Q: "I am looking for a franchise, and have noticed that some offer franchise conventions, while others don't. What are your thoughts on franchise conventions? How important are they to a new franchisee?"
A: We believe attending a franchise's convention helps franchisees better manage the business in the short and long term. While the quality of franchise conventions varies with the quality of franchisors and franchise systems, generally the conventions are used by franchisors to do some or all of the following:
- Present a recap of the last year's performance and the franchisor's vision for the future of the franchise system
- Introduce new products and services
- Introduce and explain new operating procedures and policies
- Introduce new marketing and advertising programs
- Introduce and explain new incentive programs
- Provide supplemental training programs
- Build stronger relationships between the franchisor and franchisees and between franchisees
- Provide a forum to exchange information, discuss challenges within the franchise system or from outside competitive forces and receive input from franchisees
- Recognize and reward top performing franchisees
- Allow the franchisor's headquarters staff to meet face to face with the franchisees, many of whom are known only as a voice on the telephone or an e-mail message
- Have some fun
As a relatively new franchisee, you'll benefit from the programs presented by the franchisor. Though many sessions may serve as a refresher course on original training programs, it's surprising how much of the original training is forgotten in a short time or how many subjects presented in training will have more relevance, once you're facing these issues on a day-to-day basis.
Also, as you plan for the future of your own business, it's good to know what the franchisor has in mind for the future of the system and what support they'll be providing to the franchise network. It's also helpful to establish and maintain strong relationships with the franchisor's staff. You'll find that knowing the staff on a personal basis makes your business relationship more effective.
In reality, much of the information presented at the convention will be provided via e-mail, newsletters, franchise field consultants or other means of communications. However, there still is no substitute for being there. You learn as much (perhaps even more) from your fellow franchisees as from the franchisor-and will quickly recognize those franchisees who are doing well and making a positive contribution to the system. Take the time to seek them out and talk with them; establish a relationship.
One of the major benefits of joining a franchise system is the help and support you receive from the franchisor and the shared experience with other franchisees. Spending the time and money to attend the convention is an investment in the future of your business.
Michael H. Seid is managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates, a West Hartford, Connecticut- and Troy, Michigan-based management consulting firm specializing in the franchise industry. Seid co-wrote Franchising for Dummies (IDG Books) with Dave Thomas, the late founder of Wendy's, and serves on the International Franchise Association's Board of Directors.
Kay Marie Ainsley, managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates, consults with companies on the appropriateness of franchising; assists franchisors with systems, manuals and training programs; and is a frequent speaker and author of numerous articles on franchising.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.