Mapping an International Role

The International Franchise Association is actively promoting international franchise markets, as its vice president of emerging markets and global development Marcel Portman reports

The International Franchise Association's International Development Department exists to assist franchise companies to develop and expand their international operations. International business has changed significantly in the past few years, but the department's mission continues to place a high priority on providing technical assistance and information, along with organising and supporting franchise trade missions and US pavilions at selected franchise exhibitions outside the US.

On the educational front, the association now conducts a summit and workshops on international issues during its annual convention, offering international content on every day of the event. In 2002, the IFA organised a successful International Symposium in London along with the British Franchise Association.

The association is a founding member of the World Franchise Council, created in 1994, and actively collaborates with the 33 national franchise associations, members of the council in promoting the global interests of franchising, and supporting the interests of US members through this network. The national associations around the world recognised the efforts the IFA makes overseas by naming the association the Secretariat General of the World Franchise Council, a post it will hold until March 2005.

From a member-volunteer perspective, the Global Marketing Committee (GLOMAK) is responsible for directing overseas franchise development support and information services. Members include franchise development executives and consultants. The committee also has a Franchise Matchmaker Task Force that coordinates franchise trade missions through the US Department of Commerce programmes and recommends what areas of the world to target.

Some specific activities and programmes are:

• Franchisor Survey and Census, an annual update of the list of countries where members are or want to be. This helps IFA in planning and statistical development.

• International Section of the IFA website, intended to serve as an additional tool for specific information for members with international needs. It provides lists of international events, seminars and country associations

• Promotion and Services: the IFA has established working relationships with several international entities to collaborate in beneficial international programmes for members. Among these are a partnership with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which provides international franchise financing, and an endorsement programme for international franchise events, as well as visits to some of these events with booth presence and seminar presentation.

• Franchise Trade Missions and Pavilions: In cooperation with the US Department of Commerce, the IFA promotes and organises in some cases trade missions to three-to-four cities per mission. The IFA also works with franchise exhibitions around the world and agrees on special rates for its members.

Legislative Alerts: In cooperation with the IFA Government Relations office, members are informed of current and future legal issues that may affect their international expansion. The association is often invited to comment on draft franchise laws, which allows the organisation to protect its members overseas.