The Importance of Community Engagement for Franchising

Spotlight on People
Franchising World

Incoming IFA Chairman Liam Brown of Marriott International, a 2016 Franchising Gives Back Awards Silver Winner, and Melissa Flood, leader of the company's social impact work, discuss franchising's role as a community leader.


By Liam Brown and Melissa Flood
How we do business is as important as the business that we do. Originally coined by Marriott's Executive Chairman, J.W. Marriott, Jr., this phrase is well known by most at Marriott International and, at its roots, is a philosophy that is as applicable to the franchising industry today as it was decades ago.

No matter what part of the world we serve, being a member of the communities where we operate and doing our part to make them better should be essential to how we all do business. Franchise businesses have a responsibility, and an opportunity, to drive social and sustainable impact. The question is: how do we as an industry determine the most effective way to do good?

Look To What You Do Well

To determine how best to engage and serve our communities, we should look to what we do well and what is core to our business. At Marriott International, we’ve found the most fundamental way we can bring value to a community is by empowering through opportunity. According to the U.S. Travel Association, one in nine jobs in the U.S. depends on travel and tourism. That means that our industry’s reach is not only tremendous, but also there is a real opportunity to provide meaningful careers and opportunities to those who stand to benefit the most. This could mean that an orphaned, young woman from a small Rwandan village working to support her siblings, is enabled to attend a premiere hospitality institute and become the first woman tour guide in her country. It could mean that a Costa Rican youth looking to escape the life of crime into which so many of his friends have fallen can graduate from a specialized training program and land his dream job. It could mean a man with an undefined disability, struggling with reading and math for his entire life, is able to become the lead banquet server at a premiere hotel. None of these are hypotheticals; they are three real examples that represent what takes place in every hotel in our system, managed or franchised.

Identify The Needs Within Your Community

With such a widespread footprint of hotels, it can be challenging to identify what is needed in an individual community. So we deploy general managers to be our eyes, ears, and activators in the field through our worldwide Business Councils. With more than 100 of these groups representing markets in 60 countries, these local property leaders at both managed and franchised hotels strengthen their communities, advocate for policies that advance the business, lead cross-brand, market-driven initiatives, and perpetuate our culture. Business Councils are truly our “boots on the ground” and are essential in taking our impact work from strategy to reality.

Partner With External Organizations That Support Your Goals

By not only looking at what you do well, but also looking at which external partners can support you in your mission to be a good corporate citizen, you can achieve so much more. One of our best ways to identify candidates like the ones mentioned above is to partner with nongovernmental organizations to identify and train members of underserved communities, developing their skills to become high-potential
members of the hospitality industry.
We also look to find ways to help U.S. military veterans across the country. In 2013, we partnered with Wounded Warriors to support its “High Five Tour,” a 48-state road trip honoring our country’s veterans and
military families. On average, Marriott International has raised $1 million annually to help improve the quality of life for veterans, such as purchasing mobility-equipped vehicles. In 2016, we were recognized as a “Support Our Veterans Award” Silver Winner at the IFA Franchise Education and Research Foundation’s second annual Franchising Gives Back Celebration & Awards Dinner for our work. While the recognition was truly an honor, showcasing the creative ways franchise businesses can impact our communities was even more rewarding.

Engage With The IFA And Its Foundation

As the world’s oldest and largest organization representing franchising, the IFA provides countless ways for its members to serve as volunteer leaders and positively impact our industry and those we serve. For more than 40 years, Marriott International has been an active member of IFA.
On Veterans Day in 2011, Marriott joined with other IFA members to support the White House Joining Forces Initiative to launch an industrywide campaign to recruit veterans to work on-property and as franchise
business owners. By the end of 2014, Marriott and other IFA members had provided more than 200,000 jobs for veterans and more than 5,600 veterans had become franchise owners.
This year marks Marriott International’s 90th anniversary. While the nature of our business has often changed, one thing has not: our commitment to serve our world. Of course, real change takes collective effort. We encourage all franchisors, franchisees, and supplier partners to join us in engaging in communities, empowering your teams, and creating a sustainable path for future business growth. While it will be different for every business, the collective impact the more than 733,000 franchise businesses make is what truly matters.
Liam Brown is President, Franchising, Owner Services and MxM Select Brands, North America for Marriott International and Melissa Flood is Vice President, Social Impact and Public Affairs for Marriott International.
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