zones’, the story gets even worse.  So, for a city that has so many coffee shops, there is a surprisingly low number of either extremely high quality shops, or shops that are stepping out on a limb to be different.  Most of them are slight variations of each other but following a very similar model of Italian espresso drinks with some pastries and the odd panini – nothing wrong with that and there is probably good arguments against breaking what might not be broken, but where are the boat-rockers or the feather-rufflers?

Blaq Sheep Fine Coffee, on the other hand, appears to be totally separating themselves from the herd.  Our first reports are that they have a ‘very good coffee’, unique and good food program, and a decent selection of alcoholic drinks coupled with a unique atmosphere.  Their slogan on their sandwich board ‘Outstanding in our Field’ right under their logo should be both entertaining to the customer, but a concern to competitors.  It’s a bold statement of who they are and what they are planning.

It will be interesting to learn more about their products, their business model and ‘black sheepness’ of their branding as they grow from two locations.



Vancouver Franchise 1-800-Got-Junk? Celebrates 25 birthday

Anyone interested in the franchising business model, especially in the Vancouver area, should take keen interest in this article written about the history and success of the famous junk company 1-800-Got-Junk?, and not just because it was birthed here.

For the entrepreneurs, the most intriguing part of the article will be the David and Goliath aspect of how Brian Scudamore put his own challenges aside and courageously went the road less travelled.  For the person who tried this path and lost for whatever reason, there is a deep-rooted, heart-warming and tear-jerking sense of ‘way to go, kid’ – like how you feel when the underdog hits the home run in a movie.  It is usually followed by a kind of depressing feeling as we think about how much money we lost trying to travel a similar road (or even roads…).  One thing is certain and that this is one of the most inspiring entrepreneurial stories because of the perceived ‘simplicity’ of the business.  Anyone could start a business picking up garbage, couldn’t they?  How is this any more revolutionary than the guy who picks the cans out of my recycling bin (without my permission please note) every Wednesday evening?  For the student studying business, this should be their first chapter example.  They should pose this question in bold italics at the top of the opening page.  Then, they should have Brian Scudamore come in and blow their minds open with what it was really like building a large company.  It would not be surprising if ninety percent of the students in that class were to drop out and change majors while the other 10% went on to build similarly inspiring companies.

Anyone considering any kind of business, should pay special heed to the following extraction from the article:

“When the time came to franchise, well-meaning friends and colleagues said junk removal could never be franchised.”

This is the first lesson learned in every business.  Avoid well-meaning friends and family at all costs.  Thankfully Mr. Scudamore was able to block out their noise.

Another important part of this story is how Scudamore was quoted as feeling like he was getting more out of building his business than from attending school.  Our current education system is very much like our well-meaning friends and family.  It tries to do the best it can but it’s built by people who are incubated and hatched in school where they where they set goals to eventually teach in them and ultimately retire from them.  They do their best to teach the stuff they should but they fail quite notably to teach finances and business – especially in the arena of creativity and boldness.  At what point were any of us encouraged to be different from each other?  There are countless stories of getting penalized for such behaviour, though.

Franchising, as many have learned from reading our articles, is a very different business model compared to the corporate structure.  The successful franchise (over the long term) is able to create legitimate win-win relationships.  In a successful franchise, the Franchisee feels content when their Franchisor is making money because they are making money too.  Although we have not even begun to investigate the satisfaction level of 1-800-Got-Junk? Franchisees, we would not be surprised if we discovered just such a synergy.

We look forward to hearing stories of successful franchising as 1-800-Got-Junk? grows.


British Columbia Law Institute (BCLI) Releases Report on a Franchise Act in British Columbia

Members of the VCSFA had an opportunity to meet with Greg Blue of the British Columbia Law Institute (BCLI) approximately one year ago where we had the chance to hear more about the plans for a proposed Franchise Act for BC.  We created this post shortly after this meeting.

