Learn. Lead. Grow. The 2021 FLDC was a cause for celebration!
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Learn. Lead. Grow. The 2021 FLDC was a cause for celebration!

Learn. Lead. Grow. The 2021 FLDC was a cause for celebration!

After a 2-year Covid-induced hiatus, the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference (FLDC) returned to Atlanta, <live and in person!> The event, which focuses on recruitment and sales, drew nearly 450 attendees to Atlanta’s InterContinental Buckhead hotel this past October 19–21.

The conference theme this year was “Learn. Lead. Grow.” While the focal point on paper was system growth and development, attendees and suppliers were visibly excited to be back together again after a year and a half of Covid restrictions. Sessions were packed and hallway conversations livelier than ever. Speakers brought palpable energy to their presentations. Both keynote speakers received standing ovations. These were people eager to put Covid behind them and hone in on the opportunities ahead.

Keynote speakers this year were Jesse Itzler and Jim Knight. Itzler is co-founder of Marquis Jet, author of the <New York Times> bestseller <Living with a SEAL,> and one of the owners of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Knight is a business culture catalyst, former Hard Rock International executive, and author of <Culture That Rocks> and <Leadership That Rocks,> which was released in May.

Timely and topical sessions led by industry experts and experienced sales and development executives were packed, some with standing room only. The sold-out Exhibit Hall offered ample opportunities for attendees to socialize and talk business with their peers and a wide variety of suppliers to explore business solutions, strategies, products, and services.

The conference was supported by more than 60 sponsors. New this year was a partnership between Franchise Update Media and the IFA, who decided to combine their previously scheduled fall gatherings into one. Platinum sponsors were ChoiceLocal and CustomerID. Gold sponsors were 919 Marketing, Boefly, Consumer Fusion, FranConnect, Hot Dish Advertising, and Synuma. ApplePie Capital once again sponsored the annual STAR Awards dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy.

Tuesday, Day 1: Workshops

The conference kicked off with a full day of concurrent workshops: the annual CEO Summit, IFA’s Fran-Guard program, and two in-depth workshops on sales and development.

The CEO Summit is an unparalleled opportunity for franchise CEOs, presidents, and founders from widely different brands to spend a full day working through common problems with their peers. The room was divided into roundtables at which small groups brainstormed solutions on topics that included leading in complicated times; Covid’s impact on franchisee/franchisor relationships and maintaining brand standards; a presentation from IFA CEO Matt Haller on current and future legislative challenges for franchising; helping franchisees manage today’s workforce challenges; and the role of CEOs in the development process. The all-day meeting was facilitated by this year’s Conference Chair John Teza, president and CDO at Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa.

Haller urged the leaders in the room to get involved in influencing governmental decisions and highlighted the IFA’s six advocacy priorities for the coming year: stopping the PRO Act, protecting independent contractor status, mitigating joint employer regulations, preventing overreach by the FTC, clarifying the vaccine employer mandate, and stopping or mitigating tax increases. While some franchisors and franchisors have become quite large, he pointed out that 50% of brands still have 25 or fewer locations.

Catherine Monson, CEO of Propelled Brands and now serving in her second year as IFA chair, added, “The most important thing you can do is contact your franchisees—activate them to tell their individual stories about how legislation is affecting them.” She said the IFA is happy to help with this. The stakes are high.

In a separate room, participants were busy in the all-day Fran-Guard session—the IFA’s sales management and compliance program designed to help senior executives learn how to take proactive steps to reduce risks, manage growth, and build a stronger, healthier system.

Two all-day tracks— “Maximize Sales Performance” and “Franchisee Recruitment Marketing”—took place concurrently on a busy Day 1.

The morning session of the Sales Performance track focused on refining sales basics, with sales pros sharing how they move prospects from leads to engaged candidates to successful franchisees. Paul Pickett, longtime CDO at Wild Birds Unlimited, moderated a panel consisting of Jim DiRugeris, CDO at Celebree School; Carrie Evans, vice president of franchise development at Chicken Salad Chick; John Lancaster, vice president of emerging markets and franchise development at Choice Hotels; and Patti Rother, vice president of development at Scenthound.

The afternoon session focused on creating a career path for development executives. Michael Arrowsmith, COO at Pinch A Penny, moderated. Panelists were Tim Courtney, vice president of development at PuroClean; Eric Little, former CDO of Right At Home; Tom Monaghan, senior vice president of franchise recruitment at CertaPro Painters; and Clare Moore, head of franchising at Tide Dry Cleaners. Discussion topics included how many new franchisee deals will it take to meet brand goals; what kind of spending is required to execute a brand’s development plan; and how to build a recruitment budget so your message reaches the right prospects with the right frequency at the right times.

