bannerGrowing a Franchise

Top Franchise Lawyers: Tom Spadea of Spadea Lignana

1851 Franchise’s annual compilation of great franchise attorneys.

1851 interviewed Spadea Lignana lawyer Tom Spadea about the state of franchising, what makes a franchise attorney awesome and his advice for growth-minded franchisors.

Tom Spadea, in his own words:

After more than fifteen years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience, I went on to receive my law degree at Temple University's Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My undergraduate degree is in Finance from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I graduated Cum Laude.

My corporate experience includes senior executive positions for multiple franchise concepts including Saladworks, a 100 store quick casual restaurant chain; The Huntington Learning Center, a franchised chain of over 400 supplemental education centers; and Rita’s Water Ice, a 500 unit retail chain of franchised frozen dessert restaurants.

I got my start in the franchising industry as a Franchise and Business Broker for Sunbelt of Philadelphia, acting as an advisor to clients looking to transition into the ownership of a franchise or the purchase of an existing small business. As a business broker, I handled dozens of transactions a year from listing businesses for sale, recruiting buyers, to negotiating transactions that satisfied all the stakeholders.

Prior to Sunbelt, I was the owner and President of LPB Communications where I co-founded a factory in Latin America, successfully created an international sales network in Asia and invented a product for which I was granted a US Patent.

About Spadea Lignana (from firm’s website):

At Spadea Lignana, we strive to efficiently serve our clients in a way that keeps our interests aligned.  Our goal is for a long term sustainable relationship.  We want to be thought of as a trusted advisor and key member of our client's professional team.  We believe that hourly billing, although necessary in certain circumstances like complex M&A deals and litigation, can weigh on the relationship between client and attorney.  By coming up with a fair flat monthly fee, the uncomfortable negotiating of whether or not a 6-minute increment in the bill for replying to an email was legitimate goes away.  If we do a lot of work for you in any given year, it means you are growing which is good for us as well in the long run.  We love our clients and love what we do as franchise attorneys.

1851 Franchise: What do you love most about franchising?

Tom Spadea: Dealing with entrepreneurs. The best part of what we do is helping play a role in an entrepreneur's journey from a mom-and-pop business to a company that can create a generational wealth event for the business owner's family. To have clients that could barely pay their bills six or seven years ago to be now courted by private equity thinking about an eight-figure exit is an amazing journey to be a part of. Franchising done right is a true exponential growth strategy, but as we all know only a select few pull it off.  

1851: What makes a great franchise attorney — what makes you awesome?

Spadea: Starting with the end in mind. We never lose sight of the Why — why someone chooses franchising. It is not just an academic exercise of filling out forms and staying compliant. It is all part of an orchestrated dance to build a system that will enable growth and remove risk. As attorneys, that is our role in the dance and something we love to do. The other key is being available and responsive. Our clients measure our response time in minutes and hours not days and weeks. It is why we bill a flat monthly fee and rarely bill by the hour. Our interests and the interests of our clients are aligned.

1851: What is the most important question to ask a franchise attorney when looking to make a change in representation?

Spadea: Just like a franchisees validates a franchisor before making a final decision, I would ask to speak to clients of the attorney and see what others say about the attorney and the firm. And it's not just the attorney, it's the firm, the support and the others on the team that make the representation go from good to great. It takes a team to truly support a franchisors growth over the years. You don't just want an all-star, you want an all-star team.

1851: What is the number-one piece of advice you would give franchisors as to how to grow their brand?

Spadea: Say no to questionable prospects. The number-one thing that will determine the success of a system is the quality of the franchisees.  Strong unit economics are of course a must, but without the right folks running the franchised units those unit economics will be lost on poor performers.  

1851: What do you see as the top legal worry for franchisors in the next year?

Spadea: Fallout from Covid-19. What will happen at the store level, with underperforming units and the general economy. Will we finally get to test the force majeure provisions most of us haven't thought about since law school? On the flip side, perhaps there is a silver lining to this current nightmare. If we slip into a recession many people finding themselves out of work across the country may be looking at buying a franchise to support themselves. I am an optimist by nature, so I say this is just a storm to be weathered. Those that make it through may be like Forest Gump and the Bubba-Gump shrimp company after the Hurricane created an enormous opportunity for them.