If you are having problems with your franchisor-or issues that could become serious, your first reaction may be to send an email to a friend or to an attorney seeking advice. Do not send that email using the franchisor’s email system or from a computer that the franchisor has access to.
Most franchise agreements give the franchisor unfettered access to the computer that your franchise business information is stored on. Although franchisors have legitimate business reasons for access to your business information, it poses risks for you. The franchisor has every right to monitor and read that private email to your aunt-or to your attorney or accountant. They own the system. You have given them the right to read it. Whether you think they will, in fact, read it, you should behave as though they will.
You should be wary of using a franchisor-provided email system for any private communications. You know it is franchisor provided if it is in the format: yourname.franchisorname.com. email servers store every message–often indefinitely. When the going gets tough, they will have those emails and you will not. You will have no ability to permanently delete such messages.
Even if you are not currently in a dispute-or even having difficulties with your franchisor, you should maintain a personal computer separate from your business computer and you should never use the franchisor’s email system for personal communications. Your dinner plans for the weekend are simply not the franchisor’s business. The identity of and your relationship with your personal friends is not their business. Your family issues are not their business. If you value your privacy and that of your friends, you need to keep them off of the franchisor’s email system and any computer the franchisor has the right to access.
This concern becomes critical at any point that you are seeking advice-whether from a friend, another franchisee or a lawyer or other advisor-regarding how to deal with some issue relating to the franchisor. You need the freedom to seek and obtain advice without worrying about whether the franchisor will use your very inquiry to decide that you are disloyal or a trouble-maker. If you are contemplating legal action, you really don’t want the franchisor to know every detail of the thought processes and planning that lead up to your decision. Start by picking up the telephone and calling an experienced franchise attorney and make the first agenda item a discussion about how to communicate with them.
Especially if you have or anticipate problems with your franchisor, do not use the franchisor’s email system or a computer they have access to.