The morning session of the Recruitment Marketing track focused on building a 2022 recruitment program and budget. Moderated by Jayson Pearl, president of ServiceScore, the panelists were Pete Lindsey, vice president of franchise development at The Entrepreneur’s Source; Kristen Pechacek, chief growth officer at MassageLuXe; and D’Wayne Tanner, senior vice president of franchise development at N-Hance Wood Refinishing, who shared their experiences and perspectives on the components of building successful recruitment programs and budgets.

The afternoon session for this track dug into understanding today’s customers, whose behaviors and preferences have been altered by a year of lockdowns, mandates, and uncertainty. Moderated by Terri McCulloch, vice president of business development at Any Lab Test Now, panelists were Tom Carr, CMO at Chicken Salad Chick; Christina Chambers, CDO-Americas at InXpress; Richard Leveille, CDO at Twist Brands; and Kim Robinson, director of franchise development at AAMCO, who explored topics that included creating an ideal candidate profile and how to tailor your communications to prospects.

“Speak their language and use photos on your recruitment website of people who reflect the kind of prospect you want,” said Leveille. Chambers added, “We’re looking for achievers, so we use words like ‘control’ and ‘dominate’ to help attract the right candidates.”

The day concluded with the opening of the Networking Reception in the Exhibit Hall. Attendees, panelists, and suppliers mingled to talk about personal and professional endeavors. Food and drinks were available during the entire 3 hours and helped bring a busy day of education and networking to a close.

Wednesday, Day 2: Keynotes and sessions

The day began early with a continental breakfast awaiting attendees before the first keynote address. Keynote speakers are always a big part of every FLDC and this year was no exception.

In the morning keynote, Itzler’s disarmingly casual appearance belied a passionate entrepreneur and motivational speaker who encouraged attendees to pursue their desires and prioritize the things in their lives they consider most important.

“The limitations we put on ourselves are self-imposed,” he said. “Pain and discomfort make our brains say ‘Stop.’” Yet with dedication, determination, hard work, and even failure, he urged, you can accomplish what you want. Summing up his motivational presentation, he said, “We didn’t come this far to only come this far. Go do what you’ve always wanted to do.”

Teza, in his role as conference chair, then gave an inspiring talk honoring past “titans of the industry” who had inspired him on his franchising journey, and recognized many in the room who continue to inspire him today.

He then introduced Darrell Johnson, president and CEO of FRANdata, who presented his annual economic report, sharing his latest data and projections and their most likely impacts on franchising. Johnson noted how the franchise business model is changing in response to changes in consumer and prospect behaviors brought on by the pandemic. “Some of these changes will be permanent,” he said. It’s just a matter for brands to figure out which, and how to manage them in the years ahead.

One example: pre-pandemic, 60% of consumers preferred to shop in person, a figure that dropped to 37% during the pandemic. Post-pandemic, he predicted, 42% of shoppers will prefer a hybrid model. “It’s not the economy that’s coming in front of you the next few years, it’s the small changes happening around you that will stick,” he said.

Johnson also noted what he called a “new era of consolidation” in franchising, with larger franchisees continuing to buy up smaller ones, whether because of business conditions, retirement, or personal reasons. As a result, he said, “Franchisors are asking us how much concentration in their systems is too much.”

He also touched on how rising inflation and wage levels will affect unit-level profitability and force some brands to change their business models, including boosting their operational support for franchisees. From a development standpoint, he said, brands must answer the question, “Is there a better way?”

Summing up his take on the implications for franchising, he projected:

  • permanent changes in both consumer and prospect behavior;
  • price increases as a result of supply chain bottlenecks;
  • rising wage levels across all categories;
  • labor markets that are permanently changing;
  • the rapid substitution of capital for labor (think tech); and
  • for many brands, managing new vs. legacy unit programs.

This new era, with significant impacts to the franchise business model, he said, will demand better performance metrics and speed the emphasis on best practices. “Many of these changes were coming, but the pandemic crisis accelerated the evolution.”

Following a short break, the crowd got a first look at the results of the 2022 Annual Franchise Development Report (AFDR). Diane Phibbs, executive vice president and chief content officer at Franchise Update Media, along with Wild Birds CDO Pickett, delivered a brief and often entertaining overview of the new AFDR and the Mystery Shopping survey. The AFDR is a key tool for franchise development executives seeking to benchmark their sales and recruitment performance against that of other brands, and for delivering insights into online recruitment practices, strategies, and best practices by franchisors. (For full coverage, see a separate article in this issue.)

  Their presentation was followed by a powerhouse panel of franchise executives who took the stage to discuss the impact of Covid on their brands, recruitment, and operations. Conference Chair Teza served as moderator for the panel, which consisted of Clarissa Bradstock, CEO at Any Lab Test Now; Scott Deviney, president and CEO at Chicken Salad Chick; Ericka Garza, CEO and president at Au Bon Pain; and Mark Jameson, chief support and development officer at Propelled Brands (Fastsigns, NerdsToGo, My Salon Suite). All spoke candidly about how they faced Covid at their brands, how they changed their recruiting efforts and processes, and how to adapt to the changes most likely to become permanent.

