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Getting Graphic

A true student of franchising expects to see the big picture first


 Authors of Tales of Garcón: The Franchise Players are Dave Ketchen, Jeremy Short, Jim Combs and Will Terrell, who is the graphic artist.

Regular readers of Franchise Times may find Prof. David Ketchen Jr.’s assessment startling: College students sometimes find franchising boring—especially the textbooks. Could the same thing be happening to franchise prospects seeking enlightenment?

There’s nothing comic about franchising, but to get a true picture of how to do it right it doesn’t hurt to be graphic. Dave Ketchen Jr., a professor of management at Auburn University in Alabama, partnered with two other professors and a graphic-novel artist to produce a textbook on franchising that students enjoy studying. He’s actually had students read ahead of their assigned chapters. “Which is probably unheard of” in academic circles, he adds, only half-joking.

The book came about, Ketchen says, when “the guy I write with got frustrated with our textbook.” That guy would be Jeremy Short, a professor in management at University of Oklahoma.

Short put his disdain for traditional textbooks this way in a video posted on the web: “I’ve yet to encounter a single soul who can recite a line from a textbook.” Nor a soul who doesn’t mind paying exorbitant prices for said textbook.

Teaching has come a long way since most of our lessons were chalked up on giant blackboards in the front of the classroom. We’ve moved from blackboards to transparencies to PowerPoint to online videos—and now to graphic novels. With the onset of early iPad training and television as teachers, more and more students are becoming visual learners.  And as Ketchen points out, most of our teachings as a society have come from storytelling through the ages, from fables around the campfire to parables from the Bible.

Franchising’s first graphic book, “Tales of Garcón: The Franchise Players,” follows the trials and tribulations of a family who owns a boutique hotel they want to replicate. Franchising has been proposed by a mysterious and attractive woman, but is it the right decision for the family business? The book tells a story, but it also explains residual claims, royalities, franchise disclosure and other information both wanna-be franchisors and franchisees need to know.

“It’s the rigor of a textbook with the fun of a graphic novel,” Ketchen claims.

And it is fun.

The patriarch of the family, Garcón, is based on Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, from the beer’s popular TV ad, and “Seinfeld” character J. Peterman, Elaine’s storytelling boss, Ketchen says. They got the idea to create a composite character from actor Johnny Depp, who claimed he fashioned his over-the-top swashbuckling rogue in “Pirates of the Caribbean” after Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards and cartoon skunk Pepé Le Pew.

One of the authors’ inside jokes was to base the “professor” character in the book after the third author, Jim Combs, who moved to Alabama and therefore had “Bama” written on his baseball cap. (We think the better joke was outfitting him in tiny, tight running shorts to accentuate his superhero thighs.)

The cast also includes a brother-sister combo. He’s a flake who could have been based on a slightly hipper, girl-crazy version of Shaggy from Scooby-Do, and she’s the long-suffering smarter sibling, but female, in a male-dominated family.

The plot thickens as Audrey, a sexually charged, mysterious woman, shows up offering to be a franchisee. When asked why Audrey was drawn as such a hot number, Ketchen sighs as he replies: Graphic novel artists “think every woman is built like Raquel Welch.” The writers did ask that the attorney character look more like the middle-aged, comedienne Carol Burnett than Wonder Woman.

The idea of a graphic-novel-style textbook still isn’t mainstream. When author Short gave a presentation about it he said he had always loved comics growing up. Once people hear that, he added, the response is, “You must have a lot of comics in your mother’s basement—where you probably still live.” (He doesn’t.)

Ketchen envisions anyone interested in franchising, not just students, need an interesting book about franchising. There aren’t a lot of page-turners on the subject, he says.

The book is available on Amazon.com for $19.95, and so far reviews have been positive—”even the ones not from my mother,” Ketchen quips.

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