Association salutes best franchisors

Brent Barr of Ryerson's retail marketing program asked franchisees about the effectiveness of franchisors' selection process, disclosure, leadership, business planning and marketing, training and support, franchisee relations, operations and improvement…This time, only 28 of the CFA's more than 300 members entered.

The Toronto Star
May 19, 2006

Association salutes best franchisors
James Daw

A Vancouver chain of travel agencies has demonstrated that pleasing franchisees is not a matter of size.

Up against some of the biggest names in franchising, CruiseShipCenters International Inc. has won the 2006 Award of Excellence from the Canadian Franchise Association. The award recognizes the franchisor with franchisees who have given the highest level of endorsement in a survey by Ryerson University.

Franchise association president Richard Cunningham hopes the success of a relatively small network will encourage wider participation in the revived awards program. This time, only 28 of the CFA's more than 300 members entered.

With wider participation, the satisfaction survey could become a new gauge to help entrepreneurs shop for business opportunities, Cunningham says.

CruiseShipCenters, founded by president Michael Drever in 1988, now supports 86 travel agencies that specialize in sales of cruise packages.

The company captured 21 per cent of 2004 cruise sales to Canadians, as reported by the Cruise Line International Association, which represents about 90 per cent of world cruise business, says Mike Mutsaerts, vice-president of business development.

"To hear back from our partners that we are meeting their expectations is the best compliment we could ever receive," says Mutsaerts.

CruiseShipCenters is now large enough that its 1,400 agents get preferred prices, commissions and marketing support from cruise lines, he adds.

The two other award finalists were White Spot Ltd., also of Vancouver, and Petro-Canada Certigard of Calgary.

White Spot is the largest and oldest full-service restaurant chain in British Columbia. Last year, the group had $160 million in sales through 106 corporate and franchise locations, including the White Spot Triple O's fast-service chain.

The Toronto Star once included White Spot hamburgers as one of the 125 best things in Canada, boasts president Warren Erhart. He predicts the company will spread nationally within five to 10 years.

The 116 Certigard service stations that receive management and marketing support from Petro-Canada had $68 million in sales last year, says John Watt, national manager of the Certigard.

The start-up cost for entering one of the three franchise systems varies widely. So does the annual income of owners, depending on size, location and management.

Brent Barr of Ryerson's retail marketing program asked franchisees about the effectiveness of franchisors' selection process, disclosure, leadership, business planning and marketing, training and support, franchisee relations, operations and improvement.

Cheryl Kostopoulos, president and owner Pak Mail Centers Canada and chair of the awards committee, says one of the most telling questions is "Would you recommend to your friends to invest?"

All association members agree to provide prospective franchisees with the sort of disclosure required by law in only Alberta and Ontario, including names and addresses of all franchisees.

Kostopoulos encourages investors to ask the association for information on investigating a franchise system before signing any contract and before paying a non-refundable deposit.

James Daw, CFP, can be reached at jdaw @ thestar.ca by email.


Risks: Canadian Franchise Association, CFA, Canada, 20060519 Association salutes

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