The Exhibit Hall reopened for an extended lunch, offering another round of opportunities to meet, learn about the latest technologies and solutions from suppliers, and hopefully do some business.

After lunch, it was time for the afternoon’s concurrent breakouts—two 70-minute groups, each containing three sessions. The first group was “Digital Tools for Lead Generation,” “Refine Sales Fundamentals,” and “Develop a Strategic Growth Mindset.” The second was “How To Build an Outsourcing Program,” “Using Your FDD in the Selling Process,” and “Development’s Role in Brand Growth.”

With the final breakout sessions concluded, attendees headed into the last general session for a Business Solution Roundtables Challenge with keynote speaker Jim Knight. As mentioned, Knight is a former Hard Rock International executive and author of <Culture That Rocks> and <Leadership That Rocks.> A dynamic and engaging speaker, he challenged the groups at each table to develop their own leadership that rocks. His message included how leaders learn behaviors, how they seek opportunities and knowledge, aspire higher, and stay resilient in challenging times—an especially important skill as winter approaches with the threat of yet another wave of Covid.

The day concluded with the much-anticipated STAR Awards dinner and ceremony at Maggiano’s Little Italy. Learn about this year’s winners and their thoughts on why they were recognized in the following pages.

Thursday, Day 3: Wrapping up

The final morning of the conference saw Art Coley, CEO at CGI Franchise, lead the “Build Your 2022 Action Plan for Success” closing session. This lively, high-energy event has become a signature event to close out the FLDC, providing attendees with an opportunity to reflect on the previous two days and channel what they’d learned into a strategic plan for the coming year.

This year Coley was joined by Seth Holan, manager of franchise development at Wild Birds Unlimited, Josh Wall, chief growth officer at Unleashed Brands, and David Wells, senior director of brand development at U.S. Lawns. 

Coley said the objective of the closing session was to collaborate, gain insights, and share best practices with those in this room “and plan your best year yet!” Group discussion topics were setting a vision for the future and how to use that vision to set recruitment goals; personal development plans for the coming year; gap analysis to identify hurdles in the development process; company alignment; and employee engagement.

Wall reminded the room of business quotations from two giants: “Personal goals drive business goals,” from Peter Drucker; and “Leadership is influence, not a title,” from John Maxwell.

The reviews are in!

“This was our first time attending FLDC, and we loved it. When we arrived and started meeting people and reconnecting with our franchise friends, everyone told us how this conference was their favorite to attend,” said Marilyn Manning, director of franchise development at Payroll Vault, the overall STAR Award winner. “The discussions were very informative and relevant, and the panels presented great information. The general sessions were really educational, and I liked the collaboration with lots of roundtables.” Underscoring the personal value of getting together after 18 months of Covid, she said, “This was a great opportunity to really meet so many people.”

Brad Fink, vice president of leadership and franchise development at Christian Brothers Automotive, said, “This was the best franchising conference I’ve been to yet!”

Plans are already under way for the 2022 FLDC, to be held October 17–20, 2022 at the same venue in Atlanta. To learn more about this year’s FLDC and register for 2022, visit www.franchisedevelopmentconference.com.







By Title

CEOs/Presidents 25%

CDOs, EVPs, SVPs, VPs of Franchise Development 35%

Directors/Managers of Development, CFOs, COOs 38%

Franchise Sales Associates/Specialists 2%

By Category

Service 64%

Food 15%

Retail (non-food) 12%

Retail Food 9%

By Investment Level

More than $1M 30 13%

$500K – $1M 42 18%

$250K – $500K 69 29%

$100K – $250K 48 20%

$50K – $100K 34 0%

Less than $50K 16 7%

By Number of Units

More than 1,000 26 11%

501 – 1000 30 13%

251 – 500 28 12%

101 – 250 61 25%

26 – 100 49 20%

Less than 25 31 13%

NA or none 14 6%

By System-Wide Gross Sales

More than $100M 102 43%

$81M – $100M 9 4%

$61M – $80M 13 5%

$41M – $60M 21 12%

$21M – $40M 18 8%

$9M – $20M 26 10%

$1M – $8M 32 13%

Less than $1M 11 5%

Published: December 27th, 2021

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Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 4, 2021
Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 4, 2021

Potbelly Sandwich Works
InterContinental, Atlanta
JUN 18-20TH, 2024

MSA provides domestic and international franchise advisory services to franchisors and companies seeking to establish franchise and licensing systems.
The Hungarian Franchise Association was founded in 1991 as an interest representation organization of the franchise business community.

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