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Our Blessed Land

The United States is a remarkable country.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Editor's Note: This month, our "How To" columnist veers from his usual mission of covering some practical step of buying a franchise. Instead, he illustrates how the franchising community has banded together in its own unique way following the September 11 terrorist attack. Obviously, one of the most important benefits of becoming a franchisee is that you're buying into a proven, supportive system rather than operating out there on your own. But until this tragedy struck, many of us did not realize just how strong the ties were within the larger community of franchising.

We are a land of individuals. We come from different cultures and blend our differences into a uniquely American fabric. Our ancestors were simple heroes and heroines.

Yes, our nation has known moments of darkness that even today we are embarrassed to recall. We are far from perfect, but we never claimed to be. But we are a compassionate and generous nation. When disaster strikes, both manmade and nature-driven, we are the first place nations turn to because we will be the first to deliver. We have walked on the moon, advanced medicine and science, and shared this knowledge freely. The world is a better place for what our people have accomplished.

The attack on September 11th was meant to cripple us. It was meant to divide us. It won't.

Instead, many heroes and heroines emerged on September 11th and the days that followed. The men and women of the fire and police departments as well as the other emergency service personnel revealed a depth of compassion and bravery that will inspire me forever. Seeing hardened steelworkers cry brought home the horror of what they saw. Mayor Giulliani and President Bush kept us focused and hopeful as a nation. We not only survived through their efforts, we grew stronger as a people.

In their own small way, franchisees and franchisors can be proudly counted among the heroes. There are thousands of stories.

  • At "ground zero" in New York City and at the Pentagon, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and other franchise systems have provided free food to the rescue workers and a place for firefighters, police, ironworkers and other workers to rest.
  • American Leak Detection, Radio Shack, Pizza Hut, Computer Moms and others have held or sponsored blood drives.
  • 7-Eleven published a full-page ad of the Stars and Stripes in USA Today so anyone who couldn't buy one could have one.
  • Franchisees of MBE have printed, full-color flags available at MBE locations.
  • Smoothie King is serving beverages at blood centers across the country.
  • Sylvan Learning Systems has established an education fund to provide college scholarships to the children of the victims.
  • 7-Eleven, MBE, Choice Hotels, McDonald's, Wendy's, PostNet, Radio Shack, Smoothie King, Tim Horton's, Checkers, Rally's, Sylvan Learning Systems, Coverall, Sign-A-Rama and FastSigns are just a few of the franchise systems that have donated millions of dollars directly to or served as collection points for the Red Cross, United Way, The New York Community Trust, The September 11th Fund and other charities.
  • Franchisees and their employees have provided bus and other transportation and assistance to stranded travelers, flight personnel and law officials. Some have even opened up their homes.

From every corner of the globe, franchisees, franchisors and suppliers have rallied around us with kind words of sympathy as well as tangible support in our hours of national pain.

Our leaders tell us the best way to overcome these terrorists is not to allow them to affect how we live our lives. Within the franchising community, we won't. With pride we can look at the opportunities franchising has provided to both citizens and new arrivals, regardless of their race, religion, origin, handicap, gender or any other unique distinction. Franchising has provided them the ability to work hard, be ambitious and succeed.

Just as with all other aspects of this great land, franchising has grown and prospered because of the efforts of our immigrants and the fact that, in the United States, we still have limitless opportunities for everyone. You can't find a single franchisor today that isn't blessed by diversity within its franchisee community. There is also not a single nationality in the United States that has not been blessed by the opportunities franchising has provided.

In the weeks and months ahead, our country must focus on rebuilding its economic engine. Many individuals have been hurt by layoffs. Many others will suffer due to the downturn in the stock market. They will look for avenues to regain the American Dream.

Unfortunately, for some, career opportunities in their chosen fields are no longer an option. Business ownership through franchising may be one of their solutions. In every downturn in the economy since the end of WWII, franchising has shown its power as an economic engine for small-business development and the creation of individual wealth. Those who never thought of themselves as business owners found that joining a solid franchise system enabled them to again prosper. It will be no different this time around.

Those of us in franchising are here to support your efforts in learning about becoming a franchisee. There are Web sites like www.entrepreneur.comthat can provide you with information online about how to become a franchisee and also provide you with information about what opportunities are available. You can find books and directories about franchising in your local bookstores or on the Net. If you have questions, ask the experts-the advice is free for the asking at www.entrepreneur.com.

We are a nation that knows no limitations in our pride or abilities. Together, we will get through these troubling times.

Michael H. Seid is managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates, a West Hartford, Connecticut- and Troy, Michigan-based management consulting firm specializing in the franchise industry. Seid recently co-wroteFranchising for Dummies(IDG Books) with Wendy's founder Dave Thomas.