By investing in a franchise opportunity, an individual is doing more than entering into a relationship with a specific franchise system and local community - they are joining an industry of franchisees nationally and around the world. And like any other major industry, the franchise sector has a number of associations and organizations that guide and regulate it.

What does a franchise association really do, however? According to the Web site Select Your Franchise, "These associations have several purposes including promoting ethical franchising and lobbying government bodies to protect the business format franchising model from overzealous ... legislation changes."

To the franchisor, an association wears many hats. In order to join an association, such as the U.S.'s International Franchise Association, franchise systems must agree to and comply with a list of guidelines, the site writes. However, abiding by these regulations offers franchisees a number of benefits.

First, they will be able to display the franchise association's brand or seal of approval. For franchisees, this is a useful way to judge the credibility of a franchise system because associations generally force franchisors to audit their processes to ensure they are operating at the top of their game.

Additionally, these associations typically require that franchisees agree to a code of ethics that they then must follow when interacting with franchisees.

However, these associations can offer franchisees more direct benefits as well, such as resources, help and information via association-approved franchise specialist accountants, consultants and other experts. Furthermore, if a franchisee finds him or herself in a disagreement with a franchise system, the association may even offer arbitration to help solve the problem with the association member.

"However, it should be noted that there are also many great franchise systems in the market that decide not be Association members for one reason or another. Association membership is an 'opt in,' and if a franchisor decides not be an Association member, this doesn't automatically make them a bad choice," the site explains.

For U.S. franchise owners, the IFA has been in existence for 50 years and offers detailed information on more than 1,100 franchises. It also offers a comprehensive library of "how to's" and regulatory and legal information.

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