Mr. Rogers, of children's television fame, would have felt right at home at the Franchise UPDATE's 8th Annual Leadership & Development Conference--The Playbook: Winning Strategies for Franchise Success. No one would have raised an eyebrow at the close of the conference if they'd heard his reassuring voice in the hotel lobby singing those familiar words: "It's such a good feeling..."
After three rich, fast-paced days of presentations, workshops, and nonstop networking, it truly was a good feeling as the 350 attendees and 52 sponsors gathered up their belongings for the journey back home. One first-time attendee, a new franchisor, told Franchise Update she was overwhelmed by how willing franchise pros were to share their hard-won lessons with her--including one promising to email her an operational document he had spent years developing.
The conference, held in Atlanta's Ritz-Carlton Buckhead hotel from October 4-6, kicked off Wednesday with three "mini-camps" designed for veterans and rookies alike. An all-day session focused on building a successful franchise sales program, while two separate half-day mini-camps covered multi-unit and master franchising, and the real estate and construction process.
That evening, at the Kickoff Reception in "Sponsor Stadium," attendees--surrounded by sponsors' tables and plenty of food and drink--had their first high-impact opportunity for some serious networking... well, not completely serious (see photos).
Thursday began with a wake-up call from keynote speaker Vince Lombardi, Jr., son of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach. Lombardi's talk focused on the qualities found in winners and in high-performance people and organizations. Lombardi, quite high-performance himself, is an attorney who has served in Minnesota's state legislature and held executive positions in the NFL and USFL before becoming an author and inspirational speaker.
Revved up and ready to learn, attendees turned their attention to the numbers, presented by FRANdata President Darrell Johnson. In his State of Franchising address, Johnson noted the proliferation of new concepts and sub-brands in recent years--and a new trend: for better or worse, many of the newer systems are beginning to franchise with less time as a brand and fewer existing units.
During the past three years (2003-2005), of the top five categories of new franchise concepts, three were in the food sector. Fast food led the pack at 54, followed by business-related (31), retail food (29), sit-down restaurants (27), and health and fitness (26). In terms of cumulative (percentage) growth, the top five growth sectors in the same period were computer products and services, clothing and accessories, beauty-related, child-related, and publications.
Johnson said the franchise business model is reaching into new industries; that it is more narrowly focused than in the past; and that with the proliferation of new brands, non-standard programs are increasing with fee structures varying widely. Also, he said, prospective franchisees are both better informed and have more options than ever before. All of these changes are presenting new challenges to franchisors and area developers.
Next up were the results of Franchise Update's 9th Annual Lead Generation & Recruitment Survey, as well as its Mystery Shopping STAR Awards contest for best responses to queries from potential franchisees.
A panel session featuring three franchise CEOs--Steve Greenbaum of PostNet International, Godfred Otutuye of Money Mailer, and Tom Wood of Floor Coverings International--was next. Each CEO spoke individually about overcoming obstacles on their drive to success, followed by an audience Q&A with all three. The panel was hosted by Steve Olson, Franchise Update Media Group's new publisher.
After a lunch in Sponsor Stadium, Michael Rogers (aka "the Practical Futurist") delivered the afternoon keynote address, The Challenge of Predicting Your Tomorrow, in which he examined the impact of technology on business and society. Rogers led attendees on a journey into the future of technology and how it will likely affect their business. One tip: learn to take full advantage of the younger generation's high-tech talents, but keep senior managers involved in guiding them to keep aligned with business goals and objectives.
A breakout session immediately following Rogers' talk built on the high-tech theme by focusing on ways to use the Internet more effectively to generate leads and convert them to sales. (See Internet story on page __.) Other concurrent breakout sessions were Developing and Managing a High-Performance Sales Team; Franchisee Exit Strategies--Resale Solutions; Closing More Deals in Today's Environment; Multi-Unit Franchising; and Broker Networks.
And what's a proper conference without fabulous food and drink? Filled with information, inspiration, strategies, tips, and pockets full of business cards, attendees were ready for a little letting go. With the afternoon sessions complete, 400 people trooped down Peachtree Road to the STAR Awards Dinner, held once again at nearby Maggiano's Little Italy. At a lively, high-spirited dinner, winners of this year's STAR Awards were recognized for their outstanding performance.
After a continental breakfast (with lots of coffee), Friday morning kicked in with concurrent one-hour sessions on 1) key franchise law challenges for 2007, and 2) a new initiative to help franchisors sell franchises in urban communities. After a short break, the conference wound down with lively roundtable discussions focused on the particulars of franchise sales (advertising, marketing, validations, discovery days), as well as bigger picture topics such as women in franchising, and freeing up people's time so they can work at a higher level.
Franchise Update Media Group's next conference, for area developers and multiple unit franchisees, is April 18-20, 2007 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. (There will be golf.) For more information, go to www.areadeveloper.us/mudco/venue.shtml.