At this point, it was in the ‘consultation phase’ where feedback was being gathered by stakeholders in the franchise industry.  To read the original document, you can click this link and download it directly or go to the Franchise Act Project page at the BCLI.

We are pleased to announce that the conclusions from the consultation phase have now been compiled into this document: Report on a Franchise Act for British Columbia which can also be viewed/downloaded from the BCLI project page above.

In the near future, we will write a report with our feedback on the report.

The VCSFA would like to extend our most sincere thanks to Greg Blue and all the others who contributed to this worthwhile project as it has already contributed to the exposure of the oftentimes questionable nature of the Franchise-Franchisor relationship in general, but especially in BC, and will most certainly help any potential buyer (who does their due diligence) avoid some of the common pitfalls prevalent in the industry,



Why Quiznos is Going Bankrupt and What You Can Learn From It

Franchising is set on a pedestal in the minds of business minded people and customers alike as a dream model – a goal to reach as it were.  For some people, to franchise your business means you are validated by the business world.  To open hundreds of stores means you are awesome.  To open thousands?  Now you’re a rock star, baby.  But wait!  While your business groupies marvelled at your copying-and-pasting skills, your lovely, innocent, country bumpkin girlfriend who was always there for you got neglected on the way to your stardom.  That’s quite sad.

Some people believe that franchises are started by directors with abusive and even predatory business goals but most believe they start out innocently but are then corrupted by the sudden infusion of cash in their banks created by their army of burger flipping, latte steaming, foot-long wrapping worker bees.

You choose what you believe.

The Franchisees of Quiznos in the USA may now have to figure out how to walk on their own two feet while proceedings for the funeral of their corporate franchise mother ship get underway.  Will their Landlords extend expiring lease renewals now that their never-failing rent guarantor has failed?  Will the owners be able to sell their stores and recuperate the hundreds of thousands they spent to buy the business name and systems?  Will this bankruptcy ultimately mean the doom of Quiznos in Canada?  What buyer would purchase a franchise that may no longer be a franchise?  How much goodwill value is left in the brand?

This article in the Business in Vancouver publication summarizes the situation at Quiznos best as ‘…struggling with high debt, angry Franchisees, and increasing competition.”  Many of the angry Franchisees apparently sued the head office for failing to support them and for overcharging them for supplies.  Quiznos settled out of court for $95 million.  And just a few years later – good bye, sugar pie.

But it makes sense.  When a lawsuit is filed against a Franchisor, its roots didn’t magically grow like Jack’s beanstalk, especially if the lawsuit involves more than one Franchisee as it did in this case.  The Franchisees had to have been angry enough to fight against their own ‘fear of the Franchisor’ and start meeting privately to come up with a plan – a sort of revolution.  Money was taken from them unfairly so they went to get it back.  They paid for support that they didn’t get so they went for a court imposed refund – and they got it.  It would be interesting to ask the Franchisees who chose not to fight how they feel about their decision now.

One of the most interesting quotes from the BIV article on the topic is the following:

All except seven of its nearly 2,100 restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees and will not be affected by the bankruptcy, the company said in a statement.

How they will not be affected by the bankruptcy is nothing short of a very large mystery.  To remove a stigma of this size from a brand is a formidable task – regardless of where the bankruptcy is filed.  Think about Jack in the Box.  Stigmas are sticky.

So what can we learn from the woes that are sweeping over Quiznos?  Here are a few points to consider:

  • If Quiznos was focused on helping the Franchisees make money instead of finding ways to take it from them, none of this would have happened.  They would have had Ambassadors of the Brand instead of Assassins of the Brand.  Win + win = win  (Note: this formula still works in 2014)
  • If there are a bunch of Franchisees going after the Franchisor, you should probably be concerned.  Deeply concerned.
  •  ‘Too big to fall’ Franchises don’t exist (although McDonald’s might admittedly be trickier to topple).  The bigger they are the harder they fall – eventually.