Black and white heart-shaped hands on a grey isolated background. The concept of inter-racial friendship and respect, the fight against racism
Published June 11, 2020

5 Ways Franchise Leaders Can Support Employees and Franchisees in the Fight Against Racism

2020 has been a tough year for most. As businesses started to open up and people began to leave their COVID19 isolation to become part of their communities, we saw another black man murdered while in police custody. As hearts break everywhere and protests take place across our country, it’s clear we need to find ways to change. We need to be better– as people, as businesses, as a country – in the way we listen to, and take care of each other. People of color need our help to be seen and heard, and systemic change has to happen to end racism.

Our country is at a tipping point and franchising is positioned to lead the way by supporting our organizations (employees, franchisees, customers). In talking with many franchise leaders I hear, “We want to make a difference, but we don’t have $500,000 to donate to the Black Lives Matter movement,” (Kudos Wendy’s!) or, “I’m not sure where to start as a company.”

So how can franchisors support and create the change? Here are five ideas we offer based upon what we are reading and hearing from people in our industry:

1. Make a public statement. We have seen CEOs put out statements that state how they plan to help fight racism in their brands and in the country. Of course, it’s the right thing to do to stand on the side of justice, but this has to be more than just a PR opportunity. It’s important to be authentic, and follow up with actions and accountability. Charlie Morrison, CEO of Wingstop shared an open letter that he sent to his system expressing his personal feelings, along with what they were doing within the organization to start making changes.

2. Facilitate conversations. This is the time for white people to LISTEN. We cannot know what it’s like to be a person of color in our country. But we can provide ways for us to learn from each other, and create inclusive environments where our co-workers, employees, and fellow franchisees are seen and heard.

  • Virtual town halls are an opportunity for your leadership team to reinforce the ways you plan to support change and have no tolerance for racism within your organization. It’s also a chance to ask how they are doing. Allow people to share how they feel, ask questions, or offer up their personal experiences and ideas.
  • Book clubs are a great way to recommend books written by people of color, and spark great conversations. People are sharing resources to read, watch and listen to. Two books that might get you started The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander or So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
  • Create task forces and sub-committees where your team and franchisees can connect with each other and feel more involved. Smaller groups give everyone an opportunity to share ideas on ways to make your brand and processes better. Getting to know people and working with them to take action and get things done leads to creating real relationships and getting more invested in people’s lives outside of work.
  • Invite active community leaders to facilitate discussions. Inviting a third party or expert, to lead discussions can create a more open environment. One of my fellow Women’s Franchise Committee members offered up The Social Leader (located in MO) and finding someone in your committee could be powerful for your staff and brand.

3. Support your employees in what’s important to them, and your franchisees will follow suit. Recognizing something is important to your team, and helping their efforts shows empathy, and helps them take action. Some ideas to consider:

  • Offer paid days off each quarter or year that employees can use to fight racism (however they want to do that).
  • Pay employees to take a day off to participate in a peaceful protest in their community.
  • Organize events your entire organization can participate in together.
  • Offer company matching donations to causes that are important to them.
  • Promote and support minority owned businesses by choosing products or gift cards.

4. Get involved at the local level. If you can’t make monetary donations, offer up your time. Here are 75 Things White People Can Do For Social Justice– which include asking your communities to make body cams on police a standard for every police force. Or educating yourself on which candidates you should support that will push for racial equalities when elected.

5. Make a pledge to promote diversity and make an impact. IFA’s Diversity Institute is working on an initiative to measure the impact franchising has on being inclusive. Reach out to make sure you get a copy of the final document and be the first to sign on. Connect with other leaders in franchising who are committed to becoming an employer of choice for minorities, and encouraging people of color to join franchise systems. This is already happening in the business community, visit the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion to get involved.

We hope to stimulate some ideas for your team, and would love to hear what you have done in the past week within your organizations to educate yourselves on how to fight racism together. We are a strong community, and collectively, franchising can drive the change and unity our country desperately needs.

About the Author: Michelle Rowan

Michelle is the president of FBR, the former Chair of the International Franchise Association’s Women’s Franchise Committee. and a Certified Franchise Executive. She is the recipient of the 2022 Crystal Compass Award, has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.
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