This week I attended the 60th Annual Convention of the IFA (International Franchise Association). While the theme of the convention this year was focused on the future of franchising, and this was definitely intertwined throughout the conference sessions, the takeaway for me was different. To me, the theme that really resonated was engagement and connection.
Simon Sinek, author and speaker, kicked off the conference in the first keynote presentation challenging attendees to think bigger, think beyond finite games, and to realize that in business there is no finite winner. If no one is ever declared the winner of business, what does that mean for us? He spoke to us about determining for ourselves what it takes to live an infinite life and, “How can we create an environment where people feel that they can work at their natural best?” In other words, how can we better engage and connect with our employees?
A critical role played by the IFA and its leaders is their political action effort. Throughout the conference, franchisors and franchisees were informed of the efforts of the IFA to represent the interests of the franchising and small business community at the local, state, and federal level. U.S. Secretary of Labor, Eugene Scalia, was interviewed and talked in detail about the administration’s focus on deregulation, changes to the joint employer rule, and other areas of focus to help drive growth in an industry that already represents over 3% of the US GDP. The conversations were not only informational updates, but encouraged franchisors and franchisees to engage and connect with their senators and members of Congress.
One of the highlights for me personally was the look that Kevin Hochman, President and Chief Concept Officer of the U.S. Division of KFC, provided into the revitalization of the KFC brand. I was familiar with Kevin’s work at Procter & Gamble, which helped him to be recognized by Forbes as the #2 most influential CMO in the world in 2015. Mixed in with his informative and entertaining look at the KFC brand turnaround and “bringing back The Colonel” was a strong message regarding the critical nature of the engagement and connection between franchisors and their franchisees, noting how a solid partnership rooted in relationships, transparency, and honesty can allow them to affect change together.
Building trust and engagement between franchisors and franchisees was a common theme in several educational breakout sessions. In one such panel discussion, leaders from Neighborly, Sport Clips, and 30-Minute HiiT discussed starting off right when selecting and connecting with new franchisees, as well as getting back on track when trust breaks down.
In the exhibit hall, the presence of customer engagement products seemed to be at an all-time high. Products enabling the collection of online reviews, social media management, Net Promoter Scores (NPS), along with customer satisfaction surveys, email and text marketing, dispatching and providing arrival updates, and easy payment solutions, all stressed the ways in which they enabled brands to more effectively connect with their target customers. Companies offering a variety of overall digital marketing solutions stressed the ways in which they could help build franchise businesses by both engaging with new franchisee prospects and connecting the brand at a very local level with end customers.
In a Ted Talk-like session, Big Ideas – Franchise 10X, the focus was on technology in our rapidly changing world and the need for franchise brands to disrupt the way they go to market. One of the speakers during this session spoke of the “age of frictionless convenience.” Technology is enabling improved transparency, quality, reliability, simplicity, convenience, and sustainability. In other words, automated technologies are driving profits by enhancing engagement and connection.
In the closing keynote, Trent Shelton, business founder, speaker, author, and former NFL player, spoke to an even more core topic: connecting with yourself. He encouraged the crowd to think differently about motivation and commitment. He discussed emotional resilience, which requires patience, trust in the process, the willingness to separate from toxic environments, and the recognition that time is a scarce resource.
So, as I leave with a few more of my required continuing education credits in hand and a good perspective on where the IFA feels the future of franchising is headed, I also leave encouraged to connect and engage more frequently with our great customers in franchising. I leave with more perspective as to how critical it is that our product roadmaps support our customers in their efforts to engage and connect more successfully with their end customers. I leave with the challenge to identify ways that our products can help our franchisor customers better engage and connect with their franchisees, as it is the franchisees that drive the success of the brand at the local level, where sales and profits are really driven. Finally, I leave recognizing, yet again, how lucky we are at WorkWave to work with and support so many great franchises. The franchise business model allows entrepreneurs to start small businesses. It provides more than 740,000 small business owners with the ability to put their kids through school, pay mortgages, and hire local workforces as they successfully grow their businesses with the support of the franchisor behind them.