John is a recognised dean of the franchising, licensing and distribution bar, acting for franchisors and chain participants regionally, nationally and globally for 40 years. John provides counsel to franchisors and grocery industry participants in all aspects of their businesses, including franchise system or distribution design and implementation, system restructuring and international expansion. Recognised for his role in shaping Canada’s franchise legal framework, John advises governments and industry associations on initiatives and changes affecting franchising.
Where did your interest in franchising grow from?
I recognised that franchising offered an effective avenue for small entrepreneurs to compete with corporate chains that dominated retailing in the 1960s and 1970s. As such, I appreciated that franchising would serve a transformational role in the distribution of goods and services across many sectors of the economy, from restaurants to hotels, home services, professional services, telecommunications and automotive.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
Franchising has now become the preferred and dominant force in the distribution of goods and services in G20 countries and is emerging as a significant force everywhere else. At the same time, most corporate chains have disappeared. The few corporate chains to have survived are a pale imitation of their former selves. Franchising is now the preeminent force in this sector of the economy, representing well over 50 per cent of all retail sales. Moreover, franchising is evolving with the times by serving as the vehicle of choice for the growing service sector. At the same time, franchising has become more and more regulated worldwide. As businesses operate in global markets, there has been an expanding need to conform with the complexities of international regulation.
You have represented franchisees during your career, what insights can you offer to understand the experiences and challenges facing franchisors?
Franchisors have a challenging role keeping their brands fresh and in-demand while operating successful systems. By being on the front line representing brands in their interactions with the public, franchisees have valuable insights to assist franchisors in the ongoing evolution of their systems.
Having worked with franchisors operating in a range of sectors, how do you ensure you maintain sector-specific knowledge to assist clients effectively?
Having helped shape the industry as well as the business and regulatory developments, and having built the best team of franchise professionals in Canada, there is very little in franchising that my team and I have not touched. Being active in industry associations, and reading and writing for industry-specific publications, as well as anticipating trends and issues, allows us to provide added value to our clients above and beyond the specific service we perform. Having litigated a number of the pivotal franchising issues adds to our ability to add value for our clients to whatever issue we are helping them address.
Our lawyers have established teams focused on industry sectors with leaders whose responsibility it is to be experts in their sector. I interact with every sector leader to discuss trends and best practices applicable to their sector and of relevance to the industry as a whole.
What are the key considerations lawyers must take into account when representing the interests of franchise businesses on how to shape the franchise legal framework?
In the final analysis, most people go into business for financial reward. Other considerations, however important, are secondary. As such, the prospective franchised business has to generate enough margin so as to provide adequate rewards for both parties as well as the suppliers who are often an afterthought. Where shared profitability is low or lacking, we counsel prospective and existing clients to refine their economic model if they are to maximise the prospects for success through franchising in the near and long term. Franchising is a front-end-loaded business from an investment prospective. Having qualified experts and adequate franchisee support is critical to early success of any franchise system. In advising their franchisor clients, it is hoped that franchise lawyers will keep these considerations front of mind.
What is the most interesting case you have worked on?
Without doubt the most interesting work I have done professionally is not a case or a file, but a project. It spanned over approximately 15 years playing a leadership role in developing a regulatory model that corrected some of the most industry-damaging practices while avoiding the pitfalls of needless regulations through my roles with the Franchise Sector Working Team in Ontario and the Uniform Law Conference of Canada and Uniform Franchise Law. This experience was subsequently tapped by the African Business Development Bank in its seminal research on how to use the well-known advantages of franchising to fuel economic growth in developing countries.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Building the best franchise law firm in Canada and promoting the development of harmonised regulation in Canada, and helping in the spread of franchising as a tool for economic growth in developing countries.
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Help your clients achieve their objectives and you will also achieve yours.
There are two kinds of people in the world, givers and takers – avoid the latter.
Always focus on opportunities, regardless of the situation.