5 Takeaways From the International Franchise Association's 2022 Convention
A summary of the best insights from the annual IFA event.
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My team and I had the pleasure of attending the International Franchise Association's Annual 2022 Convention in San Diego last week. Each of us connected with various industry professionals and had takeaways to last a lifetime.
Here are some of the top five that I want to share with you:
1. The strength and spirit of franchising are alive and well.
If the event taught us anything, it's that franchising is stronger than ever before. The past few years have been an incredibly unprecedented, harrowing time for everyone — especially for business owners. The dedication that the association has to promoting, enhancing and protecting the franchise business model was evident among each speaker and session, most notably from Propelled Brands CEO and former IFA Chair Catherine Monson and IFA CEO Matt Haller.
From encouraging attendees to reach out to members of Congress to convey statistics and trends from the past year, it was clear that the franchise industry will always fight for what it believes in and for the people that dedicate their lives to bettering their business.
2. Support your franchisees.
During the Annual Leadership Conference on Saturday, we got to hear from an amazing line-up of franchise leaders that included Suite Management Franchising COO Stacy Eley, Au Bon Pain president Ericka Garza and James Dwiggins, co-founder and CEO of NextHome. Each speaker shared personal stories of connecting with their team members and franchisees and spoke on the importance of acknowledging current events, hardships and the ongoing climates throughout our world. One thing that stood out was the efforts that each brand has gone to in making sure that its franchisees, no matter how many years they've been with the company and regardless of background, feel seen and heard.
Now more than ever, it's incredibly important that franchisors get involved with their franchisees. Dedication, listening to understand, dissecting current processes and gaining perspective are all essential assets to a C-suite leader in today's climate. Remember — every single person working for your brand has a connection to its mission. Listen in and find out what it is, who they are and how you can help them be the best they can be at your company.
3. Covid-19's impact on the industry gave us lasting lessons.
The Annual Leadership Conference also featured a mystery case study about a brand's efforts and growth throughout the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Roundtable members had to brainstorm how the company handled certain situations during the height of the pandemic. The mystery franchise was Urban Air, with Unleashed Brands CEO Michael Browning Jr. discussing the path of growth the brand ended up taking. He recalled how the brand had to step back, evaluate its inner foundations and then act. They came out stronger for it and had a remarkable year of growth and sales.
This was just one of many exercises throughout the conference that gave insight into both the hardships and triumphs over the last two years. Many brands were forced to close their doors, shift their offerings, halt their sales and so much more due to Covid-19. The impact of the crisis will continue to send shockwaves through the systems of each franchise, with so many still getting back on their feet. Each person had a story to share — a testimonial of faith, hard work, sacrifice and collaboration.
4. Transformation starts from within.
The need for innovation is an ongoing cycle. Franchise brands are constantly evolving their approaches, outlooks and processes. Transformation as a whole, however, needs to start from within. As time goes on, it's important to analyze what is working for your brand and what is not. A few takeaways from the sessions were that leaders need to have consistent communication styles, acceptance and engagement towards new ideas, as well as patience once they are implemented.
You have to want to make a change and elevate yourself among others to be better than you were yesterday. Remember: Change can take time, but it's time well spent. Transformation starts from within your brand and team. It's important to create a discussion and ongoing arena for employees to bring their ideas and experience to further the brand's mission and reach.
5. Out with the old and in with the new.
The franchise business model has been around for decades, with some still maintaining the same advertising, marketing and networking strategies. However, to stay on top of the game and the market, brand leaders need to make sure they are adopting new trends, technology and strategies.
Sticking to the "old ways" out of comfort is no longer a safe move, but a careless one. We must accept the unknown and wisely reach for it, because it may just be the best thing that has happened to our business. From digital marketing automation partners to cutting-edge technology and services, franchisors need to look at all of their options for vendor partners and services. Gone are the days of trying to make something work because it is familiar — it's time to level up and strengthen both your business and your consumer offering by finding what works for you.
No matter what your role is or what brand you are associated with, IFA's annual convention continues to be one of the biggest opportunities for professionals to further their education and resources. The 2022 show did not disappoint, and each attendee left with new ways to better their business.
This article was co-authored by myself and Mary Hanula, Eulerity's director of marketing.