How an AFFI membership can help business owners weather the influx of foreign competition

The coming years may prove challenging for Filipino business owners, but they will endure if they don’t go through it alone.

That, at least, was the sentiment shared by members of the Association of Filipino Franchisers (AFFI) who weighed in on the upcoming regional economic integration which will begin to affect the Philippines and 9 other Southeast Asian countries next year. According to Ricardo Cuna, the current Vice President of AFFI, the said integration will see more foreign players entering the Philippine market by 2016 and their presence will have a significant effect on local businesses as they intensify competition.

“We at AFFI have been talking about it for the last three years,” Cuna, who is also the founder of ice cream franchise Fiorgelato, said. “We think they’re going to make a big impact as far as competition is concerned.”

That said, however, Cuna and board members of the group remain optimistic in facing the anticipated competition and this is due to their affiliation with AFFI itself.

“Why fight a battle on your own when you can fight it alongside allies?” said Raffy Canare, the association’s Executive Director. “Above all else, this is what AFFI can offer business owners: allies who understand your concerns, who go through the same things you go through as a business owner, and are willing to share what they know to help you grow your business.”

The AFFI Advantage

Considered as one of the oldest and most active trade organizations in the Philippines, AFFI, formed in 1997, is an association of local businesses. It was formed to promote ethical business practices while updating the promotion and operational know-how of its members through a variety of events and social gatherings. This includes an annual flagship expo which traditionally sees hundreds of CEOs and company founders gathered to endorse their respective brands while sharing their personal tips to aspiring businessmen.

Though previously developed to cater only to franchisers, the group this year has decided to extend membership to local entrepreneurs primarily due to the demand coming in from the industry of small and medium enterprises (SME).

“Had there been no demand, we would have kept the group exclusively for franchisers,” said Canare. “However, we decided to expand because more and more people want to be AFFI-liated with us.”

At its current state, AFFI is composed of numerous long-time industry players and start-ups. It also has regular partnerships with other home grown organizations and government institutions. According to Canare, a typical AFFI gathering is usually composed of people relevant to local trade and industry and this is among the primary reasons as to why numerous companies are attracted to the idea of being an AFFI member.

“Being AFFI-liated with AFFI means that you are on the same level as Jose Magsaysay Jr. of Potato Corner, Glenn Yu of Sea Oil, Injap Sia of Mang Inasal, and Mel Verano of Figaro,” he said. “These are people who have done well in their respective fields and joining our regular meetings will allow you to learn from them.”

Aside from decorated CEOs and business founders, however, Canare added AFFI events and meetings can also include representatives from the government. Due to this, members of the association are given the unique capacity to effectively air their concerns and have an effect on industry related legislation.

“The good thing here is that the likes of Senator Bam Aquino and Senator Cynthia Villar are actually so supportive of the association,” Canare said. “The two of them are always part of our gatherings. They sit down with the members, listen to them and that allows them to get ideas as to what else they can do to help the trade and industry sector.”

Canare added, however, that the nature of the group’s meetings and activities themselves has also been received positively by most of its members. He says that while AFFI ensures that every meet-up is informative, they are also executed in a “cool” way. For example: “we go bowling and after that, we have coffee and talk. We also do cluster meetings where the use of power points and projectors are forbidden to keep the mood casual.”

This year, among AFFI’s events is “14th Franchise and Business Expo: Empowering Entrepreneurs” Known as the biggest and longest-running event of its kind in the country. It gathered more than 300 exhibitors who showcased a wide range of business concepts and brands from both the Philippines and a number of countries included in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It also hosted a broad array of activities to further bolster the business acumen of all participating parties and promote exhibiting brands..

“With our expo, we can provide for our members and other businesses a venue to promote their brands,” Canare said. “This is very important especially for our new members because a number of them are start-ups who need the promotion.”

Setting the standard

Since its decision to expand its membership, AFFi has seen a 20 percent rise in applicants. Most of the said, he added number came from budding entrepreneurs who are looking to expand into franchising in the future. Canare says however that despite the increase in applications, the standards of AFFI have yet to change. Currently, aspiring AFFI members still have to go through a rigorous screening process that involves at least several phases.

“We don’t just accept applicants,” said Canare. “AFFI will require you to send your intent to become a member, we will evaluate your intention and then we will ask for a lot of pertinent documents. We will then request for an interview. After that, we will set a site visit and an ocular at your company. You will attend a basic affiliation workshop before being recommended by the committee to the board who, in turn, will vote on your application.”

Canare said however that despite the difficultly of this screening process, it too has become an essential selling point of the association. “It is so discerning that passing it becomes quite an achievement,” he said, adding that the perks are worth it especially considering the possibly difficult times ahead.

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