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IFA Executives Focus on Change, Communication and Challenges

Franchise executives discuss innovative solutions 

to today’s business challenges.

By Matt Haller
Franchise business executives and multi-unit franchisees from across the spectrum of the industry gathered Nov. 16-18 in Miami, Fla., for the International Franchise Association’s Franchise Executive Leadership Conference. The three-day conference included speakers and networking sessions geared to finding innovative solutions to today’s business challenges.
“With more than 30 years of experience owning and operating franchises, collaboration is a personal passion of mine,” said Lawrence “Doc” Cohen, CFE, president, Cookie Associates, and chairman of the Franchise Executive Leadership Conference. “I have seen what can be achieved when franchisors, franchisees and suppliers work together as a team and learn from each other–and the results are powerful.”

Executives Share Insights on Collaboration and Franchise Relations
Welcoming attendees to the conference, Jack Earle, managing director, Earle Enterprises LP (multi-unit McDonald’s franchisee) and IFA chairman of the board, introduced a panel session of franchisors and franchisees, who discussed how their franchise systems manage collaboration and communication to ensure success when implementing system-wide change.
The session featured Steve Joyce, president and CEO of Choice Hotels International and Azim F. Saju, vice president of operations, general counsel, Hotel Development & Management Group (multi-unit franchisee of Choice Hotels), who described their brand’s movement to an online reservation system and managing the competition for lower prices through such third-party sites as Orbitz and Travelocity. The panel also included Kat Cole, president of Cinnabon, FOCUS Brands, Inc. and Frank Ross Jr., Cinnabon franchisee of Albany, Ga., who talked about Cole’s focus on improving franchisee relations since taking the helm of Cinnabon and ensuring open lines of communications between her and the company’s franchisees.

Politics, Credit Access and Seeking Solutions to Pressing Industry Issues
Attendees heard from distinguished Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei. Her research, course development and teaching examine how organizations can more effectively design service excellence and she wowed attendees during her session about “Managing Service Operations.”
“I have seen what can be achieved when franchisors, franchisees and suppliers work together as a team and learn from each other–and the results are powerful.”
—Lawrence “Doc” Cohen, CFE
President and CEO, Cookie Associates, and Franchise Executive Leadership Conference Chairman

As a widely-respected and published author, Frei offered her principles of service excellence, including real-world examples from such companies as Walmart, Progressive, Yum! Brands and General Electric on how companies can better meet their customers’ needs. Frei also counseled attendees about how creating value from the customer’s viewpoint should include an understanding of how excellence is paid for, how employees are set up for success, and how customers are managed and trained.
The program connected attendees with political prognosticator Juan Williams, who spoke about the current Republican presidential primaries and the logjam and congressional gridlock currently taking shape in Washington, which has caused great uncertainty by franchise business leaders.
During the lunch session, attendees received an update from one of the most respected voices in journalism, Geoff Colvin of FORTUNE magazine. His presentation tackled the most pressing issues franchise leaders face, including the future of tax rates on small and large businesses and how Washington may move forward on those issues in the midst of the 2012 presidential election.
Jeff Rosensweig, associate professor of international business and finance, and director, global perspectives program, Emory University, provided attendees with how franchise businesses are positioning themselves amid the recovering economy, with a particular focus on the challenges posed by the ongoing credit access challenges facing franchising.
Attendees took advantage of a unique opportunity to participate in small discussion groups with other franchise leaders, focused on finding innovative solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting franchised businesses all over the country. Sessions included:
Creative Financing, facilitated by Bill Hall, CFE, CEO, William G. Hall & Co. (Dairy Queen multi-unit franchisee) and IFA Credit Access Task Force chairman;
Private Equity for Multi-Unit Franchisees, facilitated by Steve Romaniello, CFE, managing director, Roark Capital Group;
Health Care Solutions, facilitated by Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director, Center for Employment Policy and Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute;
Growth Strategies (including integrating brands), facilitated by Aziz Hashim, president and CEO, NRD Holdings, LLC (multi-unit franchisee of Popeyes, Checkers/Rally’s Drive-In Restaurants, Inc., Subway and Moe’s Southwest Grill);
Succession Planning/Exit Strategies, facilitated by Mike Bidwell, CFE, COO, The Dwyer Group;
Compensation Issues for Key Executives, facilitated by Michael M. Isakson, president and COO, ServiceMaster Company;
Benchmarking, facilitated by Kenneth D. Walker, CFE, chairman and CEO, Driven Brands, Inc.; and
The Future of Franchise Development, facilitated by Shelly Sun, CFE, CEO and Co-Founder, BrightStar Franchising, LLC and IFA FranPAC President’s Council co-chairwoman. 
Matt Haller is senior director of communications for the International Franchise Association. He can be reached at 202-662-0770 or mhaller @franchise.org.

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