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Solutions-Focused IFA Convention Draws Record Number of Attendees

Nearly 3,600 franchisee, franchisor and supplier partners gathered in Las Vegas to hear the latest on wide-ranging topics affecting the growth of the franchise community during the International Franchise Association’s 53rd Annual Convention this past February. The program focused on providing attendees with solutions to some of today’s most critical challenges to help members grow and expand their businesses.

During educational sessions, roundtables, summits and mini-super sessions, convention goers were updated on emerging trends and critical information in the areas of franchise relations, the new health care law, management and leadership, financing, multi-unit growth, international expansion, franchise development, social media and more. Those visiting the IFA Exhibit Hall were greeted by a record number of booths — a total of 325, up from the previous high of 290 in 2008 — to find new products and services for their franchises.

IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE, identified the Affordable Care Act, taxes and immigration reform as critical domestic issues for the industry in 2013 during his State of the Association address. Caldeira pointed to the industry’s achievements as a strong presence in Washington, D.C. and increasingly at the state level, a strong advocacy foundation in the form of Franchise Congress and a record-breaking 2011-2012 election cycle with FranPAC, the association’s political action committee, at more than $1.2 million in receipts. Caldeira said that of the 600-plus trade associations and corporations that are members of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, he, the IFA board of directors and staff are most proud that “we are one of 10 members of that management committee and played a critical role, and continue to play a critical role, in workforce policy.”

IFA’s 2013 Chairman is FOCUS Brands Inc. Chairman and Roark Capital Group Managing Director Steve Romaniello, CFE. When asked what he sees as the most pressing issues facing the organization and industry, Romaniello replied, “without a doubt it is the economic climate and the inability of policymakers to pass pro-growth legislation that will help the franchise industry, and all businesses for that matter, grow, create jobs and get this economy growing again.” He pointed to increasing advocacy efforts on federal and states levels, franchisee inclusion and ensuring that IFA remains the definitive source of franchise information.

Keynote speaker former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice told the attendees that “getting this economy going again is number one on our country’s ‘to do’ list.” Rice said that the private sector will lead the country’s ability to grow our economy, but certainty for businesses is needed.

It’s not just about getting our fiscal house in order (tax reform, the national debt and spending), but it’s also about our belief as a country is that “it doesn’t matter where you came from, it’s about where you are going,” Rice said referring to the great opportunities for all Americans regardless of their station in society. To keep that dream alive, we must address the hard issues facing us as a country to ensure that immigrants can contribute to the country in meaningful ways.

Other keynote speakers included CKE Restaurants CEO Andrew Puzder (Carl’s Jr. & Hardee’s), who told attendees about his unconventional approach to gain franchisee buy-in to compete with larger restaurant chains as part of CKE’s turnaround strategy. The popular Panel of the Pros featured Batteries Plus Bulbs CEO Russ Reynolds, DineEquity, Inc. (IHOP & Applebee’s) Chairwoman & CEO Julia Stewart and Choice International Hotels Pres. & CEO Steve Joyce (IFA vice chairman). Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc. CEO Rick Silva shared how he develops talent/leaders, mentors others, builds trust and elaborated on the key steps to being a better leader.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” closed out the convention during the luncheon session with a debate of the headlines of the day with their unique blend of political commentary and insights.

Summits

Reflecting the growing importance of technology platforms in franchising communications and marketing, this year’s Technology Summit drew 500 attendees. Topics focused on social, local and mobile technologies and featured a panel of experts that shared solutions to today’s marketing challenges. Facebook Head of Communication and Global Content Strategy for Global Vertical Marketing Jesse Dwyer discussed social, local and mobile marketing to bring attendees up to date on these strategies. Barkley, Inc. Executive Vice President Jeff Fromm shared that his research of millennials shows that many of their purchasing decisions are based on the recommendations from their peers. Krispy Kreme Director of Corporate Communications Brian Little explained implementation of their SoLoMo strategy. Those seeking additional SoLoMo solutions now have a new resource.

The popular International Summit was broken into two tracks, “New to International” and “Growing Your International Network.” The first track began with a panel on evaluating opportunities and risks in international expansion, including advice on strong markets, what franchise sectors are in greatest demand, how to tell when you are ready to expand abroad and what steps to take. The second track offered insights for franchisors already operating internationally, including incorporating non-traditional adaptations to local markets and how franchisors can leverage U.S. government resources to facilitate international expansion.
To help franchisees to acquire loans to build their business, the Financial Summit focused on two areas: tapping private equity as a resource, as well as leveraging technology and alternative funding resources.

The Franchisee Leadership Summit, launched this year for the first time, offered advice on accessing the unrealized potential human capital to promote leadership and ignite management skills. High Performance Training President Bob Davies, the featured speaker, guided attendees through discussions of leadership through accountability.

As the economy continues to move forward, The 22nd Annual Elements of Successful Franchising gave attendees tools to work through challenging economic times, cope with government intrusions into their businesses and take advantage of trends that top franchise companies are using.

The New Markets Summit helped participants to reach a better understanding of the right balance for their brands when considering celebrities and athletes as spokesmen and franchisees and the best ways to accelerate diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Panelists included franchise industry leaders and former athletes.

Advocacy Highlights

During the convention’s Super Session, IFA Senior Vice of Government Relations & Public Policy Judith Thorman said that the association is focused on four major federal issues: tax reform, health care, workforce policy and immigration. “It’s time to take action and stand up for your business; your members of Congress need to hear directly from you,” said Thorman as she urged members to get involved in Franchise Congress, IFA’s grassroots advocacy program.

FranPAC, the association’s political action committee, had the best convention to date with a record amount of pledges to start the year. FranPAC donors donned their pins to show their full support for the legislative and regulatory issues confronting the franchise industry.
For those interested in more information about how to get involved with FranPAC, contact IFA Senior Director of Political Affairs, Grassroots Advocacy, and Multi-Unit Franchisee Engagement Erica Fitzsimmons at efitzsimmons@franchise.org.

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